Get fit: barre exercises, bar none

Dubbed the premiere ballet barre exercise, Barre Stick has made its way to the UAE.

Rockell Williamson-Rudder leads an Xtend Barre Stick class at Real Pilates in JLT, Dubai. Jake Badger for The National
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Why is it that the minute you’re made to stand in a room full of incredibly lithe women, you end up feeling like an elephant despite the fact you’re no bigger than a size 12?

I found myself contemplating this question as I entered the Real Pilates studio in Dubai to try out the new Xtend Barre Stick workout.

Created by the professional dancer and choreographer Andrea Rogers, Barre Stick is apparently the premiere ballet barre exercise – I have to confess that the ballet part eluded me until I was being told to plié. I now realise that the clue was in the word “barre”, but that’s just how clueless I am when it comes to ballet.

This 55-minute workout utilises a stick apparatus and spring-based rope that is attached to a ballet barre and comprises a cardio warm-up, an upper-body segment, lower-body segment and abdominal segment. It’s said to chisel the body by challenging your balance, coordination and strength.

It was launched in the US in January, followed by Australia, Asia, the UK and Germany and it’s now made its way to the UAE.

Rockell Williamson-Rudder, the international director at Xtend Barre and my instructor for the day, says that the resistance bands the stick is attached to make the workout effective because they force your deep, stabilising muscles to keep on firing so that you don’t fall forward or backwards.

“The workout constantly evolves as you get stronger or want different challenges and you can move in or out to increase or decrease the tension of the straps,” explains Williamson-Rudder.

“It really is so effective. Some parts of your body are working with resistance, while the abdominals fire constantly against the resistance. The class is sure to get your heart rate up with our cardio element and burn calories.”

I can testify that it does, indeed, get your heart rate up. Before the class, I didn’t think it looked too difficult but I was mistaken. From the minute it began, I felt exhausted. Many of the exercises demand balance and I felt like the only person there who was always on the verge of toppling over.

Despite the challenge, however, I did feel that I was getting a good workout, and the next day I was in so much pain that I found it difficult to sit down – always a good indicator of how hard you’ve been made to work.

Williamson-Rudder is quick to tell me that I did fabulously in my first class (I appreciate the white lie), and that it’s important to go at your own pace at the beginning.

“With each class, you will get stronger and more confident. Before you know it, you will be standing taller and having a wonderful sense of poise in your body. If the challenge is too much to begin, you can work up to new goals – try doing eight reps during this class and then 16 in the next class. We can also modify the exercises as needed so everyone can get the best results for their body,” she says.

The workout is perfect for anyone who is looking to achieve a long and lean, dancer-type body. “If a commitment of four to five classes a week is made, the body will change,” says Williamson--Rudder.

“It’s a total body workout: the muscles are worked in a balanced way, avoiding any bulk in the thighs while the bottom is lifted, the arms are made long and lean, the tummy is flattened and the waistline is shaped. Having had a full career as a dancer, my body feels stronger and leaner after doing Xtend Barre than during my career.”

• Xtend Barre Stick classes are offered at Real Pilates in Dubai. Visit for more information

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