I tried the Lotte Berk technique – here’s why you should too
Our Head of Digital, Amy Moore, tries her hand at the Lotte Berk technique to discover how this energising class can help us to stay strong through midlife and beyond.
I’ve never been one for sweaty spin classes or hours spent on the treadmill. When it comes to exercise, it has to feel fun – endless reps of squats and press-ups fill me with dread and don’t even get me started on HIIT…
So, when the opportunity to train with Sophie Ritchie, a UK Master Trainer of the Lotte Berk technique, came up, I jumped at the chance.
Devised originally by dancer, Lotte Berk, in the 1960’s, these classes are where modern barre truly began. This dance-inspired technique aims to deliver all of the elegance and poise of a ballet dancer, with the added benefits of defined arms, a flatter stomach and a firmer bottom.
Not only that, but the moves are designed with the female body in mind, with a focus on strengthening the pelvic floor. The technique was so effective that Lotte claimed it helped her swerve menopause symptoms and maintain a thriving sex life.
Having trained with Lotte’s daughter, Esther, Sophie is determined to bring Lotte Berk to new audiences throughout the capital at her Hackney-based studio.
“This technique is joyful. It really is something special,” says Sophie. “It’s definitely not a normal fitness class. It works wonders for your body and it has helped so many of my clients already in some deep and profound ways.”
We get started quickly with an invigorating warm-up that soon gets my heart pumping and muscles moving. The moves are a little reminiscent of Pilates, but with the added fun and flair of dance.
Five minutes (and many sweeping stretches) later, we’re suitably warm and ready to have a go at our first ballet-inspired move.
“The aim is to keep everything as controlled as possible,” says Sophie. “All while maintaining the elegance of a dancer.”
Sophie guides me to the wall for additional balance, teaching me the basics of ballet footwork along the way. With my feet confident of the difference between first and second position, I lift one arm overhead and the other out to the side. For a few blissful moments I feel all the elegance of Darcy Bussell. And then my muscles start to shake…
Learning the movements
Lifting one knee up level with my hip, Sophie guides me through the first exercise, pointing my toes and flicking my foot out in front of me with as much grace as I can muster.
These precise movements, as I quickly come to learn, help to strengthen the deep muscles of the body.
“We don’t want to just be flinging our limbs around wildly,” says Sophie. “By keeping it controlled, we’re focussing on effectively targeting the muscles and building strength.”
We repeat on the opposite leg and, even though we’ve only been moving for a short while, my legs feel like they’ve run some sort of ultra marathon. Results in a matter of minutes? This is my kind of class.
We then hit the floor to learn some movements that will further help to tone my tush and strengthen my core.
Deeper core work
“This next pose is called ‘hello sailor!’,” Sophie enthusiastically tells me from her mat. “You can imagine being a mermaid sitting on a rock, calling to some handsome sailors!”
While I fear I look more mollusc than mermaid, this one certainly gets your muscles working quickly. We sit on the floor with our legs bent and feet off to one side, arms overhead. The challenge is to lift one leg about an inch off the floor and pulse. Huffing and puffing my way through it, I’m struck by how much you can achieve with just your own bodyweight.
A few minutes later, I’m on my back with my feet flat on the wall in front of me. Here, the aim is to lift my head and chest, while also performing a stomach-burning shimmy. While I might not execute it with quite as much pazazz as Sophie, I’m certain I can feel the beginnings of a six pack forming.
We finish off with a section focusing on the pelvic floor and, by the end of it I certainly feel toned and tightened from the inside out.
“The classes awaken something within you,” says Sophie. “You feel youthful and full of vitality. It improves your sex life. It makes you move better and want to dance all the time. It’s for women, it’s fiercely feminine and it really is a gift.”