Are Pilates bars any good? What you need to know




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Pilates doens’t require equipment to be used, but you can enhance and mix up your workouts with some simple additions, and the Pilates bar is one of the most versatile you can invest in.

A Pilates Bar adds resistance to your workouts and therefore makes them more effective.  They are portable, easy to store and quick to set up, making them a good optional extra to your regular Pilates practice.

There are a lot of benefits to using a Pilates bar, but as we don’t see many instructors making use of them they’ve been easy to overlook as part of our workout routines.

What is a Pilates Bar?

Known as a portable gym, a Pilates bar has similar functions to rowing machines, barbells and resistance bands (but are much easier to store and transport!) as they enhance your workout by adding resistance to your movements. Not that well know, this Pilates equipment is a simple piece consisting of a bar that is wide enough to be held behind you, across your back, usually about 90 cm wide. At each end of the bar is a resistance band which drops to the floor.  They have a foot loop which you step into to use your own bodyweight to anchor the bands to the floor. When purchasing, it typically comes as a Pilates bar kit with resistance bands and may include some additional accessories such as a carry bag.

How Does a Pilates Bar Work?

The bar uses your own body weight to pin resistance bands to the ground, which means when you perform moves you will have to work harder to overcome the added resistance.  If you were to perform the same move again immediately after without the bar, it would feel much easier.

They’re lightweight so don’t feel like you’re holding something in the same way you would with barbells used for strength training. When you stand up with the bar you stretch the resistance band thanks to the foot straps, making the move harder than it normally would be. The benefit of this is that when you add additional resistance to each move, you get an added challenge during your exercises, just like working on weights or doing cardio at home, and ultimately you will feel stronger because you’ve worked out those muscles harder than using body weight alone. You will still be working your core muscles, improving your level of fitness and muscle tone as you would in a typical Pilates class, you are just adding an additional challenge to your usual bodyweight exercises.

Are there any downsides to a Pilates bar?

The nature of the bar means you won’t be able to perform a number of movements and this may interrupt your usual flow. You must therefore adapt your workout to using the bar. 

Here is an example Pilates bar workout that demonstrates the use of an exercise bar:

Want more? Check out my Pilates Bar Workout Course.

Can you build muscle with a Pilates bar

If you’re a regular practitioner of Pilates you’ll know that there is a point where your muscle strength will plateau.  To build further muscle requires additional equipment to place your muscles under an increased load.

You can augment your routine with workout equipment such as with dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands or a Pilates Bar, all will increase the work you do and therefore can help with building muscles, but they’re not as effective as dedicated strength training that pushes your muscles to their limits.

So what are the benefits? Pilates bars offer many advantages:

  • They provide an excellent workout for core stability and balance;
  • The bar provides a more challenging workout than bodyweight alone;
  • Aside from the bar you don’t need any special equipment – just a mat on which to perform the movements;
  • It’s easy to learn how to use them safely and effectively; 

Hence why they’re great for beginners and experts alike.

They are a more affordable option compared to traditional strength training equipment, such as free weights and machines, and they require less space to store.

A Pilates Bar takes up very little room, and it’s portable too meaning you can easily bring one into the office or store in your car, it’s super easy to include them in your regular Pilates routine.

Choosing the Best Pilates Bar for You

Fortunately it is very easy to purchase a Pilates Bar from Amazon and there aren’t too many decisions to make.  Pilates bars come in different sizes, some people prefer wider bars than others, it depends on your shoulder width. I didn’t overthink it when picking up my bar (the one I use in the video above), I just picked one on Amazon (see: and got my order in. Things to consider when buying a Pilates bar:

  • Is it portable?  My bar can be split into two smaller bars, making it easy to store and easy to carry around and some come with carry bags, although these aren’t essential.
  • How thick is the foam?  The bar is usually a metal pipe, this provides a strong core for the bar but can be uncomfortable to hold.  Make sure the foam padding is a good size, so 5mm rather than 2mm.
  • Can the straps be adjusted? It is useful if the resistance band length can be easily adjusted as this also controls over much challenge is added by the bar.
  • Can the straps be changed?  Some bars offer the option of swapping out the resistance bands, in part because they need replacing due to ware and tare but also to allow you to add a stronger band, increasing the resistance per rep.

All in all, I think they’re pretty great. They add a new dimension to your Pilates workouts, they’re low cost, easy to store, portable and help mix things up.  When you do Pilates regularly, being able to change things up can be a real benefit, it keeps the Pilates exercises fresh while still helping you with your body workout.

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