Understanding Bar Method from Instructor/Owner Denise Burchard

Brooke Carmen

Author: Brooke Carmen, PT, DPT: Doctor of Physical Therapy and Blog Contributor.  Loves fun informational gems.  Fitness addict and wannabe foodie. Emphasizes patient-specific treatment style and promotes goal-oriented care. Learn more about Brooke on here.

Whole Body Health PT was fortunate to have the opportunity to connect with another local business owner, Denise Burchard, who also promotes health and wellness through The Bar Method.

I had not known much about The Bar Method before meeting Denise, so when she invited me to attend a Bar Method class, I didn’t know what to expect. I expressed to Denise that I was a little terrified of making a fool of myself.  Even though I’m a physical therapist, I have plenty of my own musculoskeletal deficits that I work on outside of the clinic.  Plus, I don’t know anything about ballet!

After attending The Bar Method class, I realized that to perform The Bar Method, you don’t need to be the most flexible nor athletic person to begin with and it’s not ballet, which seems to be a common misconception.  In fact, if you struggle with flexibility, coordination, strength, and postural holds, The Bar Method is a great way to begin improving some of these areas!

I was so impressed with the quality of the class and the potential benefits of The Bar Method for myself and clients, that I wanted to learn more.  I sat down with Denise to hear some first-hand information about The Bar Method.


In your own words, what is The Bar Method?

The Bar Method was created by Burr Leonard, our founder and CEO.  Burr based the Bar Method on something called the Lotte Berk Method, which is a combination of ballet bar routines and rehabilitation methods.  Burr combined the Lotte Berk Method with physical therapy-based concepts to develop the Bar Method.  It is designed to not only lean and tone your body, but empower you to make lifestyle changes.


How would you describe The Bar Method Classes?

Each class is an hour long and incorporates small weights, pads, and the client’s body weight to perform exercises designed to increase flexibility and strength around the joints.  The class is led by a highly trained instructor who directs and closely monitors each client.  The instructor adjusts form through verbal, visual, and kinesthetic (touch) feedback.  Many people think that The Bar Method and other forms of barre are ballet, but this isn’t true.  You do not have to know anything about ballet to enjoy The Bar Method.


Who is The Bar Method appropriate for?

The Bar Method is appropriate for pretty much anyone, from someone just looking to increase their physical activity level to higher level athletes of various sports.  The Bar Method is a great compliment to other sports and exercise routines.


Who might not be appropriate for The Bar Method?

As with any other new sport or exercise routine, if you have any doubts about your health prior to beginning, consulting with your doctor is recommended.  The great thing about The Bar Method is that we work with all shapes and sizes.  In some cases, higher levels of obesity can be a challenge because holding certain positions can become very taxing.  However, if we truly believe that weight is preventing proper and safe form, we advise other healthcare options to promote weight loss prior to attending The Bar Method.  This is not common, though.  We have clients who were hesitant to attend because of their weight, but are now attending The Bar Method regularly as a source of weight loss complimenting nutritional changes.  You have to start somewhere, and we want to help you along the way.


Can men attend The Bar Method?

Absolutely!  Our classes are mainly women based on interest, but we have men that attend.  In fact, we have a male with great outcomes right now.  This gentleman lost 25 lbs and cut 10 minutes off of a race for which he was training.  We are really excited for and proud of him.


What are some common compensations you see in class?

Shoulders are huge.  Mainly rounded (forward) shoulders.  We focus on lengthening and pulling shoulders back.  The low back can be a problem with sinking.  Clients tend to use their low back instead of glutes.  Hip flexors instead of abdominals is another compensation commonly seen.  Our instructors are trained to pick up on these extremely quickly, though, so these compensations don’t last.


What makes a good Bar Method instructor?

Somebody who resonates with different learning styles.  I mentioned that we use visual, tactile, kinesthetic feedback for corrections.  Ninety-nine percent of the time during class, we are adjusting people with feedback, so efficiency is key.  A good instructor also makes it enjoyable for the client while keeping her or him safe and comfortable.  We don’t like to call out people constantly during class because that can make a client feel frustrated or maybe embarrassed.  We make it personal and come to you quietly if you need extra attention.  An enthusiastic and passionate instructor also knows personal journeys and where a client is in goal attainment.  At Bar Method, we like to know where everyone is on their path because all little wins add up to big changes.


How did you gain interest in barre and The Bar Method?

I was a competitive gymnast into my 20’s, but unfortunately, I got injured.  I was restricted in several things, including lateral (side to side) movements, so when I went to work out, I felt very restricted.  Gymnastics is not only very physical, but mentally challenging which I love.  I find some exercise classes to be monotonous, and I see the elliptical and treadmill as timed events without that mental challenge.  I attended a Bar Method class and found both the physical and mental challenge I was longing for without restrictions from my injury.  It was also something I could master which is what I loved about gymnastics.


What is your favorite thing about your job?

Seeing people change inside and out.  The Bar Method is humbling.  I say that the classes are an hour that ripples through a lifetime.  I get people that come to me and say “I got a promotion at work!” because they are more confident.  They are standing up taller and have a better sense of confidence.  The challenge of the class also gives our clients more confidence in facing life challenges.  I personally saw that change in myself.  Even my husband noticed when I began.  I remember him telling me, “Wow, Denise!  You are more outgoing in social situations, going straight up to people with confidence.” when before I was more reserved.  I can truly say that I love my job, my clients, and what The Bar Method promotes because of these these changes I see in not only myself, but others I help.


If you have interest in attending The Bar Method, Denise is located in two locations, Portland and Lake Oswego.  


If you are interested in The Bar Method, but have hesitations about your physical ability level or a current or previous musculoskeletal complication, contact The Bar Method or connect with me (a physical therapist) for clarification.