With many exercises seeking that slim and toned ballerina-type body, Pure Barre and other ballet-inspired workouts have grown popular in the past few years. It seems that everyone I have talked to who's taken a Pure Barre class—whether they took one class or multiple classes over time—is obsessed. They rave about it and swear that after a go at the studio, anyone will become addicted. I was skeptical, especially given my actual dance background that included ballet. After trying a few classes, I am still skeptical, but can also see why others really enjoy the unique workout.
Pure Barre, founded by Carrie Dorr, touts its method as a full-body workout that concentrates on the areas women tend to struggle with most: hips, thighs, seat, abs, and arms. Participants perform small, isometric movements—squeezing, not squatting or straining—which makes it a low-impact, joint-friendly workout. Each muscle group is worked until the muscle is completely fatigued—you will feel sore the next day. After each strength section, stretching follows to elongate the muscles.
The basic movements and technique of the Pure Barre method are unlike anything I have ever done before. I danced throughout my childhood and young adult years, as well as practiced yoga, running, and lifting weights. Basically, I know how to move my body, whether it's proper form for a squat, a subtle shift in down dog, or tucking my tailbone under for a straight back while pliéing. Even with My extensive exercise background, Pure Barre felt entirely new to me.
The isometric movements, which comprise the whole class, were the hardest part to understand. If you are used to a full-range of motion method while lifting weights, this is the exact opposite. Instead of doing full donkey kicks to tone your butt, you simply donkey kick your leg up, hold it there, and tense and un-tense. I definitely felt my muscles fatiguing, but during some exercises I wasn’t exactly sure which muscle was being targeted. A Barre 101 intro class would be extremely helpful before diving in headfirst.
Another complication with proper form was that the only mirrored wall was in front of the room, which is also where you do most of the standing Barre work. Maybe this is the dancer in me, but I'm used to being in the back of the room with the mirrored wall in the front so that I am able to see my form. With the Barre work right up against the mirror, I wasn't able to see that instead of having my hips and butt tucked in and under, my bottom half was sloped out. Once the instructor adjusted me, I was able to feel where everything was supposed to be and concentrate more on the leg that was circling and lifting.
A single Pure Barre class will run you around $20 and lasts for 55 minutes to an hour. There are more than 180 studios across the nation, and each class is pumped full of energy with popular music and a welcoming atmosphere. The franchise even promises you’ll see a change in your body after just 10 classes, and recommends taking between three to four classes a week to achieve the best results. The class starts with a warm up, then works arms, thighs, seat, and abs, followed with a cool down. During the workout you'll use a stretchy band or tube, a ball, light weights, as well as the floor, front Barre and back Barre.
Because the workout involves tiny movements and a proper form, it’s best to wear tight, form fitting clothes. This makes it easier to see which parts of your body are being engaged during each exercise. For pants, I found that leggings (like Lululemon’s Practice Daily pant) worked best, and their Practice Daily tank worked well as a top because it helps show if your back is straight and if your hips are tucked under. There’s no high-impact moves involved, so you probably won’t need extra support up top. You’ll also need a pair of sticky “grip socks.” These help prevent slipping and sliding during Barre work. Pure Barre sells their own socks, or you can grab a pair of grippy toe socks from Gaiam.
Overall, Pure Barre is a great way to tone up, especially if you incorporate the class as a consistent part of your workout routine. The workout is best for those looking for a low-impact strength training routine and for those new to strength training. Is it for all athletes? I don't think so. The technique can be confusing and until you attend a handful of classes, you might only understand about 70 percent of what is actually going on. The workout won’t yield huge muscle-building results if you’re looking to really “bulk up,” but anyone after the long, lean dancer aesthetic will find just what they’re looking for with Pure Barre.
Although it might not be for everyone, I’d still recommend trying a few classes if you have the chance. It’s a great opportunity to learn a new strength training technique.