What do actresses Natalie Portman, Jennifer Aniston and Ginnifer Goodwin have in common? They all swear by barre workouts. The ballet-inspired method, which uses a mix of Pilates, yoga and dance techniques to sculpt the body, has seen a meteoric rise in popularity across the nation in recent years. London is home to a host of boutique barre studios, and there are more cropping up every year. Our latest love? Define London (define. london). The luxury barre brand, developed by ex-Broadway star Ashley Verma, launched in March and is already gaining a dedicated fitness following. And it’s easy to understand why, as the studio offers a mix of classes, from beginners’ barre or a more advanced workout, to dance cardio and stretch sessions.
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ON THE MAT
The workout we’re raving about? Define Mat. Using hand and ankle weights to build a lean and lithe body, the mat-based method provides a deep burn in the muscles that it’s easy to get hooked on. ‘It’s perfect for isolating weaker muscles to redevelop lost strength and create balance throughout the body, as well as reducing the risk of injury,’ says Verma. ‘If you increase the mobility in your hamstrings, for example, you’ll be less likely to hurt your back when you bend over to simply touch your toes. Improved strength links to improved dynamic control of movement, which minimises injury,’ she adds. Want to give it a go? We’ve tapped Verma for her top Define Mat moves. If you’re not Londonbound, or can’t make it the studio, this minimal-kit workout is the ideal session for those wanting to exercise at home. Verma agrees: ‘It’s perfectly suited for doing at home or in the office and can take just 15 minutes a day.’ Perfect these moves before hitting Define’s Fitzrovia studio for weekly classes and you’ll have an enviable barre body like the celebs before you know it. Read on to get started.
TIME: 20-30 seconds on each leg BENEFITS: Great for aiding your lower back and spine Start by swinging your arms and legs in a running action (A & B). If you want to up the heart rate, grab some hand weights (or filled water bottles) for a boost in intensity. This is a great way to get your body moving. Be sure to spring your toes off the floor to really generate heat in your feet. You can mobilise your body even more by swinging your arms overhead, around your spine, and back and forth. You’ll instantly notice the back of your body feeling more mobile.
REPS: 3 reps of 30 seconds, build to 3 reps of 1 minute, then 3 reps of 2 minutes BENEFITS: This is a good way to fire up your lower body and open up through your hips and lower back Step wide and turn your feet out (A). Lower into a deep squat (B) and begin to pulse, tailbone down and abs engaged. Perform three beats of single pulses, then hold the squat for a few seconds. Return to the original stance and repeat for three reps. Next time, instead of holding, try bending side-to-side, twisting from the waist, or raising your arms and pulling down. If you’re new to this move, start out with 30 seconds, then build.
LUNGE CARDIO BLAST
TIME: 1 minute each side, building to 3 minutes BENEFITS: Torches calories and improves coordination From the wide squat, rotate your body to the left, then drop into a lunge. Make sure your knees are bent at 90°, your core is engaged, back heel lifted and your weight is on the ball of your foot (A). Lean your body forwards and draw your heel up into the air and towards your bottom (B). You’ll notice you need to shift more weight onto your front foot. Drop back into the lunge (C), then lift and lower your heel for 20 seconds. Return to the wide squat, then rotate to the right and repeat on the other side.
FOREARM PLANK TWIST
TIME: 30 seconds static, 30 seconds dynamic BENEFITS: One of the best exercises for core conditioning, it also works your glutes and hamstrings Immediately drop to the mat for a forearm plank (A). Engage your abs, keep your wrists in line with your elbows and your elbows under your shoulders. Stay strong and don’t let your hips dip. Have a play with the plank move by twisting your hips from side to side (B) or rocking back and forwards. Perform the forearm plank for 30 seconds, then allow 30 seconds for any extra plank moves you want to add on. This is one rep. If it feels too hard, drop your knees to the floor.
REPS: 10 reps, then 10-15 pulses, each side BENEFITS: A full-body blaster that tones your upper body From the forearm plank, raise your body up into a push-up position, with your palms on the floor and in line with your shoulders. Bend your elbows to lower your chest to the ground. When it nearly touches the floor, push to lift back up to the start. That’s one rep; perform 10 push-ups. When you’ve conquered 10 push-ups, stay in the push-up position and lift your right leg up with a bent knee. Bend the supporting left leg as well. Push your right leg straight up and perform small pulses for 10-15 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
TIME: 2-3 minutes each side BENEFITS: Great for improving core strength, this also works your lower back, legs and glutes Once you’ve completed the push-up set, drop to your right knee and lift your left leg into the air with a bent knee (A). Start to press your left foot up towards the ceiling. This will instantly fire up your hamstring muscles. Keep a slight bend in your elbows to avoid unnecessary tension through your upper body. Stay here for about 2-3 minutes and play with pulses by doing slow and fast movements. Repeat on the other side (B).
REPS: 10 each leg BENEFITS: Ideal for sculpting, toning and lifting your lower body. Toning your body this way will improve posture and have you walking with confidence This is the big finish! Lie on your right side, resting your head on your upper arm, left hand supporting you in front of your chest. Extend your legs forward slightly, so your hips are now nearly at a 90o angle. The aim is to lift and lower your right leg. You’ll really feel this exercise in your glute muscles. Keep your left hand pressed to the floor and your core tight. Do 10 reps on this side, then swap sides and repeat.
TIME: 60-90 seconds each leg BENEFITS: Helps strengthen your glutes and tones your outer thighs Lie on the floor with your left leg stacked on top of your right leg and head resting on your right arm. Press your left hand into the floor, keeping the arm lifted. Open your legs by raising your right leg and keeping your feet together. You’ll instantly feel the burn in your thighs. Try doing this for a minute, progressing to 90 seconds next time. Swap sides and repeat. Stay lifted through your core and you’ll reap the benefits.
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