Barre and Pilates have something in common: they both focus on strengthening and toning the core muscles of the body. Pilates is a full-body workout that works to improve posture, flexibility, balance, and coordination. Barre, on the other hand is a series of low-impact exercises choreographed to music and is based on a combination of ballet moves and strength-training exercises. Knowing this, which is best for you? The answer depends on your individual needs and goals. Generally, any type of exercise can be beneficial, especially when combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle. You’re advised to choose based on your preferences so that you’re more likely to stick with it. That said, you might need to know a little bit more about each exercise to decide which one is best for you. Here’s a comprehensive pilates vs barre comparison to help you decide.
Pilates Vs Barre Origins
Not that knowing the origin of the exercises has much to do with you enjoying it, but it does serve as interesting knowledge.
Pilates was created by German physical trainer Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century. Pilates’ father was a gymnast and his mother was a naturopath, so Joseph had a strong interest in physical fitness and conditioning (9).
Growing up, he was often sick and he began searching for ways to improve his health. He eventually developed a system of exercises that emphasized the core muscles, breathing, and body control.
Barre is a combination of ballet moves and strength-training exercises that was popularized by Ballerina Lotte Berk in London in 1959 (3).
When Berk injured her back performing, she began to look for ways to stay in shape and help her recover. She combined elements of ballet, yoga, and other exercises that focus on isometric strength training and stretching.
Her goal was to combine ballet routines with rehabilitative exercises in order to create a gentle yet effective workout. This is the basis of the modern barre class.
Pilates Vs Barre For Weight Loss
Weight loss is a common goal for most people who engage in physical activity. While cardio and lifting weights are more or less mainstream weight loss activities, Pilates and Barre can also be beneficial for slimming down.
A standard Pilates class involves controlled movements, often in repetition and with a small range of motion. Your heart rate will get elevated, more so if it’s a Pilates reformer class. As a result, you’ll burn calories.
How many calories you burn depends on your body weight, intensity, and the length of the class. Calorie burn estimates for a 150-pound person in a 50-minute Pilates class range from 175-254 calories (1).
Pilates can further improve your body composition through muscle toning, which can help you look slimmer. And finally, by improving your strength and flexibility, Pilates can help you lift weights more effectively (5).
Barre is similar to Pilates in that it focuses on low-impact, controlled movements that increase your heart rate and help you burn calories. However, it has a dance component that gives it a calorie-burning edge.
The more you move, the more calories you burn. It also increases muscle strength and tone, which can help you look slimmer and more toned (6).
So while both Pilates and Barre can be beneficial for weight loss, if you’re looking for an extra calorie-burning edge, then it’s worth considering Barre.
Note that in comparison to other types of exercises such as cardio or weight training, Pilates and Barre are lower-intensity activities. As such, these may not be the best choice to rely on if you have a large amount of weight to lose.
Pilates Vs Barre For Flexibility And Strength
In a typical Pilates class, you’ll be required to stabilize your core muscles and move through small ranges of motion. This helps to increase strength and control in your smaller stabilizing muscles, as well as build overall strength and flexibility (10).
You’ll also be encouraged to focus on your breathing, which can help you stay relaxed and in control throughout the class.
Barre, on the other hand, is slightly more intense as it combines elements of ballet and strength training. Barre classes usually involve putting your body in various positions and using isometric exercises to target specific muscles.
You’ll work your muscles to failure, which increases the strength and endurance of those muscles while also improving your flexibility.
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Pilates Vs Barre For Injury Rehabilitation
Both Pilates and Barre can be useful for injury rehabilitation. Both methods focus on controlled movements and muscle toning, which can be beneficial for those recovering from an injury.
Pilates is especially helpful for injury rehabilitation, as it focuses on strengthening the core muscles and improving body control. The slower pace and controlled movements help minimize joint stress and reduce the risk of injury (2) (4).
Pilates can also be modified to fit an individual’s needs, which makes it ideal for those with pre-existing injuries.
Barre is also beneficial for injury rehabilitation. Its low-impact, strength-training exercises help build stability in the body and speed up the healing process. Barre is also useful for strengthening the muscles in a safe and controlled way, which can help prevent future injuries.
So, as far as getting back in the game after an injury, both Pilates and Barre can be beneficial.
Pilates Vs Barre For Posture Improvement
Slouching, hunching, and a weak core are all modern-day posture issues that both Pilates and Barre can help to improve.
Pilates focuses on strengthening the core muscles and improving body control and coordination. The exercises also emphasize body alignment, which can help to improve posture. Pilates can also help to release tight muscles that are contributing to poor posture (7).
Barre classes also incorporate postural movement and alignment into the exercises. Posture is improved as you work your muscles from different angles and work to increase your range of motion.
Barre also adds in more dynamic, full-body movements that can help to strengthen your posture over time.
If you’re looking to improve your posture, then both Pilates and Barre can help.
Pilates Vs Barre: Which One Should You Choose?
As both pilates and barre have similar benefits, consider the following factors when deciding which one to choose:
Level Of Interest
There are nuances to both Pilates and Barre, so it’s important to decide which one appeals to you more. Perhaps you have a history of ballet, or you are more interested in the core-strengthening exercises of Pilates.
Think about what piques your interest and go from there. Why that’s important: If you’re not interested in the class, you won’t be likely to stick with it.
How easy will it be for you to get into Pilates? Conversely, how easy will it be for you to get into a Barre session? If you have a class that’s close enough, well-priced, and conducted by experienced instructors, then that’s a good place to start. Accessibility is key to making fitness a lifestyle.
If you have any pre-existing injuries, then it’s important to be mindful of the type of class that you choose. Consulting a doctor or physical therapist can help to determine what type of class will best suit your needs.
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Making The Most Out Of Your Pilates Or Barre Class
Here are some tips for beginners and experienced practitioners alike to make the most out of their Pilates or Barre class:
- Respect Your Body – Listen to your body and respect where it is on any given day. This means allowing yourself to take rests, or modify the exercises if needed.
- Find Your Breath – Focusing on breathing throughout the exercises can help to relax your body, reduce tension, and increase oxygen flow.
- Set Your Intentions – Before class, set an intention for the session. This will help you to stay focused and motivated throughout the class.
- Be consistent – To get the most out of your classes, consistency is key. Aim for at least 2-3 times per week to start seeing results.
- Fuel Your Body – To get the most out of your classes, make sure to fuel your body with healthy food.
Before a class, eating a light snack can help to provide energy. After a class, eating a meal that is rich in protein and carbs can help to replenish your muscles (8).
- Hydrate – Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and energized (7). Drink more water after a class to help rehydrate your body.
The Bottom Line
Both Pilates and Barre can be beneficial for fitness and injury rehabilitation. When deciding which one to choose, consider your level of interest, accessibility, and any pre-existing injuries.
With the right information, you can make an informed decision that will help you reach your fitness goals.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- ACE-sponsored Study: Can Pilates Do It All? (2005, acefitness.org)
- Application of Pilates-based exercises in the treatment of chronic non-specific low back pain: state of the art (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Behind the Barre. the history and evolution of the fitness phenomenon called “barre” (2018, medium.com)
- Do Pilates-based exercises following total knee arthroplasty improve postural control and quality of life? (2017, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effects of a Pilates exercise program on muscle strength, postural control and body composition: results from a pilot study in a group of post-menopausal women (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Hitting the Barre: Understanding the Popular Group Fitness Trend (2019, acefitness.org)
- Hydration to Maximize Performance and Recovery: Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors Among Collegiate Track and Field Throwers (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Regulation of Muscle Glycogen Repletion, Muscle Protein Synthesis and Repair Following Exercise (2004, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The History of Pilates (n.d., pilatesfoundation.com)
- What can I expect in popular group fitness classes like Pilates, kickboxing and barre? (2011, acefitness.org)
- What can I expect in popular group fitness classes like Pilates, kickboxing and barre? (2012, acefitness.org)