If you’ve ever attended a barre class, you understand that it revolves around the barre tuck. Your instructor reminds you in every pose, during every repetition, to ensure that your rear end isn’t protruding, but rather perfectly scooped underneath. You secretly admire and envy that one woman in class who is clearly an expert at barre — the instructor compliments her on maintaining her tuck at least once or twice per session. (Do this at-home barre workout to master your movements even when you can’t attend class.)
While aiming for the flawlessly maintained tuck may seem like the ultimate barre goal, there’s something important you should be aware of. The barre tuck, or what it has become, might actually have negative effects.
Barre Tuck: What You Should Understand
It all boils down to alignment, according to Karli Taylor, the founder and creator of BarreFlow and a certified personal trainer and innovative exercise specialist. The tuck originates from ballet; it focuses on getting your shoulders, hips, heels, and toes properly aligned.
“The barre tuck is essentially a way to achieve a neutral pelvis,” explains Taylor. “When you think about it, if you stand on your toes, your body naturally leans forward. So to prevent that, you need to bend your knees. And to stop your shoulders from going too far in front of your knees, you have to tuck your tailbone under. This brings you back to square one, back to a neutral position.”
However, the fitness industry’s belief that “more is better” has caused instructors and participants to over-tuck beyond the neutral pelvis, resulting in a posterior pelvic tilt, which leads to problems, warns Taylor.
Why is a posterior pelvic tilt problematic?
According to Taylor, most of us naturally have an anterior pelvic tilt (meaning our buttocks stick out and our back is arched). This comes from sitting for long periods and the fact that we primarily engage the muscles on the front of our body rather than those on the back (such as walking, running, and cycling forward).
When you forcefully put your body into a posterior pelvic tilt, you put pressure on the discs in your back from a different angle, causing instability in your lumbar spine and sacroiliac joint. This puts you at risk for conditions like sciatica (chronic lower back pain), herniated or bulging discs in the lower spine, numbness in the legs and feet, cramping in the hamstrings, and kyphosis (a rounded upper back as compensation).
“Inherently, there’s nothing wrong with the barre tuck,” says Taylor. “But doing it excessively is not better. You want to bring your pelvis to a neutral position — you don’t want to push your hips forward to the point where you resemble Steve Urkel.”
Warning signs include experiencing lower back pain, especially on the sides of your spine where the sacroiliac joint is located (between your lower back and tailbone), feeling numbness in your leg, or experiencing abdominal muscle cramps.
How to Properly Execute a Barre Tuck
Think of your pelvis as a container of water, says Taylor. Place your hands on your hips, which represents the opening of the container. If you push your buttocks out and arch your back, you will create an anterior pelvic tilt, causing water to spill out from the front of the container. Conversely, if you tuck your hips inward and pull your tailbone under, you will create a posterior pelvic tilt, causing water to spill out from the back of the container. Maintaining a neutral spine and pelvic tilt will ensure that the water remains in its proper place.
A simple trick to achieve the correct tilt is to imagine pulling your belly button in, then up towards your ribcage. However, be careful not to let this affect your breathing. Try performing this exercise while speaking and observe if it has any impact on your voice (which it shouldn’t).
“Usually, when people are told to ‘pull in your core,’ they tend to suck in their stomach and hold their breath as if preparing for a blow,” she explains. “But that’s not what you should be doing. Pulling the belly button in and up is what will activate the transverse abdominis, which refers to the muscles underneath your abs, and this will bring your pelvis back to a neutral position.”
It’s important to note that the tuck is not the same as doing a crunch or an abdominal workout. Try it now: tuck your hips under and pull your abs in. Can you feel your lower abdominal muscles tightening at the bottom?
“It doesn’t actually work that muscle,” says Taylor. “It merely places it in a compromised position. Some individuals may even strain their lower abdominal muscles by tucking too much.”
You may be thinking: “I’ve been doing the barre tuck like that for a long time, and I’m fine.”
Doing the barre tuck incorrectly won’t cause you to spontaneously combust or fall apart into a million pieces on the floor. However, because it is an overuse injury, it may take a while for the effects of improper form to become evident. And trust me, they’re not pleasant,” says Taylor.
“Barre has gained popularity in the past few years, so now we’re starting to see these types of injuries,” she adds. “A tuck injury is unlikely to be an immediate injury where someone hurts themselves on the spot. It’s similar to any overuse injury. For instance, if you’ve been running with poor form, you may be able to do it for five years before suddenly developing plantar fasciitis or a stress fracture. These issues worsen over time.”
We’re not criticizing barre – it can actually be fantastic for lengthening those muscles. However, like any workout, it’s important to do it correctly. So make sure to double-check your tuck before your next barre session.
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