Instructor: Shalisa Pouw and Mish Metz, both co-owners of Denver, teach the class. They also helped design the class for the 200-plus Pure Barre studios nationwide. Both women are former dancers for the Denver Nuggets and Pure Barre master teacher trainers. Pouw, who has been a Pure Barre instructor since 2009, taught my class.
What is the workout? Pure Empower is Pure Barre's answer for a fast-paced, heart-pumping cardio class. It uses the ballet barre (like a traditional Pure Barre class), but in different ways. It also incorporates a 6-inch step platform, wrist/ankle weights and light dumbbells.
"The goal is to not stop moving, no matter what you're doing. Just keep going," Metz says.
The 45-minute, full-body class is no-impact, therefore reducing risk of injuries, while burning a lot of calories. It combines strength training with cardio-style circuits (think: HIIT, or high-intensity interval training).
The Boulder studio launched Pure Empower Aug. 14 and the teachers have been training other studios, so while it has roots in Boulder, you can find the class around the country. Despite the ballet barre, no dance (or barre) background is required.
What's different? Pure Empower is the newest spin-off of a previous cardio class at Pure Barre, called Platform, which also used a step platform. Metz and Pouw say they have been improving upon the Platform class to keep what worked and take out what didn't work or was unnecessary, such as quick step-ups that were essentially jumps and kicks that did get your heart pumping but had impact and weren't as safe as a classic Pure Barre class (the no-impact feature is something barre fanatics value).
Pure Empower has some elements of Platform, but it's lower impact on the joints and adds the wrist/ankle weights. Also, it was shortened to 45 minutes, but doesn't sacrifice intensity. Some students felt like Platform was a little daunting, Metz says, whereas Pure Empower is more doable and less intimidating for all levels.
"Overall, everyone's sweatier in this class than Platform," Metz says. "Every class has been wait-listed and we're opening more classes as it builds."
In comparison to classical Pure Barre, Pure Empower is faster-paced and enlists bigger movements. In that, it's actually more challenging for people with experience in Pure Barre than a new student, because the barre participants have such deeply embedded movement habits that Pure Empower doesn't play into.
In addition, Pure Empower has two sections of cardio springs: 20 seconds on, 20 seconds off, HIIT style, with an active recover. And you don't use the ankle/hand weights or the steps for Pure Barre. Pure Empower requires more balance, whereas Pure Barre demands more consistent core strength, Metz says.
"With the platform and the weights, you're stepping on and off, there's an extra level without you realizing the core strength and the balance," she says.
Compared with other barre classes I have taken, Pure Empower is really unique and has more time in the middle of the room and off the barre than many other classes.
Cost: A one-time drop-in is $23. It's included in the regular membership. New clients can do unlimited Pure Barre and Pure Empower classes for $99 for 30 days.
Level: All levels, although it's quick and challenging. For an easier modification, omit the weights entirely and move slower. To make it harder, move quicker and pick heavier hand weights. Although it complements the music, it's not choreography and is repetitive, so it's easy to follow.
Metz says Pure Empower is not harder than Pure Barre; it's just different.
"Your heart rate's up so it's a different challenge. Regular Pure Barre is really mental. There's a mind-body connection and focus," she says. "This is simpler because it's just big movements, but it's endurance. Depending on the person, it could be harder or easier. For me, it's harder, because I don't love cardio."
I do love cardio, but I found the class harder than I remember a classic barre class being -— which is hard to begin with. The added wrist weights with the handheld dumbbells really got my arms. There were several leg movements on the barre I could barely muster, which qualifies this class as a solid nine on a 10-point scale of intensity. My heart was pounding, I was sweating, there was no break and when I was done, I was done.
Each class follows a similar outline, but never the same combos, so each class feels slightly different, Metz says. The class goes by fast and keeps pushing you, even after you've done it for a while, she says.
When: There's a Pure Empower class every day, with a Sunday class coming soon. Classes are 7 a.m. Monday, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, 4:15 p.m. Thursday, 9:40 a.m. Friday and 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Be on time. Because class is so short, no late entries allowed. Also, because there's a wait list, if you don't cancel a day in advance, you'll still be charged.
What to prepare: Exercise pants or capris (not shorts), a shirt that covers your stomach (preferably form-fitting to show your positioning), grippy socks, no shoes. Bring water. Equipment (a platform, mat, ankle weights, hand weights) is provided.
Muscles worked: Full body with a huge emphasis on core. Pure Barre advertises that it emphasizes the areas women tend to struggle with: abs, hips, glutes, thighs and arms. I especially felt it in my shoulders, chest (there were a lot of push-ups) and thighs. I learned some new glute exercises that were great.
What I loved: Pure Barre always has a great atmosphere: totally upbeat, efficient, challenging, fun. The instructors are personable, the kind of people you want to be friends with, who you can tell want to be there. Of course, I loved that I got a great workout in just 45 minutes, especially that I was able to challenge my lower body so hard.
What I didn't like: When I wore the weights strapped to my wrists, my wrists got super sweaty underneath. They slid around and it was uncomfortable. Maybe I need to wear deoderant on my forearms. I was relieved when I got to move the weights to my ankles.
How I felt after the class: Satisfied, sweaty and a little shaky, in a good way.
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