Within our lifetime, the “lifted seat” has definitely gained popularity in terms of aesthetics en vouge, however there are actually a lot of real benefits to strengthening our posterior (glutes and hamstrings) and barre is an extremely effective way to do so. The isometric contractions which underlie so many of our exercises in barre help you to deeply connect, getting those glutes to fire and yielding unprecedented results when it comes to building your backside.
Aside from appearances, what are the benefits of a strong and lifted seat? Our glutes are one of the biggest and most important muscle groups in our bodies, comprised of the minimus, medius, and maximus muscles which allow our hips to extend (pulling the thigh behind us when we walk or run), abduct (move leg to the side), and internally/externally rotate from the hip. As you have probably heard by now, too much time spent sitting is not helping us and can lead to long term damage to our organs and muscles. Women especially tend to have overdeveloped anterior strength in our quads compared with glutes that are not accustomed to firing as efficiently as they should which can lead to knee problems, hip and/or lower back pains. By strengthening our glutes and hamstrings we improve our posture and alignment, not only at the barre, but as we live our lives walking, standing, sitting, running, or lifting/lowering. By strengthening your glutes, you will stabilize your pelvis, improve athletic performance by increasing the power needed for speed and acceleration, and reduce the risk of injury by improving your alignment of the lower body as a whole. Sold? Let’s get onto toning and tightening your backside with this quick, no equipment required Lifted Seat Barre-Less Barre Workout!
This workout is a quick one and even easier to remember than some of the others that I have posted in the past (Hotel Power Half Hour Barre One or Two, Park Bench Barre Workout, Barre-less Barre). This one, like the others relies upon a pattern, which makes it easy to do/remember even on your own, but in this case there are only really three of the same (or very similar) movements/changes for each different position. You’ll do each of the three changes with a flat/flexed foot and then repeat on your toes again with one bonus at the end. Once finished, you switch legs and repeat!
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 workout designed to work your glutes and hamstrings that will take about 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 3 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:
- 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.
As promised, this is an easy one to do on your own because it is the same four different changes for 30 seconds each every time, you only change your body positioning. For each position outlined, do the following:
- 30 Seconds. Start on flat feet and begin by lowering your body down for two seconds and lifting it up for two seconds while keeping your spine in a long and neutral position, like it is sliding up and down a wall – heavy tailbone with crown of head reaching to ceiling. As you move you want to think 4-6 inches in range and continuous movement without any starting or stopping at the top or bottom.
- 30 Seconds. Cut that movement in half, lowering only down only about 1 inch, then back up 1 inch. Try to find your most challenging position and stay there the whole time – the movement is super small, but working in the small range will keep the muscles working hard.
- 30 Seconds. Hold at your low (if standing) or high (if on floor) point and switch to one pulse, followed by one tuck. On the pulse, you will keep the range small, eliminating any bouncing or rebounding and then you’ll hold low and tuck by rolling your hips forward slightly and then releasing back to a neutral spine. Your shoulders and back should not change shape, just pull your abs in tighter and very slightly release. Stay in your most challenging position the whole time.
- 30 Seconds. Rise to your toe and then repeat step one – Down for two and up for two – all the same cues apply.
- 30 Seconds. Stay on your toe and then repeat step two – Down 1 inch, up 1 inch – all the same cues apply.
- 30 Seconds. Hold that heel high, stay on your toe! Repeat step three – One pulse, one tuck – all the same cues apply.
- 30 Seconds. Hold heel high and pulse to finish – keeping the movement small, sharp and controlled.
Set One – Curtsy Lunges: Start standing and then step one leg back and across behind you on the diagonal. Bend both knees as if you were curtsying, making sure the front knee is directly above the front ankle and that the back heel is sky high. Drop the back knee towards the floor and hold low avoiding too much twisting in the waist. You want to try to keep the hips facing forward as much as possible and again, the shoulders right over the ribs, ribs, right over the hips, and the back knee under the hips. You’ll start with the front foot flat to the floor and lift up to your tip toes on that one for the second half of the set. Once on one leg, switch and repeat!
Set Two – All Fours: 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, flexing the foot and bending the knee so your foot presses up toward the ceiling. Try to find an internal rotation so the top of the inner thigh turns up to the ceiling and 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 stay as high as possible without any arch in your low back, and the foot should be pulled in as close to your seat as possible to engage the hamstring. For the second half of your set, you will change from a flexed foot to a pointed toe. Once done on one side, spin around and repeat on the other side.
Set Three – Single Leg Bridges: Lie on your back and plant your feet about hip distance apart and parallel with both knee caps shining up to the ceiling. Press your arms down to the sides of your body, pushing through the triceps to connect into the floor and then tuck your hips towards your ribs and roll your lower back off the floor just about a fist or maybe two away from it. Press your knees forward and drive into the heels – there should be a straight line from the top of your knees to your head so avoid pressing your ribs or chest up – keep all the work in those glutes and hamstrings with nothing in the back. Carefully, keeping your hips as level as possible, lift one leg into the air as close to 90 degrees as possible up towards to the ceiling. The first half of the set will be on flat foot and then for the second half, you’ll challenge yourself to rise to the tip toes of the foot that is on the ground. You will need to engage your abdominals to hold the lifted leg as straight and still as possible, but almost all the work will be in the standing side of your seat and back of the leg (the one on the floor). Your goal is to keep the hips high and level the whole time, squeezing through the base of the seat on the standing leg to drive the movement. Once done, carefully replace the foot that is lifted and switch legs.
Set Four – Lunge in Parallel: Step your legs out into a lunge with your front foot flat and knee directly over your ankle. Rise (and stay!) as high as possible onto your back toes with the knee DIRECTLY under your hip at a 90 degree angle. You want to try to make sure that your shoulders are stacked right over your ribs, your ribs right over your hips, and your back knee right under that side hip. Try to keep your front knee pointed straight out in front of you and your back knee right down to the floor. As you move, you want to try to stay high on that back toe, pushing through it to contract the seat rather than moving up and down from the tops of your thighs, and avoid hinging forward, keeping your back neutral. For the second half of your set you will also rise to the front tip toe. Once done on one leg, switch and repeat.
Cool down: Make sure you stretch out afterward – pigeon, downward dog, straddle stretch and hamstring stretches are good options and try to work a little deeper each time you do this exercise!