Ballet-flavoured fitness classes like Pure Barre imply that they will change the shape of your body. For example, Barre3 says their technique “builds overall strength with lean, not bulky, muscles,” and that it will “create a long, lean, limber physique.” The only problem: that’s not how muscles work.
Photo by Angie Chung.
Barre classes use small weights and small movements, but they work your muscles thoroughly — a classic low weight/high reps approach. A barre class can build plenty of strength and endurance, but what it can’t do is change the shape of your muscles. You either put on muscle or you don’t; there’s no sculpting involved. As Katherine Pett reports at The Friedman Sprout:
To understand the science behind this, I spoke with Dr. Rivas Donato, an exercise scientist at the Tufts Human Nutrition Research Center on Ageing. He explained that as you get stronger, you build muscle, but you don’t control whether that muscle is “lean” or “bulky.” “Your [genes are] going to determine what your muscle looks like,” he said.
Pett also spoke with a former dancer who stopped teaching barre classes when she got sick of the marketing that holds up a lean body as ideal, leading students to envy their classmates who “came in with those legs.” Barre class is still great exercise, but make sure you understand what it can and can’t do for you.
A Look Behind the Bar: Can Barre Classes “Sculpt” Your Body? [The Friedman Sprout]