So New York magazine reported back in September that no one is really doing pilates anymore, which makes sense: It’s not exactly the only fitness-niche game in town. Not by a long shot. I’ve personally tried many of them, from spin to Zumba to hot yoga; today, please welcome to the stage, Pure Barre, a ballet barre-based strength-building and muscle-toning method favored by new moms and basic bitches.
Pure Barre—a small but nationwide operation, per this map—is a series of isometric workouts done around a ballet barre. The 55-minute class is set to music and starts with a pilates-inspired warmup, moves to arm-sculpting, then thigh-toning, then butt-lifting, then more abs, and finally, a cool-down. The most concise way to describe it is a mix between ballet, pilates, and yoga; if you’ve done one of those, you can handle this. Each class is choreographed a bit differently, but they all follow the same basic order and use a couple types of elastic bands, a small exercise ball, a mat, and two- or three-pound weights. You wear tight-fitting clothing like yoga pants or leggings, plus a T-shirt or tank; you also need sticky socks, which in my case the studio sold for $15.
This is not exactly an affordable fitness regime. No niche fitness class is. A drop-in class at Pure Barre costs $33. For comparison, SoulCycle’s bougie-ass enterprise is $34/class. Bikram yoga is typically $25 for a drop-in class. There isn’t much of a way around the PB prices unless you’re a first-timer, in which case you can get a better deal on an unlimited month (regularly $250) for $150. Let me also add that some studios are cheaper, and if you already belong to a gym, it may offer some flavor of barre-based workout.
How hard is it?
Harder than it looks! Your legs will be limp by the end. These classes are tricky in part because they target those unused muscles you didn’t know you had. Your legs are going to shake while you’re even just standing at the barre, bending and balancing; in fact, the teachers encourage you to hit the shaking point. That’s how you know it’s working! But God, it burns. Sometimes, you feel like you look dumb leaning over that barre, bending and pointing your lifted leg over and over. But you can make it through, and presumably, everyone else is doing the same thing.
Is there anything else like it?
Yep. Barre is a hot thing right now, and there are several comparable franchises. The other two big names are barre3 and the Bar Method, and like I just mentioned, some gyms are offering barre classes alongside the usual spin and step options nowadays, too. There might be a smaller barre joint where you live, even. I went to one such local outfit when I was back home in Texas recently. They’re all generally the same idea, with some variation on style, technique, and speed.
Don’t be (too) intimidated
I don’t know what I expected when I went into Pure Barre the first time. I danced when I was a kid? It looks easy enough? I’ve done enough yoga and pilates that I can follow along? I thought my arms were stronger? It was a painful hour. I felt like I was flopping around, anchoring my body on the barre as I labored through each sequence. The second time I went back, it was easier—sometimes I’m still not sure I’m doing it right, but my legs cry silently, which, yeah, I guess those tiny little movements must be doing something.
It can be intimidating to walk into a class like this where you have to do something physical that you’ve never done. If you’re new, the instructor will give you a quick intro, and help you periodically help you adjust from to make sure you’re doing it right. It’s normal if the movements feel weird. But over time, muscle memory takes hold, and you get the hang of it.
What about men, though? They can surely do it, but I’ve only seen one and only one man in all the barre classes I’ve taken. Don’t let that make you shy, now! Think of the ratio!
Would you do it again?
I almost have to be tricked into working out, and Pure Barre is a pretty good trick. I like that it’s only 55 minutes, and then you’re done. It’s not for everyone, though of course nothing is—if nothing you’ve read about fits your personal needs, don’t worry: Something else will come along eventually. That’s how fitness trends work.
Images via Getty