Pilates vs. Barre: Which Workout is Right For You?


Pilates and Barre are two popular workout methods that offer many benefits and if you’re interested in one, you’ll likely want to try the other.

Pilates is different from Barre as Pilates focuses on flexibility and core stability while Barre classes focus heavily on strength training. The difference between the two is that in Pilates, you use your own bodyweight to move around the room whereas with barre, you use weights.

Despite the differences there are also a lot of similarities.  Keep in mind I’m a Pilates instructor, so I’m always going to promote Pilates, but let’s take a look at the similarities and differences to help you decide which one you want to try.

How Pilates and Barre differ

Here is a look at how else Pilates and Barre differ:

  • Barre focuses on small, isolated movements to fatigue the muscles, while Pilates uses flowing movements to build strength.
  • Barre classes often use props such as balls and resistance bands, while Pilates is typically (but not always) done without any equipment.
  • Pilates is focused primarily on the body’s core, whereas barre is often recommended for those looking to tone their legs or butt.
  • Pilates’ exercises are usually done lying down or sitting up, while barre moves are performed standing up.
  • Barre incorporates dance elements such as plies and arabesques while Pilates focuses on precise movement with control.
  • Finally, barre is often combined with other forms of exercise such as cardio or weights, while pure Pilates sessions focus solely on the mat work. 

The above are general differences, for example you can do Pilates with equipment, but in general, as a beginner, you’ll just be doing mat Pilates workout routines until you’re confident enough to add in the extra challenge equipment provides.

If you’re unfamiliar with barre, here is a beginners workout to give you an idea of what’s involved.

And this is one of my Pilates for beginners videos, so you can compare the two workout styles.

How Pilates and Barre are similar

I mentioned at the start that if you’re interested in one of these you’ll likely want to try the other, and that’s because they have many qualities in common.

  • Both emphasize quality over quantity of movements.
  • Both develop long, lean muscles without bulk.
  • Both improve flexibility, posture and alignment.
  • Both make use of your own body weight for resistance.
  • Both are low impact workouts.
  • Both are suitable to take up by people of all fitness levels.

The similarities mean you could head to a fitness studio a couple of times a week to do a session of each, building a fitness routine that gives you the best of both worlds.

Which workout is more effective for weight loss?

When I look online I despair at the number of ‘workouts for weight loss’ videos, the title is to grab attention and get clicks rather than deliver results.

The most effective way to gain a healthy body is to combine regular exercise with a healthy diet.  Just doing Pilates or Barre alone isn’t a magic solution.

That being said, combined with the proper diet you’ll find both of these exercises offer a variety of benefits, including increased muscle strength, improved posture, weight loss and stress relief.

Keep in mind that Pilates focuses on the core while barre uses a range of different exercises with an emphasis on lower body movements. As a result, barre is better for toning the thighs and buttocks while Pilates is ideal for strengthening the abs.

So, which workout is more effective for weight loss? The answer depends on your overall fitness journey.  Neither will work effectively if you don’t also address any other areas of your lifestyle considered to be unhealthy.

The important thing is to do some sort of physical fitness on a regular basis, be it barre, Pilates, or something completely different.

What are the benefits of Pilates?

Pilates is a form of exercise that has many benefits to your health. These benefits can include exercise and weight loss, improved posture, better flexibility and strength, and a reduction in stress levels.

All of these benefits are possible because Pilates is a full-body workout that focuses on strengthening the core muscles.

Additionally, Pilates teaches users how to breathe correctly and focus on their bodies, which can help reduce stress levels.

Finally, because Pilates is low impact, it is suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels.  If that hasn’t convinced you to give it a try, check out 23 benefits of Pilates

What are the benefits of Barre?

Barre is a low impact workout that tones muscles without adding bulk. Barre strengthens bones and helps prevent osteoporosis, as well as reduce injury risk.

It increases cardiovascular endurance and metabolism, which can help you quickly lose weight. It also improves posture.

The mental benefits of barre include increased clarity, focus, and sense of well-being. Endorphins released during physical activity can increase your general sense of well-being.

Which workout is better for toning your body?

One thing I love about physical health is the wide variety of options available when it comes to working out and toning your body.  You could go with Pilates, Yoga, or Barre as all three of these workouts focus on balance and strength, and they share similarities in the principles of relaxation, breathing, and execution. However, each workout has its own unique benefits that set it apart from the others.

Yoga is great for people who are looking for a relaxing and spiritual experience. The physical benefits of Yoga include improving posture, toning muscles, and decreasing stress levels. In addition, Yoga helps you connect with your mind and body in a way that other workouts cannot match.

Pilates is perfect for people who want to improve their overall fitness level. It focuses on strengthening the core muscles as well as increasing flexibility. Pilates is also known for its ability to improve posture and prevent injuries.

Barre is a fun, upbeat workout which works on toning muscles while maintaining leanness. It is perfect for people looking to tone their body without gaining too much weight. Barre also provides many physical benefits such as improved posture and coordination.

In reality, which is better for toning isn’t as relevant as which you like doing the most.  If you find yoga classes are what you love the most, fantastic, make them your regular workout and reap the benefits.

Which workout is better for improving flexibility?

When it comes to improving flexibility, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Different workouts work better for different people, and you may have to try out a few before you find the one that’s right for you.

The best flexibility for each individual may vary depending on their own body composition and overall health.

That said, Pilates can help to improve your flexibility by toning your abdominal muscles and improving your balance and coordination.

Barre workouts tend to focus more on repetitions and at a higher tempo.

Yoga, on the other hand, can help to stretch and strengthen your body parts in specific ways, which may also improve your flexibility.

All these methods are effective, but I’d recommend trying out different classes in order to find the one which is best for you.

And remember to consult with a qualified instructor if you’re new to a type of workout to discuss goals and any limitations you have before starting a new exercise program. 

Which workout is better for strengthening your core?

We’ve considered toning and flexibility, but now let’s get into one of the most important areas of your body, the core.

Pilates is better for strengthening your core because it targets all the muscles in your torso and helps to improve posture. Barre also has similar benefits but may be more challenging for new exercisers.

The core is important for overall health and fitness because it helps to stabilise the spine, support the pelvis, and engage other muscles throughout the body.  If you want to experience a core workout, try this one:

Again, it’s worth noting that both workouts are great ways to strengthen your core muscles, so don’t worry about which to do; both will help in building strength and muscular endurance.

How often should you do each type of workout to see results?

Assuming you’ve got a generally healthy lifestyle already, adding in regular exercise is a great way to get into great shape. 

Obviously the more often you do exercise the quicker you’ll see results, at minimum I’d suggest twice a week when you start out.

Twice a week is an amount most people feel comfortable committing to as a beginner, and it will have an impact you will notice in a matter of weeks.

I’ve found that as people gain confidence and find they enjoy the benefits of working out they’ll naturally want to increase the amount they do, with many people building in a workout everyday.

For more information on what to expect see How long does it take to see results from Pilates?

Are there any risks associated with either type of workout?

There are always risks associated with any type of workout, but fortunately the risks for both Pilates and Barre are relatively low.

With Pilates, you want to make sure you’re using proper form and aren’t pushing yourself too hard; doing so can lead to injuries. 

Barre workouts can also be risky if you’re not careful. Since they involve more cardio-intense moves than Pilates, there’s a greater chance of injuring yourself if you’re not paying attention or don’t know what you’re doing. 

In either case, make sure you speak to a qualified professional before starting something you’ve never done before. They’ll make sure you’re doing the moves correctly and can adjust them based on your capabilities.

What should you wear to each type of class?

When you’re choosing what to wear to your class, it’s important to think about function over fashion. That means opting for leggings rather than jeans and fitted tops that will stay in place as you move. You’ll also want to make sure you have a good pair of socks with grips on the bottom, so you don’t slip during the class.

I’ve an entire article on What are the best clothes for Pilates?

Depending on the type of class, you may need some additional equipment like dumbbells, elastics, weighted balls.  Be sure to check with your instructor before class starts so you know what to bring, in many cases the required equipment will be provided.

In either case, always make sure to arrive early enough to do a proper warm-up. This will help get your body ready for standing work in a barre class or the more intense Pilates moves.

And be prepared for a great workout: these classes are definitely going to fatigue your muscles!

Your heart rate is likely going to rise too as you learn how to move this way, but that’s just part of the process.

Finally, expect some physical shaking during your first few classes, it’s all part of the learning process 😉

Donna Finnie

Donna loves to share her passion for Pilates with others. She is a fully qualified instructor who believes Pilates is for everyone, regardless of age, as it can truly help to increase strength, flexibility mobility and athletic performance.

Recent Posts