Pure Barre Review

by Kim on February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine’s Day!! <3 I’ll be back Monday to tell you about all the chocolate that’s in my house right now…

Remember how I told you a long, long time ago that I was going to try three new-to-me workouts? One was Pound (working out with drumsticks!), which I reviewed here. The other was real-actual Pilates–reviewed here.

The third was Pure Barre, which–even though I was most excited about it by far–I didn’t get around to until last night.

But here I finally am, fresh off a PB workout and ready to tell you all about it!

pure barre 1

Why Barre Is Awesome

For anyone not familiar, Pure Barre is one of the many flavors of barre workouts, which incorporate elements of ballet and pilates in a very unique (and DIFFICULT) workout.

Seriously. One of the things I love about barre is that it’s SO HARD while simultaneously being so, so easy on your body. There’s absolutely no impact or joint stress. You’ll never hear “if this is hard on your knees…” (which makes me feel 90) or “for a lower impact modification…” (which makes me feel like a pansy).

In other words: it would be pretty hard to get hurt doing this. And if you’re already hurt or have certain physical limitations, barre can be an excellent option.

First Impressions

I asked the owner of the studio if there was anything specific I needed to know before showing up for the class, and she mentioned two things:

1) Shorts and midriff-exposing clothes are not allowed (or at least strongly frowned upon–I can’t really see them kicking someone out for wearing shorts?). I wore capri leggings and a yoga tank, and basically looked identical to everyone else.

2) Socks are a must. The official Pure Barre socks have little stickies on the bottom to help with traction, but regular socks can work in a pinch. (I was able to borrow a pair from the studio and those stickies ended up being lifesavers!)

Unlike a yoga studio, Pure Barre floors are carpeted (thus the sock thing, I guess). They also provide SUPER thick, cushy mats (seriously, I would take a nap on one in a second) along with hand weights, small balls and resistance bands.

I’m not sure if all PB studios have a similar feel, but the one I went to felt a little…serious? The walls were beige and the studio was lit with super bright spotlights aimed at the walls. The staff and instructor were totally nice and inviting, and I didn’t feel intimidated at all, but I did get a sort of “we ain’t kidding around” vibe.

pure barre 2

About the Workout

First of all, the warm-up was KILLER. Planks and tricep push-ups and bridges, oh my. We didn’t ease into the whole thing–we DOVE. Within minutes, I was seriously doubting myself (and I really this unfit??) and almost panicking, wondering how I was going to make it through a whole hour.

Luckily, as soon as the warm-up ended, it felt like a completely different class. Here was the sequence of work we did:

Arms – loooong sequences of small movements with light weights. (Similar to my Yoga Strength workout, if you’ve seen that.) It was tough, but I ended up wishing I’d grabbed the 3-pounders instead of 2’s. By the end of the class, I remember thinking “did we even do any arms?”

Barre work – legs and butt. We spent the largest chunk of time in the class on this section, and it was–well–brutal. We spent a lot of time squeezing the ball between our upper thighs while doing tiny, tiny lifts of our legs (using our glutes). The instructor kept saying things like “one inch up, one inch down”–and she literally meant one inch.  (Not a lot when you’re thinking about moving your whole leg.)

I had to take lots of breaks to shake out my legs during this part. My butt’s definitely still feeling it today!

Ab work – we pressed the cushy mats up against the wall and sat with our backs straight against them, doing small tucks and leg lifts. I was never quite sure if I was doing the moves right–at one point, the instructor said “it should feel really, really awkward.” And it definitely did–so maybe yes?


Mat work – the class wrapped up with some general mat work, focusing mostly on the abs, legs, and glutes. A couple ballet-inspired stretches and we were on our way!

General Thoughts and Takeaways

–It’s easy to hide (or at least not feel stupid) if you’re not sure you’re doing a move quite right, since most of the movements are so tiny.

–It’s kind of funny because the girls who are barely moving are probably the ones working the hardest.

Lots of emphasis on glute muscles. Pure Barre is all about the perky butt!

–Fast tempo. This is no soothing yoga class. The music started strong and upbeat and stayed there! No popular tunes either–just rhythmic music with a very steady beat.

–Lots of vocab. “Freeze” and “hold” were used interchangeably, from what I could tell. “Squeeze” and “tuck” were a little less obvious, but I felt like I was doing them right.

–The instructor kept encouraging us to “find the shaky spot and hold it.” Shaky legs aren’t just a common result–they’re the goal!

pure barre 4

–The rhythm felt like what I would expect a serious ballet class to be like. (Erm…from movies and stuff, anyway.) “Squeeze. And tuck. And squeeze. And tuck. And hold. TEN. MORE. And squeeze…”

–I didn’t sweat, but that’s just kind of how I am. It absolutely does not mean I wasn’t exhausted at the end. (I WAS.)

–I felt very relaxed afterwards. My muscles had that buzzy feeling, like they’d just been worked hard.

Pure Barre vs. BarreAmped

Since I’d tried BarreAmped before, I was really curious about how Pure Barre was going to compare.

From what I’ve read, it seems that one of the biggest differentiators is that Pure Barre instructors have clients tucking their pelvises for a lot of the class (sort of mimicking the C-curve of pilates), while BarreAmped keeps a neutral spine.

Beyond that, the differences are not super obvious. The abs portion felt almost identical (from what I can remember). The Pure Barre warm-up was MUCH harder. I remember standing on my toes doing more plies and squats during BarreAmped, while the Pure Barre class was more focused on targeted glute-targeting leg lifts.

One important difference is that–at least in my city–Pure Barre is much more expensive than BarreAmped. Also, the studio where I took BarreAmped also offers several other yoga classes in addition to BA.

That said, I can’t really say that I like one style more than the other. They’re equally challenging and fun, and offer almost identical benefits.

I highly, highly, highly recommend barre! And I’m so glad I finally got to try Pure Barre. I love how it made me feel, and I have no doubt that I’d love how it would made me look after a few months!

My only complaint: I forgot my Nalgene at the studio!! The one I’ve had for YEARS. And I might just be too lazy to go back and get it…

Have you tried Pure Barre?

If anyone’s tried multiple styles of barre, how would you compare them?



{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachel July 26, 2016 at 4:14 am

Greatly appreciate this comparison and awesome blog. Incredibly helpful and about the pure barre warm up… I felt the same way! Took the words right out of my mouth. I look forward to trying barre amped now ;)


Cathy June 28, 2015 at 4:11 pm

I haven’t exercised in years, 20 + years. Would I be able to do pure barre?


Kim July 9, 2015 at 3:52 pm

I think so, yes, although you might want to build up to doing a full class. It’s low impact, which is perfect for someone newer to exercise, and not very demanding cardiovascularly. There is some really challenging arm and core work at the beginning and end, so I’d just take some extra breaks during those parts. I’d also get there a little early to let the instructor know you haven’t exercised in awhile, so she can prepare to offer you variations of the moves if you need them. But in general, I think any barre class would be great for you!! Good luck!!


Marielle May 9, 2014 at 3:46 pm

I LOVE Pure Barre, well actually any barre class! Try the Pop Physique at home workout DVD’s, those are killer!
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Kelly February 25, 2014 at 5:09 pm

I LOVE hearing about great experiences at barre classes! As a Barre instructor, it makes me so happy to hear newbies rave about the classes. And the best part? It get easier to follow and more challenging as you continue to go! What a win-win :). I hope you’ll go back for classes, again!


Kim February 26, 2014 at 2:06 pm

I would love to go back!! $$ is the only issue… :)


char eats greens February 16, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Living in a small town, we have pretty much NO options for crazy workout classes. I feel like I would like barre, though, as a former dancer (jazz, tap, ballet, acro baby!). It sounds very unique and I think that’s also why I’d be drawn to it!!!
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Katie February 16, 2014 at 5:46 pm

I dance on my high school’s kick team back in the day, so i would love to take a barre class, and actually some day I’d like to get certified to teach it, so I can bring the class to my small town. Someday!
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Kim February 15, 2014 at 12:48 pm

I enjoyed the review – I’ve never taken an actual class (we have limited options here) but it sounds similar to the Cathe Frederick Barre DVD – or as similar as a real class and DVD can be.
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Carrie February 15, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Love that you took this class!! It was EXACTLY the same as the one I took. I wonder how often they change things up?
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Giselle@myhealthyhappyhome February 14, 2014 at 10:24 pm

Great review! I’ve been wanting to try a Barre class for awhile now and love the way you describe it. Now I really want to try it!
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Caroline February 14, 2014 at 10:19 pm

I’m a barre instructor, and love hearing how others teach. I tend to tell people not to tuck too much or to pop the butt out (I say- we’re not dancing at a club or riding a horse). I come from a pilates background so I incorporate a lot of those cues into those little tiny movements. I’m glad you enjoyed it!
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