I've been getting emails from readers wanting to know about barre DVDs, which are my faves, which ones I didn't like, which are the 'best,' etc. So I've compiled a list.
I should start out by telling you that, in my experience, there are two kinds of barre lovers: the ones who like it a little faster-paced, a little peppier with some cardio effect, and those who prefer a slower, calmer, more meditative workout. Both can be wicked hard and very effective, it's really just a matter of taste. I'll come clean and tell you that I am a member of the former camp and my list reflects that. I like my barre with a kick... sometimes literally. The slower, tiny movement, mind-body type of barre usually doesn't keep my interest, but that's just me. You might have to go on a few barre crawls to find your favorite watering hole.
Alright, with disclaimers out of the way, here we go:
1 & 2 Physique 57 Classic 57 Minute Vols. 1 & 2. I really can't decide between these two. As I told someone in an email, choosing my favorite would be like asking me which of my children I love more. Can't do it. Love them both. I definitely find Vol. 2 to be a little more cardiovascular, and it features one of my favorite lower body floor exercises of all time: the hairpin.
On the other hand, Vol. 1 has a great upper body section that really fires you up from the beginning... and it has the dreaded pretzel move, which is another great bum burner.
Cons: One of the things I love about Physique 57 is that they use heavier weights than most barre workouts. Not that the other barre people don't seriously hurt you with those 3 pounders, but I think it's good to go a little heavier from time to time. Still, I find I like to supplement with a little more upper body work, and while they recommend two sets of weights, I usually use three sets because my biceps and my lats can't be sufficiently challenged by the same 'heavy' weight. (Lats are a bigger muscle and need heavier weights than biceps.)
P57 Classic 1 & 2 are led by Tanya Becker, whom I adore. I find her very funny, and I can tell you that she is particularly motivating in a live-class setting. Personally, I appreciate it when I'm struggling through a tough seat exercise and Tanya tells me it's 'a party for my bottom.' Others find Tanya's exuberance to be a bit... shall we say, overwhelming? Also, there's a fair bit of how-sexy-you're-going-to-look talk and I really don't like that. I can tune it out for myself, but I really don't like the small people hearing all of that. I want them to know the many benefits of exercise that have nothing to do with daddy wanting to grab mommy's bum. (Not that she says that in the videos, but I'll just say it's a natural by-product of the workout.) So, FYI.
3. Physique 57 Thigh and Seat Booster
Cons: Hmmm... let me think.... Shelley is very chatty and talks a mile a minute. Again, I don't mind this, but some people might. Oh yeah, and Shelley tells you that you can eat whatever you want for dinner, which is a lie. I've mentioned this before so I won't beat a dead horse.
4. Ballet Physique Amped Up.
Cons: No cons. I love this workout. I mean, I still have two Physique 57s farther down on the list, so if you can top anything by P57, you're a keeper in my book.
5. Ballet Physique Signature Sculpt
Cons: it's a little on the long side. Not that it's really a con, exactly, just more of an FYI.
6. Physique 57 Advanced Express 30 Minute
Cons: None that I can think of.
7. Ballet Body Upper Body.
Cons: So, so, so much plank. I mean really, you feel like you're never going to get up off the floor and you're going to live for the rest of your life in plank. Consequently, I found it very strenuous on my wrists. You can modify by doing the exercises on your forearms, and I would strongly recommend this your first time through. Leah promises your wrists will get stronger, and she's right, but even holding a book the day after I first slogged through Upper Body was painful. I need to haul small people in and out of car seats, so this was a problem for me. Also, it's a little dry, but the music is good.
8. Ballet Body Total Body.
Cons: The production quality isn't the best. The sound is a little echo-y, but I found I was able to get over that. And the set is just big and white. Again, not a deal-breaker, but leaves me a little 'meh.' I can get over it, though. It's a good workout.
9. Physique 57 Express 30 Minute
Cons: No cons. Awesome.
10. Pure Barre, the original with Pure Bare founder Carrie Rezabek Dorr.
Cons: The production quality isn't the best. The set is dark and Carrie is wearing a black outfit, so it can be hard to see the moves.
Barre DVDs I tried and particularly didn't like:
Pop Physique: a Southern California studio that put out three DVDs last year. They were fine, I just couldn't warm up to them. Their style is very young and trendy... maybe I'm just too old? Or too from New England? They also shouted a lot. I don't like shouters.
The Bar Method: Designer Sculpting and Fat Free led by Bar Method founder Burr Leonard were the first barre DVDs I tried and they nearly completely soured me to barre. Burr is an institution in the barre world and is a great instructor, but they were so slow, I nearly fell asleep. Burr does a great job setting you up, but then says, 'Ok.... Are you ready? We're going to start now.... Let's go!' This leaves me yelling, 'For the love of God and all that is holy, would you get on with it, please?? Nap time is FINITE and PRECIOUS.' So no, as much as I respect Burr and highly recommend her blog, I just can't get into the DVDs.
Fluidity: I have the accompanying barre, which is a tank and is awesome because you can really simulate the moves you'd do in a class with a wall-mounted barre. I don't like the videos, though. The music is atrocious, plays continuously on loop and the instructor says the word 'pubis' far too often.
The New York City Ballet Workout. Boring. Totally ineffective. Watching the dancers is lovely, but really, I'd rather just pop popcorn and watch the dancers. I think I'd get about as much useful exercise lifting the popcorn to my mouth as I did doing this DVD.
Cardio Barre: I know, it sounds good, doesn't it? But it's not. Basically, it's a barre workout on speed. It goes so fast it's difficult to maintain any sort of decent form. I just felt like I was flailing around, which is not what barre is all about.
These days there are hundreds of barre DVDs out there. I certainly haven't tried them all. I feel like I've found my people and unless something really special comes across my radar screen, I stick to what I know. As a result, this is by no means an exhaustive list. I'm sure there are more, but I just need to put this epic post to bed. Feel free to add suggestions or ask questions below. Happy shaking!