Her Bar Method targets muscles without stressing joints, bringing strength at any age within reach.
Her mission is to empower women to be the best version of themselves by creating highly efficient, full-body workouts that build inner and outer strength, grace and poise.
As an evangelist for good posture, Burr Leonard is no slouch. The East Coast transplant has been committed to toning, strengthening and increasing flexibility for more than three decades, and has helped some 750,000 people develop better posture and lean, sculpted bodies during the past 18 years with an exercise regimen she named The Bar Method. She opened her first Bar Method studio in San Francisco in 2001; there are now 123 studios across the nation and Canada (four in Silicon Valley). Leonard, now 72, knows improving posture isn’t easy, and modern life doesn’t help because sitting for long periods and bending over smartphones encourage slumping. “Muscles also weaken over time,” she notes, “making it harder to maintain good posture in general.”
The Bar Method exercises, which include precise deep muscle contractions, as well as holds and stretches, are practiced both at a ballet barre and on the floor, sometimes with props or free weights. Leonard’s practice focuses on posture under pressure—holding good posture amid intense muscle burn in other parts of the body. The arabesque, for example, consists of a raised-leg exercise at the barre while contracting one’s upper back muscles and glutes and performing small, muscle-burning reps. “Bad posture not only impacts every joint in our bodies,” Leonard says, “it also detracts from beauty and ages us.”
Leonard’s path to The Bar Method began with her study of the Lotte Berk Method in Manhattan in 1981. (Berk, a dancer, developed the first barre classes in London in 1959.) Leonard taught Berk’s method, but student reports of joint discomfort prompted her to work with physical therapists throughout the 1990s to develop safer versions of Berk’s exercises. Leonard’s exercises more precisely target muscles without stressing joints. Thus, The Bar Method was born. Self Esteem Brands of Minnesota acquired The Bar Method in September with aims of international expansion, according to published reports. Expect Leonard’s gospel to spread globally. “Our focus on precision and form improves coordination,” Leonard says, “which accelerates toning and builds long, lean, dense muscles that increase metabolic rate and burn more calories all day.”
Photography by: Photography by Alanna Hale