I saw a shirt the other day that said “Addicted to Expensive Workout Classes” and nothing has spoken to my soul as that shirt did. I’ve been going to boutique workout classes for nearly 5 years and trust me when I tell you what I’ve been to all of them. At one point I went to a drummer-inspired cardio class with “weighted drumsticks” and another time I was at a yoga class where the mat was a simulated surfboard. Fitness professionals are so creative! But when it comes to known methods of toning and creating muscle there are three types of workouts that are commonly inflated when they are, in fact, very different: megaformer, barre, and pilates.
I did an entire breakdown of the Megaformer in a previous post, but basically, it is a powerful machine that can give you a killer full-body workout with low-impact movements. The machine has adjustable resistance via spring-loads and focuses on slow & controlled movements to activate slow-twitch muscle fibers.
The trick is to go incredibly slow. I mean like glacial. You need to spend 8 seconds in each move and actually feel the burn. That’s 4 seconds in and 4 seconds out. I know that may seem like an easy feat, but trust — it’s not. When things get hard or heavy, instinctually we are designed to push through to complete the task, but not here. You need to simmer in the shaking of your muscles.
The T3 megaformer machines are state-of-the-art, but my favorite classes are the combo classes. These are unique because it’s broken up into 22 minutes of cardio on a curved treadmill. Curved treadmills have no power, and you are pretty much on a human hamster wheel. The following 22 minutes are on the reformer in deep strength training moves. There’s nothing quite like a class like this and it’s transformed my workout routine.
Barre, on the other hand, is a ballet-inspired fitness method that was actually created by physical therapists. It focuses on low-impact moves that are core-heavy with lots of stretching in the middle. These classes often don’t include a cardio component so you’ll have to do that elsewhere. However, it can be great for rest days, core days, or whenever you need to stretch your muscles.
Pilates is a practice that’s over a century old and was started in Germany by a man named Joseph Pilates. (FYI, I know a ton of random trivia about Pilates because I took it as my PE in college, you’re welcome.) Pilates was created as a rehabilitation technique for war veterans to help them recover from injury. Similar to barre, the exercise focuses on your core and how all of your other body movements come from your core. The three principles focus on breath, whole-body health, and whole-body commitment.
I hope this helps clear up some of the misunderstandings around these three amazing workout methods. In college I went to pilates regularly, a few years ago I was addicted to barre, and now I go to a megaformer class 2-3 times a week at Sculpthouse in Atlanta. I love the added cardio component and that I can get both cardio + strength in the same class.