Pilates Barre – What’s this “barre” thing all about anyway?


If you are a participant at all in the fitness world, you probably know about the current “barre” phenomenon.  I personally took my first barre class in the spring of 2011 in Ft. Worth, TX.  I was visiting a friend and wanted to take a Pilates class while there (I LOVE taking classes when I travel!  I learn so much about current trends, how other studios do things, and find new exercises to bring home to my clients.) The class was called “Pilates barre” and the description sounded like something I might like.  It discussed using Pilates principles and abdominal exercises, while also working your legs through standing routines at a ballet barre.  I sweated my way through class and came away with a few thoughts:

1) “My legs were burning!  Holy moly.”

2) “Is this seriously just a 3 lb dumbbell, because my arms are on fire.”

3) “When does the Pilates part happen?  Do they really think doing 10 crunches means they can call it Pilates?”

4) “How can I do more of this and how can I bring it to Harmony?”


Since then, barre fitness programs have grown exponentially and there are studios everywhere dedicated only to barre classes.  I’ve taken quite a few of them, and the only thing I can tell you for certain they have in common is there is a ballet barre involved.  Other than that, they can vary greatly.  Here are some other characteristics that you may see in a barre workout:

  • The majority of most barre workouts involve leg exercises while standing at the barre.  This could include squats, lunges, plies, leg lifts and kicks.

  • The barre is actually used mostly for balance – not for traditional ballet exercises.  If you want a more traditional ballet workout routine, they are out there!  Just look for “ballet” as a keyword.

  • There is a major cardio component to typical barre workouts.  You will get your heart rate up and experience the “burn” associated with repetitive resistance exercises.

  • A good instructor can give modifications if you have injuries, so don’t let this class scare you!  On the other hand, if you have chronic knee pain or are recovering from knee or hip surgery, you may want to talk to the instructor ahead of time so they can give you options for different exercises.  As a PT, I would let my knee pain clients do my barre classes, but I would make sure they knew their limitations and options to avoid pain.

  • Light hand weights are typically used to gain strength and tone muscles in the upper extremities.  This is choreographed with the leg exercises to give you a big bang for your buck.  If you have arm injuries, you can just leave the weights out of it.

  • Much of the class is standing, but there are components sitting and lying down as well.  This can include different kinds of leg work and abdominal work using the barre.

  • Barre exercises and workouts are not associated with the traditional Pilates methodology.  I have seen many studios advertising their barre classes as “Pilates barre”, only to find their instructors have no Pilates training and the exercises have no relation to Pilates (doing a crunch isn’t doing Pilates :).  I love barre classes and don’t think they all have to include Pilates. I just don’t want people advertising something as Pilates when it isn’t.  Just a “consumer beware” announcement.

Side note: Tracey Mallett, the creator of Booty Barre, is a BASI trained Pilates instructor and certified through the PMA.  I love her classes and her bubbly personality!  There are true barre and Pilates combo routines out there – you just have to look.

We created the Harmony Barre classes to be a combination of the typical barre workout and traditional Pilates exercises to work the abdominal muscles and core.  You will find yourself standing at the barre for a good portion of class, doing various leg and arm exercises and getting your heart rate elevated (booty burn!).  You will then transition down to the mat to continue your workout “Pilates” style (abs, obliques, stretch, repeat!).  Every class is taught by one of our trained Pilates instructors.  Each class will be a slightly different depending on the style of the instructor, but you can always be guaranteed an awesome workout with energizing music in a fun environment!  These classes are upbeat, fast and meant to make you sweat!  Scroll down to watch a short video that samples our barre workouts.  Try it at home and fall in love with it like I did…ok, maybe love/hate 🙂

Hope to see you at the barre!


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5 thoughts on “Pilates Barre – What’s this “barre” thing all about anyway?”

  1. Jess, been doing 3 barre classes a week since I moved to Chicago and I am loving it. everything you say about the barre is true. I am still doing my 3 reformer classes a week but the barre has been a great addition.

    • Sue – I’m so glad you started barre! Super fun, right? I wish you could come to Hillary’s Saturday morning tower/barre class in Kailua!!

  2. I love Barre workouts. I actually did both of your overall body barre workouts on Monday and loved them. Thanks so much for providing these great workouts!


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