Crash course: The Bar Method DC is the city’s original barre studio based on the Bar Method franchise. It is located in the heart of downtown and is an easy walk from both the Metro Center and Chinatown metro stations. The class is a mix of barre work and stretching and uses micro movements to exhaust, tone, and strengthen various parts of the body. Don’t expect to work up a large sweat, but you will wake up with sore muscles the next day. With 65 classes per week, the studio also offers the most extensive schedule in DC. Click here for the full list.
where: 750 9th Street NW, red line/Chinatown
bring: socks, water in a clear bottle
perks: showers, towels, lockers, blow dryers
sweat score: 4 out of 10
wear: socks, pants for leg lifts
cost: drop in rate is $24*
instructor: Kate G.
If you thought ballet-inspired workouts materialized out of the frothing frenzy of Natalie Portman wannabes, think again. The Bar Method is a franchise based on the principles of the Lotte Berk Method, an “ultimate body transformation system” popularized in the early 80s based on yoga, dance, and strength training. The Bar Method claims to build off of that foundation and:
integrates the fat burning format of interval training, the muscle shaping technique of isometrics, the elongating principles of dance conditioning, and the science of physical therapy to create a revolutionary new workout that quickly and safely reshapes your entire body.
Bar Method DC owner Kate Arnold brought the studio to DC after falling in love with classes in Chicago. “When my husband and I returned to DC, I couldn’t imagine my life without Bar Method in it. I knew that if I loved and needed The Bar Method in my life, that others in DC would feel the same. And I was right!”
The studio is a bright and clean escape from the busy streets of downtown DC. Located just off of H Street, the front door opens to a welcoming front desk and waiting area. Sign in, tell the folks you are new, and you’ll be treated to a personalized tour of the space. Lucky for you, you’ll already have an idea of what to look for!
There is a beautiful women’s locker room in the back of the studio. Gents will have to use the bathrooms to prepare for class (sorry!). The locker room comes complete all the necessary amenities for freshening up after class, including mouth wash, hair dryers, lint rollers, lockers, coat rack, towels, and two showers.
There are two studios at this Bar Method location, both are carpeted and well lit. The smaller studio has no windows, which gives it the feeling of working out in someones finished basement…but other than that I have no real complaints.
Something unique from other barre studios I’ve visited are the stall bars located in the hallway and in each classroom. These are awesome for stretching out before and after class. It feels a bit like a medieval torture device (put her on the rack!) but it feels amazing. I thought for a minute it might even make me a little bit taller.
The class basics were very similar to what I experienced at Biker Barre, Xtend Barre DC, and Barre3. We started with the arms, using small weights and sets of push ups to work the muscles to exhaustion. I never thought I’d grow to tremble at the sight of 2 lb. free weights, but consider me a changed woman.
We then moved on to doing thigh work, the typical series of squats, plies, and leg lifts you do in every barre class. There is a heavy emphasis on stretching the muscles after each set of exercises, which came as a welcome break at this point in the class when my muscles started to shake uncontrollably. So if you come to The Bar Method and think you can’t make it past the next set…hold on, my friend. Sweet relief is coming. Enjoy those stretches.
The class then moved on to seat work, which is just a fancy way of characterizing the muscles in the derrière. Somehow the tiny micro-moves we did got deep into those hard to reach places, because I couldn’t sit properly the next day. Kate assured me that “the short and intense strengthening intervals are a very effective way to tone and strengthen your body as well as burn calories and raise metabolism.” And, I must add, make you ridiculously sore. I look at this as a positive, but if you are going on a long car ride within 24-hours I wouldn’t recommend coming here for the first time.
The final minutes of each class are spent doing core exercises on the ground. I didn’t find these to be as effective as I had hoped, and spent many moments wondering if I was doing the exercise correctly because they didn’t feel particularly challenging. Then again, I was probably doing them wrong. Lesson: ask for help or an adjustment if you think you need it. The instructors would be more than happy to help. And after a few final stretches, you’re out the door.
Things I would change:
- the music was a generic workout track and turned down low. I understand the focus is on the exercise, but when my legs are shaking uncontrollably and my arms are burning, help a sister out and turn up the beats.
- the price. I know the market in DC is expensive and they need to pay their rent, but I’m not sure I would ever be able to afford making this an every day indulgence. And for $24, I’d rather leave a place drenched in sweat and feeling like I was really put through the paces. Then again, it’s a great way to keep my knees in check during marathon training, so something tells me I’ll be back.
Kate G. led the class I took last week. The one thing that most impressed me about her was how personalized she made the workout for everyone in the studio. Even with a class full of many first-time students like myself, she managed to memorize every one of our names. Now, I am terrible with names, so maybe my barre is low (get it?), but I was astounded by this. Talk about good customer relations and hospitality. So don’t think you’ll come to her class and sneak by with poor form in the back of the room. You’re not a number in this class, you’re a person, So be warned: she’ll call you out…by name…until you do it right.
All of the instructors at The Bar Method train for 4 – 6 months learning barre technique, general anatomy, and exercise physiology – and it shows. The entire class is heavy with information, but I walked away with the feeling that I learned a little bit more about how my body works. Win!
Are you a fan of The Bar Method franchise?
*The Bar Method DC comped my first class, but all opinions are my own.