Almost 20 percent of Americans have a fitness membership, but instead of heading to big health clubs to get our sweat on, we are increasingly going to boutique fitness studios. More than 40 percent of all gym memberships are to smaller gyms or studios that specialize in a particular type of fitness, according to data from the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.
One of the biggest trends in boutique fitness in recent years is barre workouts. Between 2013 and 2014, participation in barre rose by 10 percent, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.
The mix of Pilates, dance, yoga and body weight-based movements are set to upbeat music and use a ballet barre as well as other small portable pieces of fitness equipment, said Jessica Matthews, senior adviser for health and fitness education for the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
“One of the key elements that distinguishes barre workouts from other workouts is the use of small, controlled, repeated (pulsing) movements with a focus on alignment and core stabilization,” Matthews said. The main benefits of barre are improvements to posture, muscular endurance, flexibility and balance, she said. Most studios suggest taking at least three classes per week to see a difference.
Barre devotees are familiar with the idea that less movement is more, and they have learned to embrace the shake — the quivering of exhausted muscles that often comes from holding poses and pulsing.
Barre workouts can be traced back to Lotte Berk, a German dancer who left Nazi Germany for London in the 1930s. A back injury led Berk to develop a method of exercise that combined her ballet routines with her rehabilitative therapy. Berk licensed her name to students who opened studios and would eventually branch off on their own.
Soon, Berk acolytes could be found everywhere. Exhale Spa was founded in 2003 with the help of several former Lotte Berk employees. The brand’s signature core fusion class was based on the Berk barre method. By 2005, Berk’s flagship studio in New York City had closed.
Studios with names like Pure Barre, Barre3, PopPhysique and Atlanta-born Pink Barre all offer spinoffs of the Lotte Berk method. Even boutique fitness studios that don’t specialize in barre classes began incorporating the workout into their services such as Flywheel’s Flybarre, a complement to its signature high-energy cycling workouts. Likewise, many barre studios now offer some version of cardio.
So many barre studios have opened in the metro area that it is hard to keep track of them all. Here is a breakdown of some of the studios in the area:
Barre 3 (Druid Hills, East Cobb, South Buckhead): This Portland, Ore.-based company was founded in 2008 by Sadie and Chris Lincoln, who wanted to focus on whole body health. Studio classes are 60 minutes and instructor led, but the company also offers Barre3 workouts online. This online membership, which includes new workouts each month ranging from 10 to 60 minutes, starts at $15 per month and is distinct from studio classes (prices vary by location but start around $20 per class). B3 magazine offers everything from beauty and lifestyle tips to recipes and inspirational stories. Barre3.com.
Exhale Spa (Midtown, Inman Park): The core fusion class is the godfather of the new barre movement. Offered for a full 60 minutes, an express class or a cardio-infused version, this class helped bring barre to the forefront. Individual classes cost about $25, though a range of packages and membership options are available. The Midtown location also offers a variety of popular spa therapies for a full range of well-being. exhalespa.com.
Flybarre at Flywheel (Alpharetta, Buckhead, Midtown): Three Flybarre classes offer the sculpting benefits of barre exercise: a classic 60-minute class, a 45-minute class and a 60-minute sport version, which uses heavier weights and has blasts of cardio. Flybarre and Flywheel packages are sold separately unless you purchase a membership that includes both. Prices vary depending on location but range from $20-$28 for a single class up to $350 for a monthly comprehensive membership. Flywheelsports.com.
Pink Barre (Buckhead, Virginia-Highland, Emory Point, Sandy Springs, Gainesville): This Atlanta-born studio brings the best of barre to a woman-centric environment. Barre Cardio offers a burst of HIIT while Barre Next serves clients who have taken at least 20 classic barre classes and are ready to challenge themselves more. Prices start at $23 per class with a range of membership or class package options. pink-barre.com.
Pure Barre (19 metro area locations): One of the largest barre studio brands in the country now has more than 400 locations nationwide, including 19 in the metro Atlanta area. Pure Barre classes are 55 minutes and offer the full range of sculpting. The new Pure Barre Platform offers the traditional aspects of barre with a cardio boost from the addition of a small platform that helps you incorporate high-energy moves into your workout. Prices start at about $23 per class. Purebarre.com.
PopPhysique: With only one Atlanta location (724 Monroe Drive N.E.), this is the barre newbie in metro Atlanta. The founder, a former ballerina, wanted to return to the aesthetic of the Lotte Berk method. PopPhysique offers LA style in the hourlong classes that cost $100 for a month of unlimited classes. Popphysique.com.