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Does Pure Barre Work? Getting Fit with Barre Classes

In this episode of undercover-fit guy, I once again dig out my fake nose and moustache to infiltrate the workout craze known as Pure Barre. My goal: to find out what Pure Barre is, how it works, and whether or not it is a good way to get fit.

By
Brock Armstrong,
Episode #409
Photo of a woman's foot on a barre

According to their website, Pure Barre is a “total body workout that uses the ballet barre to perform small, isometric movements, which burn fat, sculpt muscles and create long, lean physiques.” We’ll get into my experience with the classes and my overall fitness impressions, but first a little background.

After I went undercover at OrangetheoryCrossfit, and BODYPUMP, I received a few emails asking my opinion of Pure Barre and I apologize for it taking me this long to get to it. I finally signed up for two Pure Barre classes: the Classic class and the Empower class. Both of which left me shaky and sweaty.

What Is a Barre?

First things first, for those of you who didn’t grow up doing some sort of dance class or other and also managed to escape watching TV shows like "Fame" or "Bunheads," let’s clarify what exactly a barre (not a bar) is.

It’s pretty simple actually. The barre is a horizontal pole (usually wooden, like a staircase banister) that runs at waist level on which ballet dancers rest a hand (or a foot) for support during exercises. The barre usually runs along a wall (often a mirrored wall) but can also be free standing in the middle of the room. Got it? Good.

Signing Up to Pure Barre

Right off the bat, I have to hand it to Pure Barre for having an easy to use website and a reasonable introductory offer. Unlike Orangetheory though, which offered a free trial that easily got turned into two free trials, I did have to pay for my classes. But $21 for a full week of unlimited sessions isn’t bad and honestly, during my first class, I was so busy making sure that I was doing the exercises correctly that I didn’t have time to form a solid opinion.

I was happy that I took some time the night before my first class to do some reading up on Pure Barre etiquette. The fact that you can’t wear shorts to the classes threw me for a bit of a loop. I run hot. And that means I sweat a lot. Which means, I like to workout in shorts and a tank top. I do own some running pants that I wear in the winter (occasionally) but for my first class I actually ended up wearing some woollen longjohns that I usually wear under my snow pants while skiing or snowshoeing. So yeah, I was a sweaty mess. Sorry ladies.

Are Men Allowed at Pure Barre?

Which leads me to a quick point that I would like to make. I was the only dude in the class and although the website’s FAQ section makes it clear that men are absolutely welcome, the Our Story page on the same website actually states “At Pure Barre, women share a sense of community in which they are inspired and empowered by each others' fitness and lifestyle goals.” Which I am 100 percent in favor of—the empowerment of women is something we need more of, inside and outside of the gym—but I may have felt a little more sheepish about intruding on their space had I read that before I attended class. Again, sorry ladies.

In any case, I arrived in my longjohns and socks (they also insist that you wear socks) ready to rock. Our instructor was a friendly young woman who quickly got our waivers signed, the basics covered (where the cubbies and bathrooms were), and for my first class called the Classic Workout, equipped us with a medium-sized ball, a double resistance tube, and some comedically small dumbbells (two, three, or five pounds). I opted for the fives and did not regret it. For my second class, the Empower Workout, we skipped the tube and ball and instead picked up some small risers and ankle/wrist weights. 

Similar to the beginning of a yoga class we were told to find a spot on the (oddly carpeted) floor with enough room to swing our arms out to the sides. The music was switched on and we began the workout.

The Pure Barre Workout

Photo of Brock at Pure Barre

I won’t bore you (and potentially violate some non-disclosure agreement) by taking you through each workout blow-by-blow, but I will sum them up.

  • A brief but effective full-body warm-up.
  • Some upper body isometrics, with and without the tiny weights.
  • Some upper body exercises, with and without the weights done in small muscle pulses.
  • Some core work (planks, side bends, and crunches).
  • Some lower body isometrics in the middle of the room and at the barre.
  • Some lower body exercises in the middle of the room and at the barre again, done in pulses.
  • Some short stretching (mostly the legs).
  • Finishing with some ab work (mostly crunches).

Despite the fact that the movements were small, I was using muscles that haven’t been awakened in years! Or perhaps ever.

My first comment is that for a workout program that has the word “barre” in the title, we spent less than half of the workout at the actual barre. My second comment is that I am glad we didn’t spend more time at the barre! Despite the fact that the movements were small and mostly of the isometric or small pulsing variety, I was using muscles that haven’t been awakened in years! Or perhaps ever.

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