2 Fitness Experts Explain the Differences Between Pilates


My home workout routine is mainly focused on loosening my tight joints while stretching and strengthening my body in a way that promotes good posture to prevent WFH pains — which is why Pilates and barre YouTube workouts are my new go-tos.

But the more I press play on the two fitness methods, the more I ask myself: what are the actual differences between Pilates and barre, anyway?

Of course, my pre-recorded training videos aren’t in the business of responding to questions in real time. So, I reached out to Andrea Fornarola, a certified barre instructor and the founder and director of Elements Fitness Studio, and Ellen Barrett, an ACE-certified personal trainer and certified Pilates instructor, for some clarity.

“The biggest similarity is the common goals of core connection and strength and proper alignment and posture, Barrett said. “I also think both methods put equal emphasis on flexibility and strength, which so many workouts do not.”

Fornarola chimed in with a similar point of view, noting that barre and Pilates value comparable principles in the way they cue and reference alignment and use of breath, and in how they value the abs as the center of aligning the body’s focus.

While the fundamentals of both barre and Pilates seamlessly align, their approaches can differ.

Barrett explained that many barre workouts use a lot of repetition to exhaust targeted muscle groups, while Pilates focuses more on minimal repetitions. Plus, she believes that barre leaves more room for creativity, unlike Pilates, which follows a more specific order and structure.

Similarly, Fornarola shared that where Pilates heavily focuses on the abdominals while stretching and strengthening, barre tends to be a higher tempo, which allows for cardio bursts throughout a routine.

Depending on the class, the equipment can differentiate the two workouts, too. Fornarola said that many non-mat Pilates classes can use an abundance of apparatuses and props, compared to barre, which often prioritizes bodyweight exercises and free weights.

In general, Fornarola thinks that barre is a great workout option for anyone who likes yoga, dance, running, and yes, Pilates — as its stretching and strengthening methods complement those forms of exercise.

With your doctor’s permission, Fornarola said barre’s low-impact exercises could be helpful for those recovering from injuries, thanks to little-to-no jumping, the encouragement of lighter weights, and the focus on body alignment.

If Pilates is piquing your interests more, Barrett said to go in with an open mind: “You may not break a sweat. You may only get through 4-5 exercises. That may seem inefficient, but trust that it is not.”

That’s because Pilates uses intelligent movement to bring balance and symmetry to the body’s muscular-skeletal system, she adds.

While exploring what works best for your body and lifestyle, remember that not all Pilates and barre experiences are the same, either. There’s so much fun in exploring the wide range of approaches to both fitness styles.

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