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Anchor Bay's Element series offers a variety of fitness DVDs which are set in an outdoor garden setting with the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop. Element: Barre Conditioning features Sadie Lincoln, founder of the barre3 method and studios. In her introduction, Lincoln explains that barre3 combines the grace of ballet, the wisdom of yoga, and the strength of Pilates; components of all three of these disciplines can be found on this DVD.
Like most of the other videos in this series, Barre Conditioning offers two separate routines, both of which use a high-backed chair in place of a traditional ballet barre. Lincoln also recommends use of a mat for both routines, and for the second practice, which includes core work on the floor, she uses a rolled-up towel. Lincoln practices barefoot and teaches via voiceover, providing mirrored cueing. I have described each routine in greater detail below.
BURN & FIRM (33:42 minutes)
This high-energy standing routine begins with a warm-up of side-to-side lunges in horse stance; Lincoln layers on an arm to the side/overhead and then a side leg lift. Next, she moves to the chair for plié work for the side body. [Note: the moves are performed all on one side first before moving to the second side.] Lincoln starts slow, again picking up the pace with side leg lifts. Coming back to horse stance, she performs plié pulses, moving only an inch at a time, first with the feet flat, then on the toes. Additional moves including standing diamond (on one leg, bending/straightening both legs) and narrow athletic "v", again moving just an inch at a time. She finishes on the first side with single squats, first starting with a pulsing squat, then a full squat. Lincoln repeats the entire series through standing diamond on the second side, concluding this time with power leg (small pulses) and chair pose (pulsing then full). For the 5.5 minute stretch, Lincoln faces the chair for a quad stretch and crescent pose. She also performs a standing forward fold, bending each knee in turn to get in an extra hip stretch; she then returns to standing and takes deep breaths to finish.
LENGTHEN & STRENGTHEN (32:36 minutes)
[Note: during the Introduction, this routine is incorrectly labeled onscreen as "Lengthen & Straighten"; it does not appear that way on the menu.] The warm-up for this workout begins more slowly, with side-to-side taps that turn into hamstring curls and knee raises. The standing work starts facing the chair for crescent lunge. Lincoln performs small lowers (one inch) for this position and then larger raises. She also concentrates the weight on the front leg to work the glutes. (For these moves, Lincoln alternates legs.) After this short standing sequence, Lincoln moves to all fours, slowing bringing in an alternate arm and knee and then performing a straight leg pulse. Next, she transitions to her side for side-lying diamond on either side (with a seated twist in-between) followed by bridge lifts. For the core work, the rolled-up towel supports the pelvis. The moves here include passé leg lowers, point/flex presses, and fourth position scoops. Lincoln then returns to all fours for a cat/cow stretch and a final move, plank, adding in a micro bend of the knees (and optional elbow bends). Again, there is a nice long (5.5 minutes) stretch which includes child pose, seated shoulder/side stretches, twist, modified camel, and standing forward fold.
Although these workouts focus on small, precise movements, they challenge the muscles in unique ways and thus are definitely likely to bring about significant results. I found the second routine, "Burn & Firm," to be a bit easier; for those who are familiar with Lincoln's "barre3: Total Body Lift" DVD released several years back, this was similar, except without the arms work and with the towel replacing the squishy ball. I loved the first workout on this DVD, which I thought was solidly intermediate and which did an amazing job at targeting the legs from all angles. (I found it odd, however, that Lincoln repeatedly mentions the "amazing upper body work" in this routine: although the arms are used, they simply are not worked all that hard.) Lincoln is an enjoyable, encouraging instructor, and I would definitely recommend Element: Barre Conditioning for its challenging yet accessible workouts.
© 2013 Beth Cholette
Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students.