The Bar Method is based on the techniques of Lotte Berk, a ballet dancer from Germany who, after injuring her back, developed ballet bar routines drawing on her rehabilitative therapy to form an exercise system. In the 1960s, Lotte trained clients using the method in her London studio. In the 1970s, a student of hers brought her techniques to the United States and the method has progressively developed to what it is today.
The Bar Method is a one-hour, total body workout that includes free-weight exercises, push-ups, hip and thigh work at the bar, and abdominal work at the bar and on mats. After the muscles are challenged and fatigued with an exercise, those same muscles are immediately stretched. Because of its origins in dance, the movements and stretches are similar to what dancers do in their conditioning programs. The use of the bar helps participants focus on balance and posture while performing challenging exercises (e.g., balancing on the balls of the feet while squatting or standing on one leg while raising the opposite leg). While the program is not aerobic in nature, it can intensely challenge the whole body musculature so that the heart rate experiences short bursts of elevation followed by periods of rest (during the stretches) in a format that can be categorized as interval training.
The program’s developers claim that practicing The Bar Method several times a week will lead to elongated, toned muscles and weight loss. While this might be true (as long as the exerciser’s calorie intake is kept at a level that promotes weight loss), keep in mind that working with bodyweight and light hand weights (as practiced in The Bar Method) will tend to stimulate the types of muscle fibers responsible for endurance activities. This means that exercises that include heavier weights to promote strength should be incorporated in addition to the program (perhaps on alternate days) so that the potential for well-rounded muscle conditioning is possible. Also, adding workout sessions that incorporate cardio-based activities (e.g., walking, running, or cycling) should be considered because the focus of The Bar Method is not aerobic exercise. In other words, The Bar Method, like most other exercise routines, can be a part of a well-rounded training program that also includes other modalities of exercise as well.