Wednesday 10 August 2016

BarreAmped DVD Review

Price: £7 / $17
Length: 4x 15 minute workouts
Workouts: Arms, bum, legs, core
Suitable for: Everyone
Rating:   ★★★★☆
Enjoyment:  ★★☆☆☆   Difficulty:  ★★★☆☆   Results:  ★★★☆☆
Based on 4 weeks of use.

   If you read my 2 weeks later and 4 weeks later posts, you could be forgiven for thinking that I have a low opinion of BarreAmped. Well, let me set you straight right now: I have an incredibly high opinion of it. It's absolutely wonderful to find a workout that can challenge me despite my high fitness level, and despite barely raising my heart rate, and I can say with full confidence that there's simply no way that it can't yield results, be that for me or for someone who has never exercised before.
   Yes, I did hate it, but I didn't dread it. I was actually quite happy to put the DVD on every morning, and while I hated it while I was doing it, at the same time I was cursing the screen I also knew it was working. I do all kinds of different workouts, but never have I been so certain that something was actively delivering results with every single rep.

   BarreAmped is a barre workout created by Suzanne Bowen, who is trained in the Lotte Berk Method. It's very low-impact with very concentrated movements; rather than moving in and out of contracting the muscles, you make small movements and remain engaged throughout. Because of this, it differs to many other workouts, remaining challenging while also barely breaking a sweat, which also means it's easy to use at any time of the day - being exhausted in the evening is no excuse, and neither is not having time to fit a shower in before going out.
   It delivers amazing body-sculpting results, and while you won't burn fat by using this alone, as I explain under 'low-impact' below, it can certainly be a great help if used before a cardio workout.
   The instructor is neither annoying nor imposing, she has a wonderful smile, and the backdrop is far from distracting. The music is calm and subtle, and the overall feel of the DVD and all its sections is very inviting.

   The DVD is broken into sections: warm up, light weight work, thigh work, seat work, mat work, and stretch. I used the DVD for half an hour a day - light weights and seat work one day, and thigh and mat the next.
   Light weight work (10 minutes) focuses on the upper body, but more specifically the triceps, shoulders and upper back, areas that are often neglected because they're not 'mirror muscles' - the muscles you can see or pay any attention to in the mirror. Despite its name, it can certainly be used without weights. Due to the nature of the movements - pulsing and holding, rather than dynamic expansion and contraction - doing it with tiny weights becomes a challenge and is recommended for intermediate users. Just because you're not using weights doesn't mean you're missing out.
   Thigh work (15 minutes) focuses on the legs, but more specifically the calves, quads and inner thighs. It uses small, pulsing movements once again, and half of the workout takes place on your toes rather than flat-foot, meaning you may well need something to hold on to. The movements don't look like they vary much, but just rotating your thigh outwards at the hip encourages the use of different parts of the muscle you probably otherwise neglect. You'll know what I mean when you try it, it's quite surprising, and when you notice it, you'll also know you're doing it right.
   Seat work (20 minutes) focuses on your glutes, hamstrings and lower back and again uses small movements, pulsing and holding the positions, and slight rotations of the leg gets into different parts of the glutes.
   Mat work (15 mintes) takes place on the floor and does have a bigger variety of moves. You'll work your chest and upper back with push ups and your core in planks and curls. Like all the others, this is challenging, and push up pulses are, I think, the most brutal part of this section.
   Despite all these workouts being made up of tiny, pulsing movements, they simply will build lean muscle, a gorgeous silhouette, and increased strength and stamina.

   This workout is well within everyone's abilities - it's simple enough that no one should feel intimidated, and every move is extremely easy to get to grips with. There are modifications demonstrated at the back-left for beginners, and back-right for advanced.
   But that doesn't mean that any of it is easy. It's challenging, but as with every workout, the effort you put in will be suitably rewarded. For example, someone super-fit will be able to lift their leg high and use heavy weights, while someone who is brand spanking new to exercise won't be able to lift as high nor use weights as heavy - if they can use weights at all. But all this means is that these two individuals have different levels of fitness. By using heavy weights, an athlete can get the same challenge as a newbie with 1kg weights, or none at all. It's the effort and intention that is put into a workout that counts, and as long as you put your best effort in, however experienced or inexperienced you are, you will get results.
   But even people who are quite fit will be surprised by this workout. I used Jillian Michaels workouts a lot, personally, which means big weights, big movements and a big sweat. So the idea of using 1kg weights instead of 4kg-8kg sounded preposterously easy. I was wrong. Why? Because I'm used to moving in and out of movements, contracting and expanding the muscles, not holding the positions, and that's where this workout differs to most others. And because it's so different to what a lot of people usually do, including myself, it certainly offers results while being very low-impact.

   But don't be fooled. Your heart rate rises with the warm up, then the rest of the workout is very calm, very steady, and your work is quite isolated to particular muscles. This means that you can put a lot of effort and focus into what you're doing, and that means that the results you get are body-sculpting, not fat-burning.
   But that doesn't mean it can't help you to lose weight. Because it's low-impact and such good resistance, the thought of adding 20 minutes of cardio onto the end isn't a frightening thought - and in fact it's quite advisable. You get a lot more out of cardio if you do it right after a resistance workout because you'll already have used the energy in your muscles without exhausting your cardiovascular system, putting you in fat-burning mode (when your body starts using fat for fuel rather than energy from your breakfast or lunch). That way, you can do less cardio but get even better results, and the lean muscle you'll gain from BarreAmped or general resistance will increasing your resting metabolism, too.

   You need little to no kit for this workout. Something to hold on to - I used the sideboard in my living room, while the ladies in the DVD use chairs - and perhaps hand weights, if you're strong enough. I used 1kg, but at the 6-minute point, during the tricep kickbacks, I have to drop them - and like I said, I'm used to using much heavier weights. You'd be surprised how effective all this can be without any weights at all, so they truly are optional. A yoga mat also helps because it gives you a visual line which can help you to correct your body's alignment in a few of the moves, and it's also far more comfortable in 'mat work' than a bare floor. But again, it is optional.

Enjoyment:  ★★☆☆☆  -  Barre is simple and straight-forward, it doesn't offer much to really get you excited, but the dainty, dancer feeling you get from most of the moves is a pretty nice one.
Difficulty:  ★★★☆☆  -  It's tougher than it looks, but it's no heart-burner. You stay low-impact throughout, and while your muscles will start to burn, it's manageable.
Results:  ★★★☆☆  -  It's too low-impact to shed fat, but if used often, it will create lean muscles and a gorgeous silhouette.

   BarreAmped is within everyone's abilities, and it will yield results regardless of your fitness level. It requires no kit, and as it doesn't break a sweat, you don't need to pencil in time for a shower afterwards, which means it can be used even if you don't have time for your usual workout due to an early engagement, and that being exhausted after a long day is no excuse.


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