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Barre vs. Pilates: What Are They and How Are They Different?

Many people wonder about the difference between Pilates and Barre. While both fitness styles are popular, they are both widely misunderstood or underestimated as effective forms of total body exercise.

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Pilates and barre are both low-impact (this simply means no jumping, not low intensity), rigorous, and intended to stretch and strengthen your muscles. They can both incorporate bodyweight and low-weight/high rep movements as well as a variety of "props" like rings, balls, ankle and wrist weights, etc.

Both are fantastic workouts that provide a slew of physical and mental benefits, but there are some differences between them.


Barre is a full body workout that uses small movements with high reps to strengthen and tone your entire body. It often involves a ballet barre (though not always) but is not actually ballet, so you do not need dance experience to enjoy it and get all the benefits it provides.

The great thing about this workout is that it can be done either in a studio or at home with minimal to no equipment once you understand how to connect your mind and body. What that means in plain English is that you can feel each muscle engaging and focus on that to get the most out of each movement.  

For example, during a plank set, you can focus on engaging your core, quads, and glutes rather than just going through the movements.

Let’s first discuss what barre is. It’s sort of a hybrid of ballet, Pilates, and yoga.  There can be an actual ballet barre involved (or a chair or counter at home) for balance, plus floor work on a yoga mat for core. You will feel like you are working out like a dancer without any of the calluses and bloody toes. You will work your arms, core, booty, and legs in isolation - but much of the value of Barre is that you recruit your full body for most everything.

The benefits of barre are many, most notably because it is good for any fitness level. Unlike, say, Crossfit, barre moves can be easily modified. For this reason you can see a wide range of ages and fitness levels in the class. Everybody can benefit from this fitness method.

With that being said, here is why I fell in love with barre, and why I think you will too.

  1. You work muscles you didn’t even know you had. There are some calf, shoulder, booty, inner thigh and back muscles that are ignited by barre movements that you may have never truly activated before.

  2. You walk away feeling very graceful, with a sense that you moved your body with reverence. The focus on posture and form does make you feel a bit like you are taking a ballet class, and you leave feeling leaner and more graceful.

  3. You quickly see (after a month or so) muscles appearing, most notably in your shoulders. Your shoulders are usually the first place where you see muscle definition, but if you are one of those people with shoulder problems, the light weight load should allow you to do the exercises. That is a wonderful motivating factor to keep going.

  4. You don’t feel like you can’t make it through this class but instead feel energized. Then the next day you often feel like parts of your legs died (particularly early on). There’s nothing better than a good workout sore except having a workout that is enjoyable and hooks you then makes you feel that way.

  5. All of the Benefits, None of the Impact. Barre has a unique way of giving you sculpted, lean muscles and a great cardio pump without stressing your joints like running or jumping exercises do. Remember: Low impact does NOT mean low intensity!

  6. Full Body Workout.  Barre encompasses your muscles from head to toe. Plies shape your legs and booty, balance and releves give your calves work, and lighter weights give a high rep burn to your arms, back, and shoulders. And everything about Barre works your core and posture.

  7. Tall, Beautiful Posture.  Standing tall, tucking your pelvis and core, keeping shoulders back and neck long... these all become second nature when you become acclimated to Barre. What feels normal in class begins to feel normal in everyday life.

  8. Better Flexibility. Reaching, bending, lengthening, stretching... these are all common cues in a Barre class. The goal is to make your muscles longer, leaner, and more flexible overall.

What Do You Need and Know For a Barre Class?

Typically, all that is used in a basic Barre class is a yoga mat, light weights, and the barre. Other "tools" may include resistance bands, pilates balls, ankle and wrist weights, and pilates rings. If the floor is not a mat or is slippery, you will want to wear gripped socks or go barefoot.

Basic terminology:

  1. First Position: A posture in which toes are pointed outward with heels touching. (I call it a pizza slice.) First position can be performed with heels on or off the ground.

  2. Second Position: A posture in which the feet are hip width or wider apart with toes pointed outward. *NOTE: Everyone has different turnout based on individual anatomy.

  3. Parallel (Sixth) Position: A posture in which the feet are side by side, both pointing forward (can be close together or hip width).

  4. Turnout: In ballet, turnout is the rotation of the leg at the hip. This causes the foot and knee to turn outward, away from the front of the body. This rotation allows for greater extension of the leg, especially when raising it to the side and rear. *NOTE: Never force your feet to turn out further than your knees or hips.

  5. Plie: A movement in which you bend your knees and straighten them again, usually with the feet turned out and heels firmly on the ground. This is not a squat.

  6. Eleve: A posture in which heels are lifted off the ground.

  7. Tuck: A posture in which you tuck the pelvis and created a "C" with the torso.

  8. Neutral Spine: This is the natural position of the spine when all 3 curves of the spine (cervical, thoracic, and lumbar) are present and in good alignment. This is the strongest position for the spine when we are standing or sitting, and the one that we move most efficiently and safely from.

  9. Flex: A flexed foot is one where the heel is actively pushing away from the body as the top of the foot pulls up and into the body. This changes the dynamic and intensity of an exercise.

  10. Point: A pointed foot is an action where the heel is pulled towards the body while the toes push away with energy. This gives you extra energy in postures and helps to strengthen and lengthen the leg. (tendu)

  11. Isometric hold: Holding a posture for an extended period of time without movement.

  12. Pulse: Lifting and lowering (typically core, arm, or leg) an inch to maximize work in a specific posture.

  13. Engage Your Core: Think of pulling your belly button in and tightening the muscles around it without holding your breath or hunching your shoulders.

  14. Elongate: When you contract a muscle, you will then almost always lengthen it. The lengthening is just as important as the crunch.

  15. Follow With Your Eyes: Wherever you look, your body will tend to go. If you look down at the floor, you will lose your core control. When standing at the barre, look straight ahead with your chin up to maintain posture. Take your eyes in the direction your body needs to go.

Barre workouts require you to focus on the muscles you are working to truly engage them (which is why it can still be strength work even when you are only using 2 or 3 pounds).The mind-body connection is a powerful aspect of tuning in and strengthening your body.

If you are looking to switch up your fitness routine, try something new, challenge yourself, and take your strength to the next level, I encourage you to try barre.

Change your body by changing your workout!

Your body needs variety in order to look, feel, and move differently. You can't do the same workout, day in and day out, and expect change. Adding Barre to your weekly workout routine gives you a safe, low-impact, intense activity that is completely different from weight lifting or running.


When you think about Pilates, what comes to mind? For many of us, we immediately think about core strength. And, while Pilates is an ah-mazing way to tighten and tone that midsection, the benefits of Pilates go way beyond building a stronger core. 

What began as a fitness regimen for dancers has now become one of the most popular means of exercise for just about everyone—from the average gym goer to professional athletes.

We’re diving into five reasons you may want to get serious about adding more Pilates into your current fitness routine. While it may be a lower impact way to get your sweat on, you’ll quickly see just how effective it is. 

The Principles of Pilates

Pilates consists of small, controlled movements that can improve your flexibility, strength, coordination, and balance.

The focus is on your “powerhouse”, or core (abdomen, low back, and hips). The core is crucial to your stability so strengthening it should be your first priority. A Pilates workout focuses on lengthening and strengthening muscles, particularly the core (abdominals and back). Pilates is often performed on a mat or reformer machine.

**** All Pilates classes at The Whole Plate Studio are mat pilates.***

If you want to try Pilates to supercharge your current fitness routine, here are a few rules to do it safely and correctly:

  1. Breathing. Always inhale fully and exhale with strong effort. This type of breathing is believed to cleanse and invigorate your body. Your breathing and your movements should work as one.

  2. Control. All movements should be done deliberately and with complete control.

  3. Centering. Control of your body starts at the center—your powerhouse. This is where all movements begin.

  4. Postural alignment. Stand and/or sit up straight. Pilates exercises should be done with correct posture which also helps improve imbalances.

  5. Precision. The exercises should always be performed exactly the way they are intended. Doing a perfect set of eight reps is better than doing an imperfect set of twenty reps.

  6. Relaxation. The more you are relaxed while doing Pilates, the more focused you will be and the better equipped you are to perform the exercises correctly.

Remember, as with Barre or yoga, you don’t want to just go through the motions and the movements. Think about what you are doing, what muscles you are working, breathe, and stay as focused as your mind allows! Mental sharpness is also important.

5 Benefits of Pilates That Go Beyond Core Strength

#1 Pilates Works the Whole Body 

There aren’t too many types of exercise that target the whole body like Pilates. Pilates truly does it all. While many of the moves will focus on building a stronger core, you’ll also find that a Pilates workout helps train the whole body.  You won’t leave your mat feeling like your neglected any part of your body, which is great when you are looking for total body results. 

#2 Bring Breathwork to Your Workouts 

Tying breathwork in with exercise is amazing for training yourself to power through a workout when things get tough.  Many of us hold our breath during harder moves, which only makes things harder. Pilates can train you out of this habit

Once you connect the breath with exercise, you’ll be able to use this valuable skill in other aspects of your day-to-day life as well. 

#3 Build Strength, Not Bulk

If you’re going for a long and lean look, then you’ll want more Pilates in your life. Pilates is all about building toned muscles to help support daily activity, not necessarily building bulk. It takes the functional fitness needs of daily life into account—like being strong enough to carry in groceries and do housework with a lower chance of injury. 

You’re literally building a stronger body from the inside out, and a toned appearance is a total bonus benefit of all the strength benefits Pilates has to offer. 

#4 Improve Flexibility 

No matter what type of exercise you are doing, being more flexible will work in your favor, and may even help prevent injury. Pilates helps stretch and lengthen muscles, as well as improve range of motion. 

#5 Pilates is Ideal For All Fitness Levels 

And, the benefits of Pilates don’t stop there. It’s a form of fitness that’s great for all levels. Just starting? Try a beginner Pilates class and modify where needed. More advanced? There are plenty of more challenging Pilates moves that can help you continue to challenge and push yourself to get closer to reaching your goals. 

By engaging and strengthening the deep muscles of the core, pilates improves stability of the spine and the muscles surrounding it, reducing the risk of age-related issues such as back pain and posture imbalances.

The controlled, flowing movements in pilates enhance joint mobility overtime, improving flexibility and preventing stiffness that can often accompany aging.

Furthermore, pilates is designed to be lower impact which means that you can truly do this exercise as you age without it being too strenuous and it will always be effective.

The Benefits of Adding Pilates to Your Fitness Routine

Pilates is not just a way to get your body moving. It’s a corrective form of exercise that can help you function and feel better. After you begin a Pilates program, here are some of the benefits you may soon start to see and feel:

  1. Less slouching when you sit or stand

  2. A stronger core

  3. Better body control (Pilates exercises rely on your entire body working in unison rather than as separate pieces)

  4. Improved breathing and blood circulation

  5. Greater flexibility

If you want to give Pilates a try, there are many ways to do so whether it’s at a Pilates studio, a gym or at home.


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