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The Difference Between Barre and Pilates: Everything You Need to Know to Maximize Results

With so many exercise methods and variations, it may seem overwhelming to choose or know which is best for you. While there may be some crossovers, the buzz about barre vs Pilates* is exciting and can open up many possibilities.

Continue reading to learn more about the difference between barre and Pilates exercises.


Barre is an exercise method that primarily consists of low-impact, isometric movements that are typically higher in intensity. However, many elements are incorporated in barre that focus on increasing muscular strength, endurance, flexibility, and overall fitness (1). Barre typically features a horizontal beam, which can be used as a support for balance and feature during movements (1). 

Benefits of Barre

Barre is said to be derived from the term ‘ballet barre’, which was created by a ballerina who was unable to perform due to injury. Aspects of Pilates and yoga were incorporated into this new fitness routine, allowing for an effective, versatile, and low-impact method of exercise(1).

Barre exercise and workouts can include yoga stretches, Pilates exercises, and isometric holds amongst many other principles. With no strict methodology, this practice allows for wide variation and adaptability to individual abilities(1). There is an emphasis on correct posture and technique during barre sessions, which can improve trunk strength. The inclusion of isometric exercise where a position is held for an amount of time, engages and strengthens stabilizing muscles. Equipment such as dumbbells and other objects can also be included, allowing for an additional load to be added to enhance strength. Barre can be an effective method for improving muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and range of motion. Furthermore, it can contribute to a healthy body weight and slimmer waist (1).   

You can continue reading more about the Benefits of a barre workout here.


Pilates may be more well-known than barre. While it may share certain similarities with barre, it was designed with a focus on core strength, coordination, and breathing pattern. Originally developed with rehabilitation purposes in mind to work around limitations or injuries, it has become a popular exercise routine (9). As with barre, Pilates is versatile and adaptable to suit individual needs. Commonly, Pilates can be performed using a mat or equipment such as a reformer. A key focus in the Pilates methodology is prioritizing quality over quantity of movements, ensuring the intended muscles are engaged.

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Benefits of Pilates

There are said to be many benefits with Pilates, including: 

  • Improved total body strength and coordination
  • Enhanced muscular symmetry
  • Increased core strength and endurance
  • Improved flexibility and range of motion
  • Improved posture
  • Increased strength of the spine and stabilizing muscles
  • Enhanced balance
  • Improved muscular coordination and strength in the hips, back, and limbs
  • Enhanced breathing awareness and control
  • Potential stress relief and mode of relaxation
  • Enhanced concentration and mindfulness

Is Barre Better than Pilates?

Both barre and Pilates are effective exercise modalities that can elicit positive physical and mental results. Whether barre is better than Pilates is ultimately dependent on your individual goals, ability, and access to classes or equipment. Both barre and Pilates can support various populations including seniors – read our Barre For Seniors post to learn more about this. What is considered the better option is whichever method is most accessible for you. Both can elicit similar physical results if performed consistently and both target the entire body throughout sessions.


Can You Lose Weight Doing Pilates or Barre?

Yes, you can lose weight doing Pilates or barre, although a calorie deficit is needed to achieve this. When it comes to weight loss, a calorie deficit is the underlying factor that drives changes in the body that are required for fat loss (4). A calorie deficit is also referred to as an energy deficit, which is essentially when more calories (energy) are burned than are consumed. Some may assume that this can only be achieved by reducing food intake, but there’s more than one way to achieve this. Reducing the amount of energy from food is typically the default, with a common concept of decreasing calories by 500 each day. However, a deficit can also be achieved by increasing physical activity levels as this also leads to energy being expended and more calories being burned. For a sustainable approach, a combination of slightly reducing your calorie intake from food and increasing physical activity is a good balance. 

Read more: Wall Pilates for Butt: A Quick Guide for Beginners

Is Pilates or Barre Better for Glutes?

The glute muscles are the gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus, and gluteus medius. The gluteus maximus is the largest of the three muscles and acts as a primary hip extensor. As this is involved in hip extension, it is effectively engaged in exercises that incorporate that movement pattern.
Some movements that have been shown to elicit higher levels of activation include:

  • Step-ups
  • Lateral step-ups
  • Crossover step-ups
  • Diagonal step-ups
  • Split squats
  • Lunges
  • Banded hip thrusts
  • Hip thrusts
  • Modified single-leg squats
  • Squats

One study showed that step-ups and step-up variations elicited the greatest levels of activation for the gluteus maximus (4). One interesting and important concept to note is that the level of muscle activation is influenced by the variation of the exercise that is performed. Furthermore, it’s important to establish and take time to learn the optimal technique for all exercises to ensure the greatest effectiveness. Whether Pilates or barre is better for the glutes can be dependent on how many hip extension exercises you include in a session. In addition, how well you perform each exercise using the optimal technique will also have a significant influence.

Is Barre Closer to Yoga or Pilates?

Yoga and Pilates are often considered to be quite similar and they are sometimes assumed to be the same. It seems that the difference between barre and Pilates is more significant than the difference between yoga and Pilates. However, there are some distinct differences between the methods. Pilates typically emphasizes overall control of movements and muscular endurance, while yoga has a mind-body focus moving through sequences (8). Therefore, it could be stated that barre is closer to Pilates.

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  • Which is harder, barre or Pilates?

The level of difficulty of barre or Pilates can depend on your fitness level and the intensity of the class you take. The difference between barre and Pilates can be summarized briefly as follows:

If your aim is to build endurance in your legs, or if you feel that your lower body is weak, barre may be harder. This is because barre combines ballet, yoga, and Pilates while emphasizing small, repetitive, and isometric movements. This focused aspect can increase levels of fatigue, which makes it feel harder.

Pilates focuses on core strength and control and range of motion and is more of a total-body workout. However, Pilates still involves repeated and isolated movements, which can lead to feelings of fatigue. Ultimately, the perception of difficulty is dependent on the level of intensity that either barre or Pilates is performed at, in addition to your individual level, strengths, and weaknesses.

  • What are the disadvantages of barre?

While there are various benefits to barre, there can also be some potential disadvantages, including:

Limited cardiovascular benefit: As barre primarily focuses on muscle endurance and strength, it may not offer the same cardiovascular benefits as more aerobic-focused workouts.

Potential for overuse injuries: The repetitive, small movements in barre can lead to overuse injuries if you don’t maintain proper form or allow enough recovery time between sessions. This could also be heightened depending on the quality of the class 

Not comprehensive for overall fitness: Barre focuses primarily on the lower body and core. Therefore, it may not provide a balanced workout that equally targets upper-body strength and cardiovascular fitness.

Accessibility: Some people may find barre exercises challenging to perform correctly without any previous experience in ballet or dance, which can lead to frustration or slower progress.

Cost and availability: Barre classes can be expensive and it may be difficult to find a studio that offers these classes in some areas. These combined factors may limit accessibility for some individuals. 

Both workouts have unique benefits, and the difficulty and disadvantages can vary depending on your personal fitness level, goals, and preferences.

  • Can you get in shape with barre?

Yes, you can get in shape with barre. Barre is a fantastic method of exercise and if it is performed consistently, it can help improve your strength, endurance, and overall fitness. In addition, studies have highlighted improvements in physical aspects such as body composition, waist circumference, and hip circumference (1). 

  • Is barre harder than yoga?

Whether barre is harder than yoga can depend on various factors, including the level of difficulty of the barre and yoga performed. 

There are many types of yoga, all of which have varying difficulties and focus points. Some of the most popular and common types of yoga include Yin, Vinyasa, Hatha, and Bikram. A significant focal point of yoga, regardless of the specific variation, is the intentional practice of breathing patterns and control (8). The awareness and emphasis on breathing is paired with different poses and postures that are held for a specific amount of time. The poses include a combination of lying, sitting, standing, and inverted or upside-down postures. They can require a great amount of strength and flexibility, but they contribute to increased body strength and awareness (8).

The Bottom Line

Both barre and Pilates can offer a challenging and effective workout routine that supports health and well-being. Barre typically incorporates low-impact, high-intensity movements that support muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility. With its combined elements of ballet, Pilates, and yoga and using the horizontal bar for balance, barre offers a versatile and practical workout option. 

At the same time, Pilates is focused on core strength, coordination, and controlled movements. It was initially created for rehabilitation purposes and has grown in popularity and can be done on a mat or with equipment such as a reformer. Its emphasis on quality over quantity ensures each exercise effectively targets the intended muscles.

If performed consistently, both barre and Pilates can elicit physical and mental health benefits. The most suitable option for you will depend on your individual goals, ability, and access to classes or equipment. If you aim to develop lower-body endurance and strength through small, repetitive motions, barre may be the perfect fit, while Pilates could be more advantageous if you want to improve your core stability and overall body control. 


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!


  1. Barre-fitness as a modern means of improving the health of women in the first period of adulthood (2023., researchgate.net)
  2. Evaluation of Professional Ballet Dancers Body Posture During Barre Movements (2020., asme.org)
  3. Effects of Pure Barre Exercise on Urinary Incontinence Symptoms: A Prospective Observational Cross-Sectional Study (2023, nih.gov)
  4. Gluteus Maximus Activation during Common Strength and Hypertrophy Exercises: A Systematic Review (2020, nih.gov)
  5. Optimal Diet Strategies for Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance (2021, nih.gov)
  6. Pilates – Health Benefits (2022., betterhealth.vic)
  7. 7.Treating major depression with yoga: A prospective, randomized, controlled pilot trial (2017., nih.gov)
  8. Unlocking the Potential: Increasing Muscle Strength in Lower Limbs of Youth Soccer Players over Five Weeks through Mat Pilates Training—A Pilot Study (2024., nih.gov)
  9. Yoga – Health Benefits (2022., betterhealth.vic)
  10. Yoga for chronic non‐specific low back pain (2022., nih.gov)
  11. Yoga for older adults with multimorbidity (the Gentle Years Yoga Trial): study protocol for a randomised controlled trial (2021., nih.gov)
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