On Wednesday I was able to attend a class at Xtend Barre Portland, courtesy of ClassPass. ClassPass is a program that provides unlimited monthly access to fitness studios in the network, and just came to Portland a few months ago. There are limitations (such as a max of 3 visits per month to each studio), but it ends up costing the same or less than what an unlimited pass at most studios would cost, and you can try a variety of classes throughout the month.
Check out the map of participating fitness studios (accurate to the best of my knowledge as of February 2015, or possibly November 2014 - underlying source). As I'd expect, they're pretty concentrated in Portland itself, but there are a good handful on the westside suburbs where I live and work! Plus, the yoga studio I go to (when I get around to doing yoga) is included.
Xtend Barre Portland is in SE on Division, in between 30th and 31st.
I would recommend arriving by bike or TriMet if you can; parking is definitely limited! I thought I was familiar enough with the area because I've been to the Bhaktishop at Division and 26th, but no. At about 28th the vibe changes from leisurely commercial to straight out busy commercial, and parking is difficult to find. I ended up just one block down and a couple blocks away, but it's not like spots were abundant even there; whereas down by 26th I can easily find space less than a block away either on Division or down a side street.
The inside of the studio is a nice Portland-y, slightly-industrial vibe. It's set up like a ballet studio with wood floors, a literal barre, and cozy retro blue tones. There are cubbies inside the studio section to put your stuff during class. They provide the equipment needed for the workout, but also require grippy socks be worn, which they sell for $13.
The studio is mostly Xtend Barre classes, of course, but also has TRX (the suspension band strength training).
Our barre class was taught by Jessica, the founder of the Portland location. She's a very upbeat, enthusiastic instructor, greeting everyone as we came in to ask if we had questions or any injuries to be aware of. During the class it was a bit difficult sometimes to hear her cues over the music, but I'm sure that's at least partially because I was near the end of the studio by the speaker. She mentioned they are getting a microphone, so at least they're aware that that can be an issue!
Xtend Barre is a fusion of dance, ballet, and pilates. It utilizes a non-weighted ball, light handweights, and a mat. There are various segments that each class always follows, although the specific elements may vary. I don't recall the exact order, but there's a warm-up, arms, abs, legs.
The arm exercises use very light weights - 1, 2, 3, or 5 pounds - and you hold your arms up for extended periods of time. I stuck with 1 pounds since I didn't know exactly what to expect, and that was sufficient! Legs were worked mostly at the barre, lots of plies, squats, lunges. Many exercises incorporated both legs and arm movements. Core and ab exercises took place on a mat. With all segments, there tended to be full range of motion movements (e.g., a full plie), followed by holding mid-way with pulses, and then tiny tiny pulses. The fairly quick reps and going from one exercise to another made it a cardio workout as well as strength.
This is clearly a program that focuses on the concept of "leaning" and "toning". So I found it kind of entertaining that I had the opportunity to do this class in my break week between phases of New Rules of Lifting for Women - which is very anti this concept. I have a post in the works about the first phase of NROLFW, which hopefully I'll get up early next week. According to NROLFW, that type of low-weight, high-rep strength training builds endurance muscles, but not strength of muscles, so it unlikely to produce the results that a typical woman wants from strength training.
Which is certainly not to say that it doesn't do anything. As I write this about 24 hours after the class, I'm definitely feeling it in my arms, shoulders, abs, and lower back! Whether it's truly building muscle in a way that would be beneficial long-term, is something I'm less certain of. It definitely felt like a good workout, in terms of cardio and calories burned, I'm just not convinced of it from a strength training viewpoint.
The cost would be the biggest reason I'm unsure if I'd go back. It's $20 per drop-in, or $16 - $18 if you buy a package of 5, 10, or 20 classes. Unlimited monthly pass is $159. That's just too much for me! By comparison, the yoga studio that I can justify spending on is $14 per drop-in, and as low as $10 per class in a 20-class package. If I did ClassPass, though, to bring down the cost per visit, it would definitely remain on my list of studios to visit.