A not-so-secret secret about me is that I'm obsessed with barre. I've tried a lot of these so-called trendy classes, but none seem to give me the lasting body results like barre does. My arms are stronger, there's definition in my waist, and my thighs are toned after regularly going. (I even almost had abs at one point when I was good and went four to five times a week). Skeptics out there may say it doesn't look as intense as those other high-impact, adrenaline pumping workout classes.
But trust me when I say you will walk away from any good barre class really sore and sweaty—in the best way possible. "Barre classes … are an isometric workout, meaning we use the principles of repetition, alignment, and muscle fatigue to burn calories," says Stephanie Farrell, director of operations of Pop Physique. "It's incredibly effective and gentle on the body, so you can do it often."
Even when you stick to just one studio, most instructors change up the order of sequences so that you don't plateau. With classes as big as 20 people per class, you also get the individualized attention you need to fix your form for a more effective workout. It's completely doable for any level experience (speaking as someone who is not athletic whatsoever) and perfect for those looking to build stamina and strengthen the core.
You'll see changes in your body after a few visits, guaranteed. If this piques your interest but you have no idea where to start, I've broken down my favorite barre classes in the city. You can't go wrong with any of them. Scroll down to see the best barre classes in NYC.
While you won't find a board with your stats like you would at its spin class counterpart, Flywheel, it's not surprising that FlyBarre is advertised as "barre for athletes."
"FlyBarre is a fast-paced, music-driven, and efficient barre workout with very little downtime," says Kata Liotta, Flybarrre master instructor and creative director. "Although derived from fundamentals of ballet technique, stylistically it feels more like high-rep, low-weight body sculpting, with form and alignment reminiscent of dancer's posture. It is probably the least ballet-like barre format you'll find."
I've taken the hourlong class, the 45-minute class, and the Sport (by accident, but I don't regret it), and I love them all. I credit FlyBarre for giving me something a somewhat strong core and most importantly, arm strength. "I would say that we are known for our arm series, which helps you achieve that sleek and defined shoulder definition," says Liotta. It's the least dance inspired, and I'm warning you now—you don't get a lot of break or stretch time.
Physique 57 is probably the only barre class that gets me to really shake during its intense thigh sets and my glutes are always sore days after a workout here. This is great if you're looking to tone the bottom half of your body, especially the seat area. "I would say the results of our glute workout is like no other," says Tanya Becker, Physique 57 co-founder.
"We use a unique blend of cardio-based strength training exercises paired with a continuous stream of updated choreography, which sets us apart from most other methods," Becker says. "This combination yields quick results. Our workout consistently challenges your muscles in new and powerful ways, which leaves you feeling stronger, more confident, and ready to take on the world."
If you regularly take its signature class, it can get a little repetitive. So I like signing up for its harder classes, like the Physique F.I.T. or the Mat 57, which focus on specific areas of the body and up the intensity in between taking signature classes.
I've found that the instructors at Purre Barre pretty great with helping each individual with form and technique. I tend to slack off with form if I'm too tired, but instructors here are quick to notice and correct me, in the least evasive way possible. Even more seasoned clients get modification to up Pure Barre workouts. This is also the hardest warmup sequence for me, incorporating sit-ups right away.
"We create 'a family' within our studios to improve clients well-being," says Margo McCann, owner and instructor of Pure Barre Upper West Side. "It makes me feel like the profession ballet dancer I once was."
Bar Method was the first barre I ever took, and it's a great entry for absolute beginners. There's a lot of time dedicated to stretching and you can work on your flexibility.
"It was created under the guidance of physical therapists to ensure it is safe and effective for students spanning a wide range of abilities including those with physical limitations and injuries," says Katie Muehlenkamp, owner and instructor of Bar Method Williamsburg & Cobble Hill. "Unlike other barre workouts, Bar Method instructors undergo a lengthy and rigorous training that includes lessons of anatomy and hands-on adjustments."
Exhale Spa Barre
Here, barre is more than just about those physical movements; it's about the mental state too. "We work from the inside out and [are] holistic in nature." says Fred DeVito, EVP of Mind Body Classes and Training, and Elisabeth Halfpapp, EVP of Mind Body Programming. "We encourage students to clear the mind, focus on your breath, and listen to the teacher's cues without overthinking them."
The 45-minute Core Fusion class is a combination of strength training and flexibility. I noticed that I did have a boost of energy and less pain around the joints than I normally do when taking barre. It's a lot slower paced than the others I've taken; it really focuses on small muscle movements. It's also a great option if you need a quick workout but are pressed for time.
Don't be fooled by how adorable and colorful this studio is decorated (banana and cherry wall decals make for the perfect happy aesthetic). A cute studio doesn't mean that the workout will be any less intense. "Pop is the only barre workout developed by a former professional ballet dancer, Jennifer Williams. She brought many elements of her ballet training into the workout, including hardwood floors, custom lighting, and specially curated playlists," says Farrell. "Pop is an artistic approach to exercise."
Stretching is incorporated a lot in these classes, which, and if you're like me, you will appreciate having those times for a break in between hard sets. The studio also tends to switch up sequences more often than other studios, so you won't find yourself bored. You'll build muscle without bulking up and tone your entire body. And according to Farrell, Pop Physique is known for its "nice butt results."
Next up, try these tricks to enjoy running again.