Pilates vs. Barre: Which Workout is Better?

Pilates vs. barre

People often ask me about Pilates vs. Barre—which is better and what are the differences. I’ve taught Pilates for more than a decade and got certified as a barre instructor nearly 9 years ago as well, so I love to discuss the differences as well as what to watch for when determining if Pilates or barre is the best fit for you.

If you’re trying to choose between the two, come along. Let’s compare and contrast these two popular low-impact workout styles so you can weigh out the unique advantages of each.

Pilates vs. Barre: On the Surface, They’re Very Similar

In 2023, about 11 million Americans took Pilates classes, and another 4 million took Barre. At first glance, these workouts have a lot in common. Both can improve your balance, strength, flexibility, and posture.

The movements are also easy to adapt for various fitness or mobility needs, which makes these forms of exercise accessible to just about everyone. There are even seated Pilates and Barre routines, tailored specifically to wheelchair users. 

Not to mention, since Barre integrates certain elements of Pilates, both reinforce the mind-body connection. This has been found to increase present awareness, reduce stress, stabilize the nervous system, regulate emotions, and boost mental health outcomes. 

In short, Pilates and Barre have much to offer—but let’s explore some of their key distinctions.

Pilates: Mindful Strength-Building

Pilates combines fluid motions to strengthen the muscles, conscious breathwork to open the lungs and calm the nervous system, and core activation to maintain a stable center of gravity. It also uses functional movements such as bending, leaning, twisting, and reaching to promote mobile joints, so you can perform daily tasks with ease (and no restrictions). 

While you can use resistance bands, free weights, or reformer machines, you can do all of the original mat Pilates exercises without equipment. (This makes up the majority of our workouts in the Lindywell app!) This makes it a convenient option for anyone who prefers to work out at home—or even in a hotel while traveling. If you have room to stretch out your arms and legs, then you can move through a quick routine.

The mindfulness component of Lindywell Pilates also helps ground your attention, tune into physical sensations, and restore inner peace. As such, here are some of the many holistic wellness benefits you can get from a Pilates workout:  

  • Muscular strength and endurance
  • Balance and motor coordination
  • Joint mobility and flexibility
  • Enhanced pelvic floor function
  • Less anxiety or depression 
  • Chronic pain relief and lower falling risk
  • Protection from bone density loss
  • Increase in mood state and sleep quality
  • More physical and mental energy
  • Postural control and alignment

Barre: Ballet Turned Into Fitness

Barre fuses the precision of ballet, the aerobic elements of a cardio workout, and the core activation of Pilates together. Unlike the flowing and lengthening movements you do in Pilates, Barre often uses controlled tucks, pulses, or isometric holds with a small range of motion to keep your muscles contracted at all times. 

It’s important to note, that just like Pilates—not all baree workouts are created equal.

Unfortunately, I’ve worked with many clients you have experienced back pain and back issues as a result of classes that focus far too heavily on moving in a “tucked” pelvis in the majority of exercises. I share more about that in this blog post about Barre workouts if you’re curious to learn more.

Barre also moves at a higher, more dynamic tempo than Pilates, which increases your heart rate and causes the slow-twitch muscle fibers to shake. The combination of aerobic exercise and isometric resistance can be a great way to add more cardio into your routine to reap the benefits of lower blood pressure, improved heart health, and improved circulation.

I completed my barre training through Balanced Body which integrates the principles of Pilates into barre movements. I love the way it focuses on a neutral pelvis (to support back health) and a strong center as you move through the exercises. 

Barre workouts that include Pilates principles and work within a neutral spine can be found in the Lindywell app and membership!

The Lindywell Difference

While we focus primarily on Pilates at Lindywell, we do it uniquely. We focus on grace over guilt, consistency over long-duration workouts, and building strength that lasts through every season of life. We’ve created more than 350 Pilates workouts that you can find in the Lindywell app and in each workout, we focus on a few key things:

Mindfulness: Each movement is controlled and intentional. Despite what modern fitness culture has taught you, speed is not always the goal of each exercise. In fact, the slower you do a movement, likely the harder you have to work.

Meeting your body where it’s at: Some days, you may want to push yourself. On other days, you may want a slow and simple movement practice. We have workouts for every mood and need within the Lindywell app so you can meet your body where it is every day—no forcing required. We want you to enjoy every single workout!

Modifying: The fullest expression of a movement isn’t always the best option for you. Especially if you’re just starting to build strength, working through an injury, or coming back from a season with less movement. That’s why myself and our other instructors always provide modifications that allow you to push your body harder or slow it down, depending on what you need that day.

The results of this approach speak for themselves! See what our thousands of members around the globe have to say about Lindywell

Bottom Line: Which Workout Is Right for You?

Ultimately, choosing Pilates vs. Barre will come down to preference. Each movement style has its unique benefits. While Pilates is at our core, we also love to incorporate barre in ways that are aligned with what is best for the body from a mechanical and functional perspective—as long it’s taught well and doesn’t cause pain or harm to your body, we like Barre too!

Start your 14-day trial of Lindywell and see for yourself! As a member, you get instant access more than 350 online Pilates classes, along with conscious breathwork sessions and nourishing (and easy to make!) recipes.

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