8 Weeks of Running – Running Journal, Cross-Training, and Nutrition: Week 4

Barre and Running

Barre based exercise, especially the barre classes at MLS, are a great cross-training method for runners because of the emphasis that is placed on strengthening the glutes. Barre has been game changing for me personally because of how much it has strengthened my posterior chain as a whole. It wasn’t until I started taking and teaching barre that I was able to access my glutes and get them to fire properly.

Just a couple weeks ago Vogue magazine declared, “We’re officially in the era of the big booty.” I would like to think Vogue is a little late in the game, and the relevance of the “big booty” has been around much longer.

As many of our clients know, the posterior chain, which includes the calves, hamstrings, low back extensors and most importantly, the booty, get a lot of attention in each class at MLS. Our barre classes, in particular, are very booty focused, and we make sure to work through all ranges of motion and angles to ensure we hit all the muscles that make up the glutes.

We intentionally place a big emphasis on this area of the body, not because it’s the new hot body part of 2014, but because this is an essential area of the body that needs to function properly on a daily basis. Having a firm and curvy derriere is secondary!

The glutes are abnormally weak in most people because we have turned into a society that spends way too much time in a seated position. Sitting for long periods of time causes the glutes to be inactive, which weakens and stretches out these muscles. This can lead to back pain as well as improper movement patterns.

The gluteus maximus, which is the largest of the four gluteal muscles, is one of the most important, if not the most important, locomotive muscles in our body. Locomotive muscles are the generators of the propulsive force and power that get the body to move. Therefore, proper function and strength of the glutes is imperative to running.

Paraplegic runners exemplify just how important the glutes are for aiding in the strength to move. These athletes are able to run and perform without their feet, calves, and other areas of their legs. It is not their highly technical prosthetics that actually gets them to run, it is the force that is created in their gluteus maximus that propels them into movement.

Here are some of my favorite barre based movements you can do at home using a chair or kitchen counter that will directly strengthen your glutes:

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Star Kicks

  1. Start at about an arms distance away from the barre with legs and feet in a parallel position
  2. Place inside hand on the barre and outside arm extended to a T position
  3. Bend both knees and lift the outside foot off of the floor
  4. Kick outside leg to the side as you let your body hinge toward the barre
  5. Make sure to place the inside forearm down on the barre to support your torso as you kick the leg
  6. Keep your neck in alignment with the spine and imagine lifting your body up and out of the standing leg
  7. Once you get the movement down repeat 8-12 times. You can also add a pulse for 3 at the top of the kick for an additional burn.
  8. Perform on both sides

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Arabesque Pulses

  1. Start standing in first position at a diagonal angle toward the barre
  2. Step back with your outside leg so that you are in an externally rotated lunge and place the inside forearm on the barre
  3. Shift your body weight into the standing inside leg and lift the lengthened outside leg
  4. Keep the hips square and pulse the lifted leg at least 20-30 times
  5. Perform on both sides

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Hip Extension

  1. Face the barre with legs together in a squatted position
  2. Place the forearms on the barre with the forehead on your hands and make sure depress your shoulder blades down your back
  3. Bend the right knee and point the toes toward the ceiling
  4. Start with the knee directly under the hip then lift the leg up. Making sure to keep the hips square during the lift
  5. Perform lifts 12-16 times and also add in a set of pulses for 20 after the full range of motion lifts
  6. Repeat on the left side