Barre fitness, pilates and yoga are all low-impact, high-reward exercises that can help you start your day off right. While these styles of workout share some similarities, each involves different aspects of physical fitness and can offer distinct benefits if you add them into your routine. 

So, what is the difference between barre, yoga and pilates? Read my breakdown and see which might work best for you.

What is barre?

Barre fitness is a workout technique incorporating traditional ballet movements with exercises borrowed from pilates and yoga. This helps create a comprehensive routine that can strengthen and sculpt your muscles. In the studio, these moves are usually performed while holding onto a barre (a stationary handrail used in ballet training) but at home, you can use a table or chair as a substitute.

Barre fitness tones and strengthens the muscles in your arms, abs, legs and butt, improving your posture and flexibility. You can expect to be performing traditional ballet moves like pliés and relevés, which will build endurance and keep your core engaged, as well as aerobics that will burn calories. A barre workout routine can be scaled up or down depending on your fitness level — making it suitable for beginners and trained dancers alike. Altogether, barre’s benefits make it a fab (and fun) workout that shows visible results in no time.

Compared to yoga and pilates, barre is the best option for those seeking a higher-intensity full-body workout that will get your blood pumping and quickly build lean muscle.

What is pilates?

Pilates is a style of exercise that was originally developed to help rehabilitate soldiers after injury. Targeting the “powerhouse” muscles in the hips, abdomen and lower back, the method pioneered by Joseph Pilates can help heal and build back strength in the core.

A pilates workout typically involves a series of poses and small muscle movements that require nothing more than a yoga mat and your own body weight for resistance. Like barre, pilates can be low-impact but high-intensity, demanding endurance and a good deal of concentration to get into and hold its poses. As a result, it’s often referred to as a workout for both the body and mind.

Pilates is practised by dancers and gymnasts for building toned muscles without adding too much bulk. It can improve flexibility, stability and posture — and is among the best kinds of workout to strengthen those all-important abdominal, pelvic and postural muscle groups that make up the core.

What is yoga?

Yoga is a type of exercise that, like pilates, works both the body and mind. Yoga exercises are posture-based and can target many muscle groups with a variety of poses. And while it can be relaxing, yoga is physically intense — and over time, those that practise it can expect to see improvements in their flexibility, agility, coordination and muscle strength.

Yoga can take a variety of forms. Some programmes like Vinyasa offer a more athletic, fluid approach involving a lot of movement, while others like Kundalini prioritise the spiritual component, encouraging trapped energy release from the body. Common to all types of yoga, however, is the focus on the connection between body and mind, achieved through coordinated breathing exercises and movements to promote calmness.

In comparison to barre and pilates, yoga is a gentler way of exercising, mainly improving flexibility and posture, while also having a range of purported benefits for mental wellbeing.

Which is best?

To say any one of these exercise regimes is better than the others would be a big oversimplification, This is because they each serve different purposes and will suit different individuals — it’s not a case of barre vs pilates vs yoga, but considering which fits your needs at each time.

If you’re looking to sculpt your physique and build lean muscle, barre might be the one to prioritise. While if you want to build your core strength and improve your posture, pilates is the way to go. Lastly, yoga is best for those wanting to more gradually improve their flexibility, and is a good re-entry point to working out after injury or sickness. For those looking to restructure their workouts during pregnancy (or shortly after welcoming a little yoga partner into the world), there is also a big community practising prenatal yoga.

To enjoy a balanced workout regime that develops strength, flexibility, posture and endurance, I like to incorporate a little bit of everything — from barre to pilates and yoga too. If you’re looking to improve your physical fitness, we can work together to create an exercise plan tailored to your needs with online personal training. Or, take your pick of some of my other bespoke online workouts to help you achieve your fitness goals using fun and effective ballet techniques.