Tucking Around the Christmas Tree :: Barre-less Barre Workout

Merry Christmas! I am looking forward to a relaxing day spent with loved ones and lots and lots of good food. While in the U.S. I am still getting my barre-fix ala Pure Barre Grandville, but since they are closed today and tomorrow, it’ll be a holiday home workout for me. And because I am a big sister excited to be reunited with my little sister, I am doing one of the things that I do best – being bossy and getting her to join in the tucking with me! The best part is that we don’t need any equipment at all for this a full body barre-less barre workout and we’ll be done in less than half an hour – leaving loads of time for Christmas cheer!

This workout, like some of the others I have shared in the past (Hotel Power Half Hour Barre and Park Bench Barre Workout), relies upon a pattern, which makes it easy to do/remember even on your own, because it uses only the same (or very similar) seven movements/changes for each different position repeated over and over.

First a couple of terms:

  • Tuck: Pull your abs in and up, reaching crown of the head to the ceiling and tailbone down to floor – this engages your core and protects your low back
  • Pulse: Tiny movement down to target the specific muscle group, try to stay in isometric contraction and minimize lifting or big movements.

Next a couple of tips:

  • This is a full body workout that will take less than 30 minutes from warm up to cool down stretching. If you want to make it shorter, pick and choose the sections accordingly.
  • Keep things simple! This is a repeat workout which doesn’t overcomplicate things. You will do the same movements/reps in each position so you don’t have to think so much about what comes next.
  • Each set consists of 7 changes and you should shoot for about 30 seconds for each change. To make it easier than counting or thinking about the time, you can use an interval stopwatch timer on your phone or watch. I like the app “Seconds”
  • Challenge yourself to sink a little lower, lift your heels or leg higher and work in your most challenging position.   You are working in isometric contraction, so the range of movement is small and you might (SHOULD) start to feel your muscles shake as they fatigue.

The Warm Up:

Barre-less Barre

  • 30 Seconds. Start with your feet hip distance apart and parallel with your arms extended overhead and draw the knees to your chest, pull your abdominals in and back and lifting the crown of your head up to the ceiling to lengthen your spine. Make sure to lift from your ribs nice and tall, but keep the shoulders dropped away from your ears.
  • 30 Seconds. Continue lifting the knees, with the arms up overhead but add a pulldown to your sides, leading with your elbows. Reach all the way up to the sky, keeping your shoulders low and then pull down strongly, squeezing your upper back and shoulder blades together behind you.

The Workout:

As promised, this is an easy one to do on your own because it is the same six different changes for 30 seconds each every time, you only change your body positioning. For each position outlined, do the following:

  • 30 Seconds. Start by contracting the targeted muscle/muscle group tightly to lift up about an inch and hold it there for 4-5 seconds, before releasing and quickly jumping right back into the next contraction. It’s “lift up and hold” except for a few exercises where noted, in which case it is” tuck and hold,” but same concept applies.
  • 30 Seconds. Then make the movement a little quicker by lifting up on the beat/second by contracting the muscle sharply with only a tiny release in between. Try to eliminate any bouncing or rebounding.
  • 30 Seconds. Then trace tiny circles in one direction, stemming from the leading muscle. This may be circle to the right/left, forward/backward, or inward/outward depending upon the position. It’s most important that you find the connection into the targeted area rather than moving from the wrists or ankles.
  • 30 Seconds. Same thing, but reverse the circle.
  • 30 Seconds. Hold center and start to lower your arm, body or leg (depending on exercise) down for about two seconds and lifting up for two seconds.       Think about 4-6 inch range of movement.
  • 30 Seconds. Cut that movement in half, lowering only down about 1 inch and then back up 1 inch. The movement is super small, but working in the small range will keep the muscles working hard.
  • 30 Seconds. Hold center and pulse to finish, trying to keep the range small and limiting any bouncing or rebounding.

Set One Arms: You’ll want to maintain good posture and stand in good alignment.  Your feet should be hip distance apart and parallel to one another with your arms out to the sides in a T.  Keep a soft bend in your knees and find a neutral spine/tucked position by pulling your abs in and up, reaching crown of the head to the ceiling and tailbone down to floor – this engages your core and protects your low back.  Keep your neck long, shoulders pulled away from your ears and your shoulder blades pulling back towards one another and down.  Try not to lean forward or back – your shoulders should be stacked right over your ribs and your ribs right over your hips.  Your focus should be on CONTRACTION, not MOMENTUM.  Try to connect deeply into the muscles rather than allowing them to relax, swing, or float.

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Set Two in Thigh Dancing – Top of Thighs: Kneel on the floor with your knees and feet in parallel, about a fist distance apart. Keep the feet and the calves as relaxed as possible the whole time, tuck the hips under and draw your abs in tightly, taking your hands to hips and lifting your seat about 2-4 inches off of your feet just to hover. Almost immediately you should feel the top of your thighs engage. Your shoulders should stay relaxed down the whole time and stacked back directly over your hips. As you start to fatigue, you will want to hinge forward to take some of the work, so fight against that tendency to keep your body upright! For this one the first two changes should be “tuck and hold” and “tuck center” as opposed to lifting – just pull the abs in a little tighter, navel to spine and then release back to a neutral spine. From there, you’ll circle, reverse, lower, lift and pulse all the same.

  Barre-less Barre   Barre-less Barre

Set Three in Side Lying– Inner Thighs: Lie on your side, with your hips stacked one directly on top of the other and legs stretched long ever so slightly on the front diagonal to avoid falling backwards. You are going to prop yourself up on your bottom side forearm, resting your head on your hand and then plant the top hand into the floor out in front of your navel. Take the top leg and bend it, planting the foot all the way flat to the floor – hand and foot stay pressing down the whole time. Then point the bottom leg toes, stretch the leg as long as possible and squeeze through the top of the inner thigh to lift the leg to float off the floor. Keep the leg as long as possible and straight as a stick the whole time. Complete the full set and then spin around to do the same on the other side.

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Set Four in All Fours – Base of Seat and Back of Thigh:  Start kneeling on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. You want to draw your abdominals in tightly the whole time, keeping your back flat and hips level. Your gaze should be a few inches out in front you, so your neck is long and in line with your spine. Take a soft bend in your elbows and lift one leg up to hip height, pointing the toes and straightening the leg as long as possible behind you. Try to find an internal rotation so the top of the inner thigh turns up to the ceiling the knee points directly down to the floor. Keep your weight centered and be mindful not to arch your back as you move through the changes. In this position your lifted leg is the one that is moving through each exercise and it should be long and straight as a stick. Once done on one side, spin around and repeat on the other side.

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Set Five in Clamshell to Extended Fetal Position – Outer Seat and Thighs: Lie down on your side again with your hips stacked one directly on top of the other and bend the knees into towards your chest. You want the feet close to your seat and the knees tightly pulled in while you draw your abdominals in and away from the top of your thighs. To start you will glue the feet together and separate the knees in a clamshell position, just floating the feet off the floor. Hold this position for the first two changes (lift up and hold and lift up tempo) and then separate the feet so that the knees and feet are in parallel for the circle and reverse. Then hold the knee exactly where it is and stretch only the lower half the leg out for two and in for two (foot comes all the way up towards your face with abs still pull in). For the last two changes hold the leg all the way out in front of you, stick straight – lift and lower an inch and then pulse up to finish. The further forward and the straighter the leg the better.   Once done on one side, spin around and repeat on the other side.

  Barre-less Barre  Barre-less Barre

Set Six in C-Curl – Abdominals: Sit on the floor with your legs in a diamond shape, feet flexed up to the ceiling with the heels driving together and the knees open wide. Extend your arms forward to shoulder height and sit up as tall as possible onto your seat bone. Draw the abs in and round back down towards the floor in a C-shape with your abs pulling in the whole time. This one will include the “tuck and hold” and “tuck tempo” as opposed to the lift for the first two exercises. From there the rest remains the same (just like thigh dancing).

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Pushups/Planks:

  • Forearm Plank – 90 Seconds (just let the timer go off three times). Take your elbows directly under your shoulders and your hands to a number 11 position pressing away from the floor and then extend your legs long behind you coming onto your toes (if this is too much, you can make it more manageable by coming down to your knees). You want to make sure that your back is flat and there is a long line from the top of your head all the way through to your feet.  Pull your abdominals and core tight to eliminate any arch or gripping in your low back. Keep your hips low. Start by tucking your hips strong to through the center of your body and drawing your abs in tightly toward your spine for 30 seconds. Then start to circle through the hips to the right for 30 seconds and then to the left for 30 seconds.
  • Full Arm Plank – 90 Seconds (just let the timer go off three times). Then press up to your full arm plank. Take your hands about shoulder width apart with a soft bend in your elbow. Stay on your toes and with your feet out back behind you so your body is on a long diagonal position from the top of your head down to your heels. Pull your abdominals and core tight to hold the position without gripping in your low back and keep your hips low. Start with a static hold for 30 seconds. After 30 seconds, add a tuck of your hips strong through the center of your body. For the next 15 seconds, shift your right hand to the center open up into a side plank – pressing your hips up to the sky through your right side of your waist and hold. For the last 15 seconds, do the same on your left side.
  • Pushups x10 Take your hands back to about shoulder width apart and then come onto your toes and walk your feet out back behind you until your body is on a long diagonal position from the top of your head down to your heels.       Pull your core tight to hold that position as you lower and lift yourself by bending your arms, keep your collarbones open wide, shoulders back and down and you take your entire body down with you as you move rather than leaving your hips and thighs too high.

Barre-less Barre  Barre-less Barre

Cool Down:

Make sure you stretch everything well – arms, legs, and core!

  Barre-less Barre  Barre-less Barre

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