The sex origins of the popular barre workout

( CNN) Here’s what I recollect about my first barre class: The workout was so grueling it built my muscles twitch as I lay on my back, rhythmically thrusting my pelvis to a sensual encompas of Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” Beyond the thrusting itself, I was struck by the expressions of the spandex-clad females beside me, who seemed solely unamused by the synced schwing we performed. All around me, everyone was taking their air-humping very, very seriously.

Barre, a fitness phenomenon based on stretches and strength-training exercises performed at a ballet barre, has exploded in recent years. The workout is as challenging as it is effective at sculpting women’s bodies — its enthusiasts are known for being physical overachievers who are already fit but nevertheless driven to chisel themselves to perfection.

It’s the “pretty girl” workout, a friend recently told me, with nearly every woman in class covered in Lululemon , no sweatpants in sight. But the moves of the workout itself belie this prim ethos. From the pelvic “tucking, ” in which you roll your groin forward, to the seated ab work, where you sit with legs spread and bent, to the “knee dancing, ” which is what it sounds like, the class can feel like an hour-long rehearsal for sex.

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