Fitness Barre

My latest foray into fitness found me attempting a Pilates barre class. Although taught at a Pilates studio, barre is a dynamic fusion of Pilates, ballet and isometric and isotonic exercises. Its original iteration was created by Lotte Berk, a German dancer who suffered a back injury and combined her dance conditioning with rehabilitative therapy.

I met the instructor, Jennifer, at a workshop for yoga teachers. When I mentioned my assignment, she recommended her studio’s “Back to the Basics Barre” class. The fundamental class is a bit slower so it gives Jennifer time to explain movements and terminology of barre.

In addition to the ballet barre, the equipment in my class included two-pound weights, resistance bands and a soft exercise ball that was about 6” in diameter.

The room was rather small so there were only about six or seven of us. I was probably the oldest; most of the women were in their 20s and 30s. Barre is low-impact so just about anyone can do it. But don’t be fooled — your muscles will still get a great workout.

We started with a warm-up on the mat then moved into the fitness part of the hour. By the time we did several exercises, my arms were tired and my triceps were toast. Instead of using compound movements targeting larger muscles, the weights are lifted in small increments and pulses. Seeing our arms start to quiver, Jennifer encouraged us to “embrace the shake!”

Next we moved to the barre where we did a series of squats with and without the resistance bands, bent leg lifts and straight-legged lifts with pointed toe. This is where Pilates barre distinguishes itself from other workouts — it incorporates some ballet terms such as plié and relevé (coming up on the toes). Several times, Jennifer mentioned the “Pilates v,” a foot position based on the first position in ballet, but not quite as exaggerated.

Then it was back to the mat for some of the core work Pilates is known for, and a cool down with some stretches that brought in yoga.

Pilates barre is great for targeting the smaller muscles and sculpting the body. You won’t get cardio or functional strength training, but Pilates barre definitely earned its spot in a balanced exercise regimen.

What are the benefits?

Barre is a low-impact workout that tones the muscles, sculpts the body, increases flexibility and improves posture.

Is this right for me?

Just about anyone can do barre, and modifications are offered to fit all levels of ability.

How much will it cost me?

Expect to pay between $20-$25. Most studios offer multi-class rates, which will reduce the price per class.

What equipment do I need?

The studio will provide everything you need. Just wear clothing you can move easily in.

Where do I go?

Check out Hana Pilates and Bodyworks in Rochester or Moxie Mind & Body Pilates Studio in Pittsburgh.