Barre Workouts: What are the similarities and differences?

Let’s start at the beginning. Lotte Berk…. founder of the official Lotte Berk Method and Queen Bee of all the barre exercise regimes. Lotte was a German dancer who fled the Nazi’s in the 1930’s and moved to London. After a severe back injury left her unable to dance, she came up with the idea of combining her ballet bar routines with her rehabilitative therapy to form a total body exercise system. This system is the foundation of ALL of the popular, franchised barre workouts that exist in modern culture.

Her original method is a combination of strength-training, dance, orthopedic back exercises, and Hatha yoga all rolled into a one hour, mind-body workout to fab music followed by an inspirational cool down. The system was designed to firm, lengthen, and shape muscles to their most optimal form: high rounded seats, flat outer thighs, lean long torsos and defined waistlines. Her concept was known as the “ultimate body transformation system” (sounds superb, right?) and interest quickly spread. An American named Lydia Bach fell in love with the technique, bought the rights to Lotte’s name and opened the first Lotte Berk Method exercise studio in NYC in 1971.

Ten years later, two sisters, Burr Leonard and Mimi Fleischman took their first Lotte Berk Method class in NY and were equally impressed. They too bought the rights to Lotte’s name, and opened various studios during the 90’s throughout Connecticut. Although their studios were thriving, both Burr and Mimi noticed clients’ knees, backs, shoulders were not responding well to the repetition of the movements. They sought the help of a physical therapist and reworked the sculpting exercises so that they would target students’ muscles without impacting their joints. As a result, in 2001 the Bar Method was born and the flagship studio opened in San Francisco.

During the same period of time that Burr and Mimi were opening Bar Method studios (82 studios in 15 years), other former Lotte Berk Method teachers began to develop their own versions of the technique. Fred DeVito and Elizabeth Haffpapp left the Lotte Berk Method to join Exhale Spa and Core Fusion. Tanya Becker, teamed up with NY Wall St ex-exec Jennifer Vanghan Maanavi and created Physique 57 in Manhattan. Carrie Rezabek incorporated high energy dance moves to Bar Method workouts and began Pure Barre in Chicago. With the departure of so many key teachers, the Lotte Berk Method folded in 2005. Other spinoffs include Barre 3, Dailey Method, Fluidity, PopPhysique, BarrePhysique and many other boutique concepts.

So many barre concepts to chose from today, the question that is repeatedly asked by clients of their skilled and knowledgable teachers, “what are the differences between all of the barre variations?” In a nutshell, the answer is pretty simple. They are ALL based on the Lotte Berk foundation but differ depending on the class structure, the equipment used and the style.

What is Barre?
By definition, barre is a pilates and ballet inspired fitness method focused on isometric movements with HIGH reps and LOW resistance strength training to increase flexibility, lengthen/tone muscles and burn fat. (who doesn’t love that?) All barre workouts are REALLY HARD if performed in alignment and proper posture. All barre workouts move in 1 inch increments to make muscles more elastic and large range of movements to tear down the muscle to build strength. Barre workouts are known as fine tuning concepts. A combination of different classes would create the leanest, best body for overall, longterm conditioning. Key to staying in shape is CHANGE.

What is the overall goal?
To maintain muscle strength with less risk of injury with small muscle movements

Postive Aspects?
Increase mind/body connection
Improve postural alignment, core strength and enhance mobility
2, 3 or 4 movement combination HOLD – PULSE – STRETCH

Negative Aspects?
Lack compound movements for strength by increasing heart rate decreasing fat
Heart rate does not increase high enough for a cardio workout
Clients may plateau after a period of time

OK, so now that the you are all highly educated in the evolution of the beloved barre workout history, let’s go in order of popularity to describe some the highs and lows of each method.

Pure Barre
Is biggest and most established method (300 studios nationwide), classes are known to be the STANDARD for barre classes everywhere. They are designed to make you sweat heavily and whip you into shape quickly. There are NO real changes to the class formula. Classes move at a faster pace, without proper emphasis on correct alignment of spine and legs. Clients tend to do less reps due to the fast pace but have the added cardio bonus. The famous “tuck” (curling of the seat beneath the spine to engage the abdomen and protect the low back) is a foundation for this method (although many don’t agree this is proper spinal alignment). PB wins for the best thigh and seat work. The low is that the music is pretty tame and clients do not receive individualized instruction.

Bar Method
Heavily focused on alignment with instructor hands-on help and detailed cueing like in ballet classes. Reps are longer, push-ups are intense and numerous. BM is more booty and thigh focused and shows total body results quicker that its competition. The core concept is form focused while tucking, with a lot more attention to stretching at the end of every exercise sequence. Classes vary and target a specific muscle group per session. Unfortunately, clients tend to plateau over extended period of time without the addition of another format.

Barre 3
Quickest growing studio franchise in most recent years, 105 studios and increasing. This Portland based company combines the grace of ballet barre, the wisdom of yoga and the strength of pilates. Classes are designed to be balanced, effective and personalized. B3 emphasizes alignment and core stability, and creates length and balance in the body. It is a true stand out to its competition with the use of less weights and more reps than another other barre program. Atmosphere is laid back than compared to the high intensity of Pure Barre or Physique 57.

Physique 57
Know for their trendy studio environments, fun music, and cool/hip clothing line. There are 4 different class levels in their repertoire to chose from their standard class. Additionally, clients may find varying class options featuring yoga or dance components. Clients claim to see results in just 8 classes.

Exhale Spa – Core Fusion Barre
100% the most exclusive, posh/spa-like studio environment and the most expensive. Like Pure Barre, studios do not focus heavily on inspiring music. It is deeply rooted in core fusion and yoga inspired. Classes vary from barre, core, yoga with the additive spa on premises. Down side is the expense.

The Dailey Method
Based in San Fransicso with the Marina flagship studio owning the title of longest-running barre fitness studio on the West Coast, The Dailey Method exploded on the scene in 2000. Each class offers a combination of body toning exercises and the best aspects of diverse disciplines such as dance, yoga, kinesiology, and pilates to create an efficient and effective full-body workout. Passionate about alignment, instructors use hands-on, holistic training and education to their clients. Their philosophy is simple: proper alignment radiates outward from the spine, bringing balance. Clients work smarter with their bodies but not necessarily harder.

And now the moment you all have been waiting for……. What is Yoga’llet, soon to be Project Sweat and why is this concept so unique in the boutique fitness world? (saving the best for last)

Project Physique 
By definition is a group fitness project that combines the STRENGTH of yoga with the HARMONY of movement to create a BALANCE between MIND and BODY. It is CONSISTENTLY EVOLVING and always creates a STRONG PHYSIQUE. Another way to describe it is a high energy combo of YOGA and STRENGTH movements that are essential for balancing mind and body in one efficient and effective class. (beautifully written Katye) Strongly based on the ancient practices of yoga (which we all know has survived for centuries). OK so check this out….

The early writings of yoga were transcribed on fragile palm leaves that were easily destroyed, damaged or lost. The development can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago, however, some researchers think that yoga may be 10,000 years old. The long rich history is divided into four main periods of innovation, practice and development.
1. Pre-classical – first developed in the Indus-Saraswati civilization in Northern India
2. Classical – around the second century, 1st systematic presentation of yoga
3. Post-classical – system of practices designed to rejuvenate the body and prolong life
4. Modern period – late 1800’s yoga masters traveled to the West stirring attention (1947 in Hollywood was the 1st studio opened by Indra Devi)

So back to Project Physique
It is a well-rounded class with major focus on alignment and adjustments to prevent injuries. The yoga component is there for balance of body and mind, the ballet for sculpt and the “rest” is a combo of cutting edge techniques and good old stand bys (as described by Master Katye) Love, love, love the idea that this class is based in yoga but incorporates the growing needs of modern fitness. The class structure can be described as climbing a mountain, building gradually with intensity to reach the summit then defending down the other side, reclaiming breath and feeling strong. Music is the essential component to make this class stand out from its competition, it is the backbone, it tells a story, it fuels the fire and touches emotions. (another Katye-ism) For example:

1. Start with the breath – awakening
2. Find quiet strength – like in a plank for mind/body connection
3. Flow – movement with breath (wisdom / funk)
4. Heart of Class – ON FIRE – LOUD MUSIC (totally killer in every way)
5. Sweet and Sweaty yoga flow – soothes the body and come back to the breath
6. Fun element – song takes you back
7. Core work – work deeper – maybe sing along
8. Stretch – celebrate you!

Ending on this, Project Physique, which currently features Project Sweat, Project Clarity and Project Connect are dedicated to bringing clients the fitness triangle, a combination of SWEAT, CONNECTION and CLARITY.

Sweat is what P2 provides physically
Connection between sweat and heart is what P2 brings emotionally
Clarity to see beyond and break down barriers
(who is the smart gal who wrote & developed this concept? happy to be apart of such a unique group)


-Donica Cookpose