Ballerina Is Badasses: The Bar Method Examined
By John C. Dvorak
Barre is one of the most popular exercises used in fitness programs today. Many people are familiar with it because it’s been featured on TV shows like Iron Man or Glee, but few realize just how much time and money have gone into developing the barre itself!
The barre was developed over 100 years ago by a man named William H. Davis (1860–1935). His goal was to develop the strength necessary for men to lift heavy objects such as guns and cannons. However, he didn’t stop there; he also wanted to make sure his exercise program would be easy enough for anyone to follow so he designed it in such a way that everyone could do it.
Davis’ system involved two separate movements: the barbell row and the barbell squat. Both were performed using dumbbells. These movements were combined into a single movement called the “bar” which was held in place by a person’s hands, feet, hips, shoulders and elbows. Davis believed that if these three joints all worked together they’d create maximum power.
He also incorporated the Hamstring Stretch, which is a simple stretch done by sitting on one’s ankles with one’s legs held straight out in front of one.
While many people enjoyed it, barre didn’t really take off until the first barre studio opened in 1892, and it was open just five years before it closed up shop. In those five years, barre made enough of an impression that it evolved into what we now know as pilates. Unfortunately, it was also during this time that William H. Davis started to believe he’d become wealthy from his creation.
To do this, he applied for a patent for barre, but was denied because his system had been “exaggerated” by others before him. By the time the patent expired, interest in barre had dropped so much it never really regained momentum until it was revived in the 20th century.
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