How to not get injured in a barre class

Gabriella Yudenich takes a leap during rehearsals for "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," opening March 7. Credit: Alexander Iziliaev
We wonder if Gabriella Yudenich (seen rehearsing for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) has ever gotten hurt in barre class.
Credit: Alexander Iziliaev

We love taking ballet barre classes (a couple of our faves: Chaise23 and Exhale core fusion). But we’ve got to remember to stay safe and pay attention during class so we don’t wind up hurting afterwards. We spoke with Dr. Elizabeth Manejias at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery, who gave us the low-down on staying safe when you want to get low on the bar.

What should someone taking their first barre class expect?
Your first barre class may seem challenging as the class involves multiple low weight repetitions, without much time allotted for transitions. Some classes either incorporate a ballet barre traditionally used in a ballet class, or a weighted pole to use for balance while executing standing leg positions. Class is usually taken barefoot and in loose clothing to allow for range of motion.

What types of people should NOT take barre?
Barre class is tolerated by most people if attention is given to injuries, proper alignment, and if followed by exercise modifications. Individuals with heart conditions that restrict weight lifting, or those with blood pressure or heart rate guidelines, may want clearance from their physician; however, light weights or the weight of your body are usually the only resistance used.

What injuries are common from class?
The most common injuries I see in my practice following a barre routine involve the knees, lower back and shoulders. Many of the positions used in class are derived from classical ballet positions which often require a turned-out position at the hips, knees and ankles. Overhead activities using light weights and push ups can also place the rotator cuff in a vulnerable position if not performed correctly. Increased stress to the lumbar spine can occur if attention to spinal alignment while either lifting, or performing abdominal exercises, is lacking.

How can people avoid such injuries?
It is important to inform your instructor of any injuries you have prior to class. Most positions and exercises can be modified to accommodate your injury. Proper alignment of the lumbar spine, hips, knees and ankles are crucial to avoid injury. Many individuals taking barre class do not have a dance background and positions requiring turnout of the legs may seem foreign and unnatural. The instructor should pay close attention to technique and form. As the repetitions progress, fatigue may make it difficult to maintain proper form especially when performing upper extremity exercises. It is advised that you perform the exercise without weights rather than sacrifice your ideal shoulder alignment to avoid stressing your rotator cuff.

Remember that barre class is not a competition. It is preferable to work within your capacity and not at the level of those around you. Your instructor is there to help you and you should feel comfortable discussing your concerns.


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