Exercise type: Barre Concept and Reformer Pilates
Where? Fitness Fusions, 122a Stonhouse Street, Clapham, London SW4 6AL
When? Barre Concept: Tuesdays 9.30am, 6.30pm, Thursdays 12pm, 5.30pm, 7.30pm, Saturdays 2pm, Sundays 3pm. Reformer Pilates: Every day of the week, mornings and evenings – see timetable here
Good for: Flexibility, Strength, Core, Posture
Fitness Fusions, tucked behind a row of houses opposite the Stonhouse pub – down a trail of stepping stones – is like a secret little den. A former artists’ studio spangled with fairy lights, it’s airy and light by day, intimate at night.
You’ll find both heated and unheated classes here – and the studio’s size dictates small numbers, which means lots of attention and correction. I’d been having back pain, so I signed up for two of their low impact, core enhancing offerings: Barre Concept and Reformer Pilates.
A blend of Ballet and Pilates, Barre promises you the lithe physique of a dancer. I was just excited to revisit some long forgotten ballet moves – but it’s more than pliés and points – this is a thorough workout for your core, abdominals and glutes.
The first half of the class uses the barre as balancer whilst we move through different positions, working our legs and glutes, keeping our core engaged and maintaining the long, tall posture of a ballerina (or in my case, struggling to). For the second half, we hit the mats and grabbed some weights to work on abdominals and arms.
The key differentiator for a Barre workout (apart from the Ballet bit) is the emphasis on tiny, incremental movements as a way of strengthening muscle. These isometric contractions are lower impact on your muscles than larger movements whilst still having similar – if not more – strength gains. As you’re spending a while working a particular muscle, you’re likely to get the shakes (I certainly did) – which is apparently a good thing – it means you’re truly working and strengthening it.
If you’re looking for a fun, novel and low impact strengthening class, give Barre a try. The Barre and ballet positions force you to engage your core and sort out your posture – it isn’t easy to emulate the elegance of a ballerina. Check out this video for a better idea of a typical class:
I thought I knew what was in store for me here. I’d used reformers a few years ago when having rehab on my back – these were nice, gentle restorative exercises. You didn’t even break a sweat.This was a very different experience.
I was soon to learn that there’s a huge difference in intensity between rehabilitative Pilates and Pilates proper. Turns out Reformers can be pretty formidable instruments – I felt the effects on my abs and thighs for days afterwards. But, like Barre, this is low impact so perfect for alleviating and preventing back pain.
Cheryl (the owner) took us seamlessly from movement to movement, and – between puffs – I marvelled at the range of exercises the reformer makes possible. The varied functionalities of the moving carriage, springs, straps and footbar combined with the fact that you can be sitting, standing or sideways means there are countless variations of intensity and form.
The main target here is your core, with the added benefit of working your glutes, abdominals and thighs. With deep breathing all round, this made for a much more satisfying session than the gentler run I’d envisioned.
To see these classes and others they offer, have a look at their timetable. In addition to this lovely little studio, they’re opening another on Clapham High Street in a couple of months. They even do Bootcamps from Spring to Summer. And if Clapham’s not your locale, they have classes in Battersea and Chiswick too.