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The Bar Method

Legs up to the Bar

The newest addition to The Bar Method franchise just opened this past January on the lobby level of Embarcadero Three Center, between Drumm and Davis Streets. Its location makes it a perfect spot for all the downtown workers who like to incorporate a workout into their day but are in need of an alternative to the small selection of basic gyms scattered throughout the Financial District.

The Bar Method, originally created by Burr Leonard, is an exercise system made up of movements based on ballet bar work, yoga and Pilates. In the eighties, Burr discovered the Lotte Berk Method, a mixture of strength-training, dance, orthopedic back exercises, and Hatha yoga and became an avid student. After years of working as a journalist, Burr made the switch and purchased the Lotte Berk franchise in Fairfield County, Connecticut. After ten years, the exercises had been altered to an extent, and she re-launched the studio with the name of The Bar Method.

According to The Bar Method, the goal of the exercises is to reduce body fat; give lean, firm and elongated muscles; high muscle definition in the chest, upper arms and upper legs; improved posture; long, narrow thighs; a lifted seat and defined hamstrings; strong, flat abdominals; and increased stamina and energy.

The Bar Method in downtown San Francisco is owned and directed by Heather Thompson and Hannah Blue. Both previously taught at The Bar Method in the Marina on their own time, but Heather was in branding and marketing and Hannah was doing sales and marketing for medical imaging. Though they didn’t necessarily have a background in exercise training, they both were familiar with many of the movements that are used in The Bar Method. Heather was an ice skater and yoga practitioner, and Hannah has a background in all different types of dance, including ballet, jazz, tap, and modern, in addition to having practiced yoga and Pilates. Over a year ago, they decided to make a full time commitment to their love of The Bar Method, by opening their own studio.

The hour-long classes are filled with nine sets of strengthening exercises. The strengthening exercises consist of holding your own body weight combined with isometric movements that increase and decrease in time and range of motion. Each class begins with free weights and push-ups followed by bar, which is used for balance and resistance to work legs and abdominals, and finishes on mats for more core work, much like Pilates, with yoga-like stretching. No two classes are exactly the same. The movements can change, but the areas of your body that you work and the sequence of the areas does not. Regardless, your legs will shake. We were told by the instructor that this is good thing.

To make sure that we were doing the exercises correctly, the instructor took time to correct the newbies, in addition to some of the continuing students. I do think that I could have been given slightly more instruction, as I did end up with some mild discomfort in my wrist that lasted the rest of the week. If you have any pre-existing injuries or special needs, make a note when you sign up so the instructors can work with you to modify the exercises to maximize the workout and modify further injuries.

One of the aspects of the studio that I think is great for people with limited schedules is the ability to reserve a class online. Right now the downtown location offers “mixed level” classes throughout the day, meaning they are open to every level from beginners and up. They’re in the process of hiring and training four to five instructors by June and should be offering additional levels then. Classes are $24 each, but they offer some package deals, such as five classes for $110 and $250 for an unlimited 30 day pass.

If you’re pregnant, the downtown location does not offer pre-natal classes at this time, but you can choose to do half a class at half price. These classes will work your arms, seat and thighs, with modifications including thicker mats, and no curling or crunching of the stomach. Prenatal classes are available currently at the Marina location.

I can’t recommend this place for everyone. I am not in top shape, but I commute by bike daily in addition to going to the gym and I thought the mixed class was a bit much for a beginner. But, if you like group exercise and want to shed pounds quickly, The Bar Method is the right place for you.