6 Barre Moves To Use In Your Tough Mudder Training

By CameronNorsworthy | December 12, 2017


Football players practice with ballet, so is it all that surprising that barre moves could benefit your Tough Mudder training? The balance, flexibility, grace, and muscular isolations achieved by dancer-esque alignment is invaluable to athletes, and could be just the thing to help you level up. 

Before we launch into ballet positions, heel heights, and balance challenges, I’ll first give a bit of background on what barre fitness actually is. Firstly, it’s pronounced like “bar.” Glad that’s out of the way.

Secondly, as you might have already ascertained, barre is informed by ballet technique. Whereas there isn’t much choreography involved (bless), the key similarity between barre and ballet is the positioning. In most barre moves, the knees are soft and tailbone is either slightly relaxed or tucked forward. This runs counter to how we’re used to standing in our day-to-day; typically, humans stand with locked knees and an arched or sway-back, so adjusting to this new type of skeletal alignment can feel a bit awkward at first.

But the benefits of this stance are innumerable; in barre posture, your knees and back are immediately protected, preventing injury. What’s more, your core is automatically engaged when your back is properly lengthened, meaning your abs never stop working. Which basically means it’s perfect for training for obstacles like Blockness Monster, and Birth Canal.

A barre class will often isolate one muscle group at a time, working it to the point of fatigue. You’ll burn out your arms, thighs, glutes, and abs, slowly but surely (It’s not quite a Tough Mudder Full, but you’ll feel it the next day). Using the muscles this deeply often causes the infamous, so-called barre “shaking,” where the muscles actually quiver because they’re working so hard. (Speaking of quiver, did you catch ERock and Coach crying at WTM?)

Barre conditioning encourages strength, balance, flexibility, and well-rounded athleticism. And by athleticism we be badassery. Try these six simple moves, working until you shake (and then add 10 —no 20 more reps).

1. Relevé Lifts

Obstacle: Hold Your Wood 2.0, Hero Carry

Equipment needed: none (barre or chair optional for modifications)

What you do:

-Bring your heels together and toes apart in first position
-Lift your heels and lower, keeping your rib cage pulled in
-Enjoy a full range of motion; lifting all the way up and all the way down is more challenging than keeping your heels at a hover
-OPTION: hold onto the barre (or a chair) with one hand for balance
-Movement: lifts in varying tempos, hold at the top

Why it works: Endurance races tax your heart rate most of all. These lifts, when executed at a high speed, get your heart going. To take it up a notch, lift your arms over head. (Think calf-raises, but with a little more grace.)

2. Second Position

Obstacle: Quagmire, Mud Mile 2.0

Equipment needed: none

What you do:

-Walk your feet wider than your hips and turn your toes slightly outward
-Sink your seat low, (ideally with your knees, thighs, and hips all aligned on one plane)
-Flatten out your back, tucking your pelvis forward to engage your core
-Hands can be at your waist, in wide prayer, or overhead
-Movement: heel lifts, thigh pulses, wrap knees back

Why it works: When jumping over mud pits, you’ll want the strongest quads possible. In my personal opinion, nothing is as tough on the quads as a perfect Second Position can be. Imagine that your back is flush against a wall as you lower and lift — don’t stick the booty out or you’ll risk tweaking out your lower back.

3. Chair

Obstacle: Berlin Walls, Funky Monkey

Equipment needed: Barre

What you do:

-Walk your feet underneath the barre
-Hold onto the barre with a shoulder-width grip
-Extend your arms fully with no bend in the elbows
-Keep your knees over your ankles and knees level with hips so that your legs form a 90-degree angle
-Flatten your back, pressing your shoulder blades together
-Options for movement: pulses up and down, heel lifts one at a time, pelvic tucks forward and back

Why it works: No doubt you’ll want to strengthen that killer grip before you take to the mud. This flat-backed chair position works your quads while requiring that you hang onto the barre for dear life. When you’re scaling Berlin Walls, pulling teammates over barriers, and hanging from various balances, you’ll remember to thank me.

4. Waterski

Obstacle: Everest 2.0, King of Swingers 2.0

Equipment needed: Barre

What you do:

-Begin a half of an arm’s length from barre
-Bring heels together and toes apart to a first position (wide-V stance)
-Lift your heels, glue the heels back together at the top
-Extend your arms, sending the knees toward wall
-Tuck your hips under so that, from shoulder to knee, your body’s in one, uninterrupted line
-Options for movement: Pulses, pelvic tucks, wrap your knees back

Why it works: Running through mud necessitates healthy joints — knees especially. Your vastus muscles need strengthening, and this waterski position is here to help you out with that. Drive your knees toward the wall in front of you and keep your core engaged to feel an extra burn.

5. Plank on Pointe

Obstacle: Balls to The Wall, Skidmarked

Equipment needed: none

What you do:

-Place your palms underneath shoulders and zip your legs together
-Pull your belly button towards your spine with each breath
-Movement: point one foot and pulse, alternating sides

Why it works: A strong core yields better, overall body balance. Staying upright and pulling the belly into spine is key to make it to the other side of walls, and this Plank on Pointe will help you practice that ideal alignment.

6. Ballet Leg Lowers

Obstacle: Shawshanked, Kiss of Mud 2.0

Equipment needed: none

What you do:

-On your back, extend your legs to sky in a pike position
-Bring your heels together, toes apart, and zip up the inner thighs like you have one, mermaid fin
-Keep your back flat on the floor
-OPTION: place hands underneath seat to further disengage your hip flexors
-Movement: flex the feet as you lower the legs, point as you lift; criss cross your ankles on the way up and down

Why it works: Any time you’re army crawling, think of pressing your back flat and tucking the tailbone, knitting everything in for maximum ab engagement.