Letter to a Client or Why I don’t believe in Barre Classes

A few weeks ago, I received an email from one of my clients who inquired about a barre class that I used to teach when I worked as the school director at a dance studio. She wanted to know if I had any interest in running this class again. Here was her email:

Hi Emily,

Recently as I was cleaning my house, I came across your original brochure that had your Barre Class listed.  Today, I came across an old article on Lululemon’s website about the benefits of Barre.  Would you consider bringing this class back?  I’ve seen a few people on LL facebook page who were inquiring about a local class. That community would LOVE it.  I know I would be there and will be a great way to market to their huge customer base.

First of all, let me say that yes, I used to teach barre classes. I am a dancer. I also taught aerobics and cycling, and I enjoyed them both very much. And I believe that any  exercise you decide to do whether it is aerobics or Barre or cycle is good exercise, and if it makes you happy, awesome. Keep doing it. BUT, I also believe that if you are not happy with your performance in the gym, your strength or your body, there are better ways for achieving your goals than the three I mentioned. Again, there is nothing wrong with these classes. Remember, I used to teach them. However, the best coaches are always questioning, researching and looking for better ways to challenge their athletes and/or clients. This may mean re-thinking exercises and training. Are barre classes good for you? Sure….but I believe there are better and more efficient ways for women to train. Would I get more business if I brought back my barre class? Sure. Maybe. But, honestly,  I don’t want this kind of business. My philosophy is strength. I want women to focus on gaining strength, not “toning their thighs.” I want women to focus on building a bigger deadlift, squat or press, not building “long, lean muscles” (which don’t exist). I want women to be able to carry the full propane tank for their grill back to the car by themselves and not have to ask for assistance.

I want women to feel confident in their own skin. I want them to walk down the street not thinking they are strong but KNOWING that they are strong. You cannot build a strong upper body doing 100 repetitions of arm circles. You cannot build strong glutes doing 50 leg kicks to the ceiling. I don’t care how much it burns. All you will do is tire your arms and your butt out. And really, what good is that? Yes, you will be sore. But you won’t be any stronger. It just doesn’t work that way.

But I digress. Here was my email response:


I really enjoyed teaching my barre class when I worked for the dance studio. It was a perfect way to build a new adult class at Kinetics and as a result of the class, I realized how much I wanted to work with adults. The more the class evolved, the more I began to move away from the “ballet” type work I relied on to create the class, and I began introducing more strength work. By the time I opened Fivex3 Training, I realized what I needed to do with the class to make it fit with my message about strength. The class needed a big face lift. Basic Training was born. I could not be more happier with this class.

I have a few concerns with running a class like this is again.

Body by Barbell, not Barre. Squats and deadlifts.


First and foremost, I do not believe in the message these classes promote. The classes rely on tiny weights and there is too much emphasis on “looking” like a ballerina and trying to achieve a body that for some people will never exist. (Professional ballerinas look the way they do because they are genetically born with a body that enables them to look the way they do. I, too, studied ballet, but I do not have the body to be a professional ballerina. Am I less of a dancer for this? NO.)



Second, I believe, as many other women who strength train believe and who are in my field, that women need more than what a barre class offers. Women do not need special classes like barre because they are women and they should “train this way because this is how a woman should train.” Doing tiny little pulses until your thighs burn does nothing but make your thighs burn. So what? As my husband said, “My butt would burn too if you made me squeeze it 100 times. But it won’t help me develop a strong butt.”  You will not build a strong body unless you stress the body ie. lift weights that are more than 5 pounds. No one is telling you that you need to lift 200 lbs (although this is damn impressive and shows true strength and domination.) But 5lbs? Come on. My five year old nephew deadlifted his bodyweight just the other day. With the barbell. 44 pounds. Exactly how much he weighs. And he carried two 8kg kettlebells around the gym (18 pounds) without a second thought. I had two 8 year old girls pull each other on the sled two weeks ago. They loved every minute of it. And most recently, one of my clients who just turned 73 years old, deadlifted 80 lbs and then proceeded to do a frame carry with the same weight. Is she strong? Hell yes. Is she toned? Who cares! She’s 73 years old, just started strength training about four months ago and picked up 80lbs!

Rachel is a dancer. And she teaches ballet and performs in Nutrcracker each year. Does she have long, lean muscles? No. And she never will. But she is no less of a dancer.

And third, these classes promote false advertising claims such as “Lifts your seat, tones your thighs and burns fat,”  “Firms and elongates muscles,” “Get long, narrow thighs,” “Longer, leaner and stronger muscles,” “Combines Pilates, yoga and ballet moves to give you beautiful, sculpted, lean muscles – without the impact and injuries dancers endure.” These are false claims and as a dancer who does lift weight and has seen her body change in ways she never thought was possible, I am tired of seeing these words used over and over again to lure women into these classes. Ladies, you either have long muscles or short muscles, depending on how TALL or how SHORT you are. Blame your parents if you want to blame someone. It is all genetic.  Someone with long femurs will have long muscles. Someone with short femurs will have short muscles. Your muscles will not get longer if you are not tall. Tall people have long bones and therefore long muscles. Short people have short bones and therefore short muscles. If you want to be leaner, lose the body fat. And also, please don’t think that by stretching a muscle after you have worked it, you will make it longer or leaner. *Sigh*

When I taught my classes, I was just beginning my journey into the strength world. I was training at the gym and teaching these classes. And I was feeling stronger and stronger each time I taught my classes thanks to all the squatting, deadlifting and pressing I was doing at the gym. But I soon realized this class could not survive anymore. I do not regret one minute for this class- I loved teaching it and quite a few of the people who started with me with this class, followed me to Baltimore when I opened up my gym. And they love my Basic Training class just as much if not more than my barre class. And because of the way I promoted my barre class way back then (build strength), I actually attracted people ages 40 and up. No one under 30 (with the exception of one or two) took my class. I made a point of promoting strength. If I had had more equipment as I do now, I probably would have taught it differently.

What I love about all the coaches I read and listen to is they are never afraid to say “I changed my mind. I have discovered a better way to do this.” As Mike Boyle, a strength and conditioning coach at Mike Boyle’s Strength and Conditioning in MA says, “I think I’ve become famous for changing my mind. And there’s a specific reason *why* the most successful coaches and trainers in our field tend to change their minds the most often. (and also why your athletes benefit from this ‘change’).” This is how I feel about barre classes and why I have changed my mind about this type of work. I actually never even thought about this that much until now because all I was really trying to do was come up with a new adult fitness class at the dance studio. Over the past two years, I have learned so much more about strength work and the benefits of barbell training. My philosophy is simple: Get strong. This is how I want to train and why I believe women should train this way too. While I know that I could reach more women if I offered this type of class, I do not want to compromise my beliefs when it comes to strength training. In my opinion, women need less of these classes and more good all fashioned basic strength work. They need to build muscle, not “elongate” it. They need to learn how to use their bodies efficiently by carrying weight, dragging weight, picking up weight, not worrying about developing “long, lean muscles.”

I am sure that there are many women who want to take these classes because of what the classes  promise. I am sure many take them because the classes are familiar to them because they remind them of  ballet classes they took when they were younger. And I am sure that these women do see changes in their bodies because anything will work…for a time. But I will never bring this type of class back. As my mission statement reads on  my website, “At FiveX3 Training, strength is our mission. When you are stronger, you feel better. When you are stronger, you look better. When you are stronger, you are better.” Lift weights. Get strong. Feel better.



emilyLetter to a Client or Why I don’t believe in Barre Classes

60 Comments on “Letter to a Client or Why I don’t believe in Barre Classes”

  1. Anne

    I took Emily’s barre class and I loved it, but I love BT more. The barre class was familiar territory, which got me in the door, but honestly, if it showed up on her class schedule, I’d choose BT over it every time. It’s still a comfortable environment, and it still gives me the opportunity to focus on myself without worrying about what anyone else thinks. But now I know I’m doing the best I can to make the body I was given as strong as possible. It’s great.

  2. Wendy

    Thank you so much for posting your reply, Emily. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I shared it on my wall.

    Thanks again!

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  7. Penny

    “While I know that I could reach more women if I offered this type of class, I do not want to compromise my beliefs when it comes to strength training.”

    Love this and will probably use it myself. Thanks for providing this honest message.

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  9. Support

    You have used the photo of barre class with out permission … Please remove it. This is a photo of my instructors at a barre studio and myself.. It is not stock for public consumption.

    Separately, you are completely wrong about barre class. I don’t know what kind of class you taught at your studio but our clients are much stronger, much more confident, ski better, play tennis better, etc and aren’t just there to tone their thighs. Perhaps they can not pull their husbands out if a burning building – not sure whose overall goal that would be anyway – but they are not looking to build enormous muscles and look like a man either.

    Remove the photo immediately.

    Thank you.

    1. emily

      Thank you for your comment. I apologize for using your picture. I will remove this out of courtesy to you and your instructors.

      However, what I cannot and will not do is apologize for my post. I am not completely wrong about barre classes and if you actually read my post, I am all for women doing what works for them and makes them happy. But I want to deliver to my female clients what I believe to be a better program for getting stronger and gaining confidence. While I am sure that your clients have gotten stronger from your barre classes, I believe that my clients are served better by actually lifting weights that will challenge their bodies, minds and spirits. None of my ladies look like a man. In fact, all of my women have dramatically changed their bodies into curvaceous, strong and fit women. Your comment implies that my goal is to make women look like men. Women can be strong, have muscle, lift heavy weight and still be women. I want to deliver the best program to my women and for them and for me, this includes picking up weight that weighs more than 3 lbs. Sure, you can get stronger by doing anything….but in my world (and many others) building a stronger body means actually lifting weights.

      And for me, I DO want to know that if I had to, I could pull my husband out of a burning building.

      1. Harper

        Well said, Emily!

        I know women who take Barre classes and love them, but I also think if they were 1) better educated about weightlifting and strength training and 2) had accessible gyms similar to yours, more might choose Fivex3 over a barre studio. All I can say is I’m so glad I found your gym and am proud by how much weight I can lift… and I don’t look like a dude.

        1. emily

          Thanks Harper! As I said in the very beginning of my post, if you like taking Barre or Zumba or Cycle or anything….keep doing it! I used to teach this type of class but even while I was teaching it, I was also lifting. Sure, these classes may kick your butt….anything can be hard. BUT……if you are looking to gain real strength and build a stronger and more powerful body, these classes are not the way to go. Strength training ie. picking up weight and a lot of it will build strong bones and a strong body that you can be proud of. You are amazing to watch while at the gym. Focused, dedicated and determined. And you are ALL woman. ;-)

    2. J.R. Voight

      I know this post was a while ago, but I came across it somehow. And then I looked at the comments, which most seem lighthearted and nice, but then I came to this one. Few things I would like to point out:

      1. I am an Exercise Physiologist. I have been in the fitness industry for 15 years now, with a degree in Kinesiology, CSCS, CPT and I own two personal training companies. So, to save everyone’s time, let’s just say I know what I’m talking about.
      2. I have done a months worth of Barre classes. Although, I only went twice a week since my work/training schedule wouldn’t allow for any more. I know a few girls who liked it, but then a few girls thought it was pointless (me included). BUT, everyone is titled to their own opinion, especially when it come to their fitness and health.
      3. This blog is informative and was just pointing out a single person’s OPINION, not fact. If it was fact, we would see it in peer-reviewed journal article, but as it stands, it is just a blog and take what you want from it.
      4. The comment by “Support” is the most hilarious thing I’ve seen all week. Ok, maybe just from today but whatever. First of all, the blogger did not have to remove the picture you claim that belongs to you without a cease and desist letter served to her. A little comment on a blog site does not do the trick, that’s why it’s called a cease and desist LETTER. Second, are you the owner/franchisee or are you just the $30,000 a year salaried manager? Totally legit question because if you are not the owner/franchisee or you don’t even work for the legal department or are the owner of Barre Ind/LLC/Corp, whatever, then you really don’t have any legal base for your request. Just sayin’. Also, stock photo doesn’t mean for “public consumption”.
      5. Why is she completely wrong about Barre? Is she not allowed to have an opinion? You certainly do with your remarks about how you apparently know what women are looking for. By the way, any good, educated fitness professional would know this fact: you will not “bulk up” from just lifting weights. You need loads, loads of protein AND your body type, genetics and some more fun stuff have to align perfectly for this to happen. It’s a myth that is repeated, by uneducated people as yourself, that has held many women back from exercising and using weights. Also, biomechanics has shown that doing the type of moves that are in a Barre class routine CONSTANTLY are horrible for your knees. No wonder ballerinas don’t make it very long. Their knees and hips give out on them. Fact: knees are not to go in front of your toes when you squat…
      6. I totally believe what you said about your clients. They are probably stronger, much more confident, ski better, play tennis better and etc. Because remember ladies, skiing better and playing tennis is essential in life and to be fit and strong, you must be good at skiing and playing tennis… That is the most randomness line of physical attributes I’ve seen in awhile. A+ for marketing effort, moving on now…
      7. What’s wrong with just toning their thighs? Toned thighs are great, wouldn’t you agree, gals?!
      8. Yes, many of women are bound and determined to never be able to pull their husbands out of a burning building. A nice sized insurance policy can do that to a woman, I suppose. I think we can all agree that this statement was a little, um.. not thought out properly, so moving on again…
      9. Do you have something against women who want to look like a men? Please, by all means, go to a rough powerhouse gym, find the manliest woman you can find there, and tell her how you feel. They have every right to look how they want to, and who are you to judge, twinkle toes?
      10. If you’ve got the you-know-what to call someone out on their own blog site, use your name. Don’t hide behind the name “support”. You do nothing but support a bar on a wall and are just riding out this fitness trend until it fades out, and by the looks of the date on your post, you probably already have.
      J.R. Voight

      1. emily

        Can I just say thank you and I love you? ;) My husband read your comment and thought it was the best thing he has read in a long time. Thank you. Thank you for you and everything you stand for. Cheers. ;)

  10. Annelise

    You just described me to a tee. Amazing. I too am a dancer, used to teach barre (and several other group fitness classes) but now truly believe weight training is the best and most effective training method. I am now a personal trainer and figure competitor and can finally say I love my body and am comfortable in my own skin thanks to good old fashioned heavy lifting!

    1. emily

      Thank you for your comment Annelise!!! So happy to hear from you and to know that I am not alone! ;) I, too, am more comfortable in my own skin thanks to squatting and deadlifting. Now, how can we get others to understand this too?

      Thank you again for reading and commenting! Good luck with your competitions!!

  11. Dexter Tenison, MSS

    Thank you SOO much for posting this. We have a fitness offering here in Memphis and due to the rise of barre classes, some of our clients have been swayed to join those classes. It is our purpose to move our clients in a fitness lifestyle implementing strength training as their foundation for metabolic and physical improvement. However, our message is lost sometimes and some women just move to the next trendy thing. Keep up the great work and I hope you know you have a supporter of our work here in Memphis!

    1. emily

      Thank you Dexter!!! I am glad you liked it and that it spoke to you. Trendy thing is right…..barre classes are in….who knows how long they will really last! ;)

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  14. Linda

    This is easily one of the most honest and helpful posts I have ever read about fitness. I am 47 years old and I am short. I have short muscles. You know when they say “most women can’t build large muscles”, well I am one of the few – and I’m not the Hulk by any means but it is obviously that I work out – and it should be right? We do this to improve our body, strength, bone density and mind (my new phrase is it isn’t vanity, but my sanity that I work out!).

    I was looking into doing Barre workouts because I wanted to try lose muscle (I know…I know) but I go through these moments of stupidity where I want to have spaghetti arms. It’s completely stupid and totally defies everything that makes sense for a woman to do. We should be strong and fit and muscle is not evil. I can lift things my nieces 15 years my junior can’t. I can out run or walk them as well. I am very fit and I feel amazing and its not from cardio or pilates. It’s from weight work, leg work and core work.

    I remember a time when I would CRY when pushups came up in a workout. Literally. Now I am a champ! I can do tons of them and again, I DO NOT LOOK LIKE A MAN. I can’t stand when people say that. And why not be able to drag your husband or your kids, parent, pets or anyone else from a burning building? What in the world is wrong with that?? I was a trainer and it was comments like those that made me leave. Such pettiness.

    Anyway – thank you for the smack in the head. I needed it.

    1. emily

      Hi Linda,
      Thank you so much for your comment!!! I really appreciate the feedback. As a dancer, it really pains me when I hear this nonsense being spewed because, well, I am tall and thus blessed with long legs. In fact, I hardly have a torso. ;) I have danced with short dancers, tall dancer, thin dancers, muscular dancers….taking barre classes will NOT give you a dancer’s body….they really should say “ballerina body” because modern dancers do not look like ballerinas. But ballerinas are ballerinas because, well, they are predisposed to have that kind of body that is why they become professional dancers!!!! Women should want to be strong and feel strong and look strong. Once I got over the wanting to be one way or the other and started actually physically making my body stronger, I became much happier. I was given the body I was given and I dare anyone to make me feel less than woman. ;)

      And you are welcome for the smack in the head. I gave that to myself awhile ago too. ;)

  15. jill

    Wow, you certainly seem to have a chip on your shoulder toward women who do care about not bulking up!
    I’m 42 years old and have been a lifetime runner. For years, I went to the gym and did traditional heavy weight programs (I even leg pressed nearly 3 times my body weight). I tried the cross fit thing. For me, these programs resulted in injury and chronic pain in my knees and shoulders. I’m a tiny person and I didn’t really bulk up, but I didn’t look feminine either. Barre 3 and Bar Method have provided wonderful results for me. I run faster and I have more endurance because my knees don’t hurt at all anymore! I am still very strong and in fact I can now do 50 push ups with good form. And I’m not embarrassed to admit, I love how how I look. Any women who doesn’t admit they don’t mind having a lean body with feminine muscular toning is lying to themselves and everyone else.

    1. emily

      Hi Jill,
      Thank you so much for your comment. And thank you for letting me know that this work worked for YOU and for YOUR goals. You see, not every woman has the same goals. Some women actually want a more “muscular” look and some women want to look like Tracy Anderson. I would rather have muscle on my frame and be able to carry my husband out of a burning building if I needed to. I LOVE how I look too. You use the word “bulking” up to imply that I, and many other women, want to look like men. This could not be further from the truth. And I am not sure what you mean by “feminine” muscular toning? I have a client who squats, presses, deadlifts, bench presses, does power cleans…..and she has a beautiful lean body with great muscular definition. People are really confused when she tells them she does not run, does not take barre classes, does not do aerobics. You lift weight? And look like that? Yes she does. I think she looks great as do so many women in my gym who can deadlift their bodyweight, squat over their bodyweight and are strong, confident, empowered women who LOVE the way they look and feel. Their GOALS are their goals, not someone else’s. The word “bulking” is not a bad word. I happen to be “bulking” right now and am stronger than I have been in a long, long time.

      Congratulations on how you feel. It is very important for women to love how they look. But my reasoning for the article was to let women know that there are better ways to achieve one’s goal that will actually make them stronger and feel better about themselves. I would be lying to them and to myself if I told them them that barre classes are the way to a stronger body. Thank you for your comment.

      1. Amanda

        Hi Emily,

        I found your site researching barre classes compared with weight training. I read all the posts. My background, I have worked out with weights for 20 years, preferably heavy. I squat heavy, (225lbs) Lunge 70 to 100 lbs, do pull ups, shoulder headstands…etc. I love it! I taught yoga for about 7 years, and stretching is great and complimentary. I took my fiancé’s Mom to a barre class because she likes classes and I don’t! I have to say I did enjoy it. I did it with her and did it for about two weeks. I noticed some incredible changes in my body. My butt was higher, my arms and legs more defined and I did enjoy it. It was more like a Physique 57 class (fusion dance, pilates barre) My question is because my base was already so strong am I just leaning up? I truly believe my booty lifting up is because of the exercises in the class. I have changed the way I want my body, a little leaner up top and still a round booty. What are you thoughts and thanks so much for your site!

        1. emily

          Hi Amanda,
          Thank you so much for your comment!!! I was starting to feel like I was the lady who hates barre classes!!! This is NOT the case!! Remember, I taught one and I enjoyed every minute of it. MY issue with these classes is not the classes but with the marketing centered around the classes. As my husband said, “If I (he) took one of those classes I know I would be sore too!!” I am not saying it isn’t a workout but what they say they will do to women’s legs – long, lean, elongate – is just bullshit. Really. (And speaking of working ou, this is all it really is too. A workout. Anyone can “workout.” I am a believer in training….but I digress.) I am sure that because of your strong foundation already, it allowed you to work at higher, more intense levels than perhaps some of the other women and the “leaner you” started to show through. The muscle you most likely developed from squatting, pressing, doing pull ups and teaching Yoga helped you push harder in class, allowing you to burn more calories thus allowing you to shed bodyfat and see the benefits of all of your lifting!!! ;) All I know is that my butt is stronger, firmer and bigger now thanks to squatting, barbell and band hip thrusts, barbell glute bridges, deadlifts, split squats. I would never tell a woman not to do something that makes her feel good….but I do believe that more women would benefit more from real strength training ie. lifting more than 3lbs in order to build muscle, strengthen their bones and really make the changes they really want to see in their bodies. Stronger is just always better. ;) Thanks for your email!! And have fun!

    2. emily

      I just re-read my post for the first time since I wrote it. And it’s a GREAT post. I am honest. I am sincere. And I do NOT bash these classes.

      In my post, I focus on three main points:
      1. “I do not believe in the message these classes promote.” 2. “I believe, as many other women who strength train believe and who are in my field, that women need more than what a barre class offers. Women do not need special classes like barre because they are women and they should “train this way because this is how a woman should train.”
      3. “These classes promote false advertising claims such as “Lifts your seat, tones your thighs and burns fat,” “Firms and elongates muscles,” “Get long, narrow thighs,” “Longer, leaner and stronger muscles.”

      My question to you is this: Did you really read my post? Because I think it reads like someone who taught this type of class before and realized while it wasn’t a bad class, it wasn’t the type of training for her or for really getting people strong, moving better or feeling better.

      Here is another quote from my article that I don’t think registered with you clearly:

      “What I love about all the coaches I read and listen to is they are never afraid to say “I changed my mind. I have discovered a better way to do this.” As Mike Boyle, a strength and conditioning coach at Mike Boyle’s Strength and Conditioning in MA says, “I think I’ve become famous for changing my mind. And there’s a specific reason *why* the most successful coaches and trainers in our field tend to change their minds the most often. (and also why your athletes benefit from this ‘change’).” This is how I feel about barre classes and why I have changed my mind about this type of work. I actually never even thought about this that much until now because all I was really trying to do was come up with a new adult fitness class at the dance studio. Over the past two years, I have learned so much more about strength work and the benefits of barbell training. My philosophy is simple: Get strong. This is how I want to train and why I believe women should train this way too. While I know that I could reach more women if I offered this type of class, I do not want to compromise my beliefs when it comes to strength training. In my opinion, women need less of these classes and more good all fashioned basic strength work. They need to build muscle, not “elongate” it. They need to learn how to use their bodies efficiently by carrying weight, dragging weight, picking up weight, not worrying about developing “long, lean muscles.”

      I really wish people would actually READ posts and not just see one or two words and decide they need to comment. I changed my mind. That’s it. And I am better for it and so are my clients.

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  17. Jan

    What I appreciate about basic training work—the squatting, pushing, pulling, lifting, reaching, stepping—is the functional value. At the same time that my body becomes stronger, my capacity to DO is remarkably enhanced. To me there is a difference in the barre attitude of “looking lovely and lean”, and the strength attitude of generating physical confidence in a strong body. I want to be strong and functionally confident. This focus offers me a way to lean in and own my life in a way that is just different from wanting a merely physical outcome.

  18. Briana

    Hi, Emily. Just wanted to leave my $0.02 on this post, despite its being a few months old.

    I have a similar background to yours. A (current) professional dancer, personal trainer, and instructor of group ex for over 12 years, I’ve seen a long list of trendy workouts come and go. I’ve taught kickboxing, weight lifting classes, HIIT classes, step classes, and most recently, barre. I got into barre through a simple Craigslist posting looking for dancers who taught group ex, a perfect fit for me. I had never tried barre before.

    As part of our instructor training, we were required to take 3-4 classes/week to become familiar with exercise choices and formats. Even though I am someone who lifts weights (and yes, they are heavier than 5 lbs–not all classes are the same, you are lumping all barre formats together, but I digress), I began to see major changes in my body in the first 3 weeks of training. I could do more pushups (yes, we do pushups). I could hold a plank for twice as long as before. The shape of the muscles on my legs changed, and my turnout became stronger because we worked internal and external rotation in class. I strengthened my TA more than ever and found a small six-pack with the tiny, slow movements we did for core.

    Sure, these workouts might not be what you prescribe or believe in. But they have inspired a whole group of people (not just women, I have men who take my barre classes too–I’ve never worked for a studio that promotes this as a woman’s workout only) to exercise. These are people who may need low-impact work. Many are recovering from ski injuries, running injuries, weight lifting injuries, rotator cuff tears, osteoarthritis. I have a woman in class who broke a hip last year and barre has made her more functional in 3 months than all of her PT work over 9 months did.

    Barre was created as a hybrid of dance, pilates, yoga, and rehabilitative exercise, and it is getting a lot of people moving. In addition to the low-impact benefits of barre, many people need an additional challenge in their workouts–feeling as if they are dancing and moving to music contributes to a sense of well-being and mental stress relief for many people that simply lifting weights does not, and barre classes incorporate that through graceful arm movements and fluidity.

    To summarize, just as barre is not for everyone, nor is lifting heavy weight for everyone, and as a trainer, it would behoove you to remember that. If an exercise program is getting people off the couch and moving, and inspiring them to continue, that is something amazing. So you don’t want to offer it yourself? Then don’t. But there’s no need to discourage others.

    1. emily

      Hi Briana,
      Thank you for your reply and comment. No where in my post do I try to discourage people from taking a barre class. I really wish people would actually read my article for what it is and not what it is not. As someone who TAUGHT a barre class for almost 4 years, I know that I helped and inspired many people. The majority of the people who took my class were over the age of 35. They came from all backgrounds, all ages, all abilities. They got stronger, they moved better and most importantly they had found a class that was low impact and helped them. This was because I did MORE than just teach barre. We did split squats, push ups, deadlifts, planks….yes we did a few “barre” related exercises but most importantly, we did the strength work. This is what helped them. I NEVER marketed it as a way to lost weight or get toned, long, lean muscles and THIS IS THE ISSUE I HAVE WITH TODAY’S BARRE CLASSES AND WHY I WISH PEOPLE WOULD STOP MARKETING THESE CLASSES TO WOMEN THIS WAY. I never, ever, ever say that you should never, ever, ever take a barre class. Anything that people do is better than sitting on the couch. I agree. And if you love barre classes, take them. If you love to run, run. BUT IF YOU ARE NOT SEEING THE RESULTS YOU WANT FROM YOUR CURRENT EXERCISE PLAN MAYBE YOU NEED TO CHANGE YOUR EXERCISE PLAN. And for the love of god, please stop marketing these classes to women and promising them things that they never will achieve. You cannot make your legs longer. You cannot get long, lean muscles. It is bull shit and I wish people would stop saying these things and promoting these classes this way. THIS WAS THE POINT OF MY ARTICLE.

  19. Karla

    As a client at Fivex3 Training, I understand exactly what Emily is talking about. Emily is talking about me. I have been strength training at Emily’s gym for about 3 years?? Just before coming into the gym I had been taking a barre class for 3 months. I love the class. I thought the instructors were great. I felt pain in places I had never felt before, and I felt like I was getting a great workout. And I was completely convinced that I would get “longer, leaner muscles” because that’s what the instructors chanted in every class. It was the focus… look like a ballerina. I even invited a friend to a barre class because I was so excited about it. My friend is tiny. She is naturally thin and naturally strong. She breezed through a barre class that was extremely difficult for me after 3 months of the same workout. It became very clear to me that I had made no progress in 3 months.

    I had no expectations when I came to Fivex3. A friend invited me, and I figured I would give it a shot. Very quickly I learned the correct way to squat. My knees KILLED me during the barre class. But here I could throw a bar on my back and squat with no issues. We never talk about long, lean muscles or how we are going to look in a bikini. Our goals are related to performance. I am stronger than I have ever been, and when I tell people that I lift heavy weights they are shocked that I don’t look like a “bulky” man. I bet if I took a barre class now I would actually be strong enough to perform the movements correctly.

    I know plenty of people who love barre, and that’s great for them. It works for them. But Emily is talking about people like me. I fell for the long, lean muscle promises. The only promise that Emily makes is that if you work hard, you will get stronger. Maybe you will change the way you look along the way, but you will definitely change the way you feel.

    1. Karla

      Furthermore, at Fivex3 we do not classify people by their body shapes. We do not glorify one perfect ideal body or describe women as bulky, stocky, or manly. All body types are treated as beautiful and strong. Everyone has a lift or exercise that they do well, so no need to feel the failure of not looking like a ballerina.

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  21. Kristie Schultz

    I usually work out with weights in my garage to DVD’s, there are alot of great DVD workouts these days. I have been working out with free weights for a long time and had gotten in great shape and was strong. I recently had some work done at my house and the garage was out of commission so I decided to join a bar studio in my area. I went consistently about 5 days a week because it was so expensive and I wanted to get my money’s worth. Of course the studios claim was that the workouts covered strength and cardio and needed to be done at least 5 days a week, so I went and went. I liked it at first, a nice change, but after six months I saw no results and my cardio and strength had diminished. My garage is usable again and I am back to my home workouts of strength and cardio and am sooooo happy. That bar is not for me. Thanks for this fantastic post!!!!!!

    1. emily

      You are very welcome Kristie!!!! ;) I continue to get a lot of feedback from this post….both negative and positive. I always learn a lot from both sides! Glad to know your garage is back!!!! Got lift those heavy ass weights girl!!!

  22. Nancy

    I am in my 3rd week of barre class and just googled “is barre a good workout” because I know the long, lean muscle thing is not a real and I don’t know if it’s the best way to spend my workout time (and money!) Your post was very informative and motivating. I would like to go back to doing weights but need help and motivation. How do I find something like Fivex3? I am located in the Tampa Bay area in Florida. Any suggestions?

    1. emily

      Hi Nancy,
      Thank you for your comment!!!! Anything can get you results at first…..but if you are looking to make real improvements in your overall strength and you want to get the most out of your program, strength training is the answer! I just emailed a coach friend of mine in Florid to see if he knows a good place in Tampa Bay. In the meantime, check this place out:http://tampabayathletics.com. They seem to have what he have and much more!!!! ;) Thanks again for reading and contacting me!

  23. Christina

    Dear Emily,

    Thank you for this informative post and for expressing so well thoughts about these Barre classes. A bit of background: I took barre classes for about 5 months and then took a break for 4 months and now I’m back at it. What I like about the method: systemmatic exercises and consistency. I do not like the bucketing of body types they market: lean, ballerina type muscles. I am not lean but I am strong. I can do 40lb dumbbell lifts. Also the level of cardio in the bar method was very low compared to using a pre programmed elliptical or treadmill. Most of the people in class look straight out of the stepford wives LOL . Why do I still go? Because it is the only place of exercise close to my home. (I work and go to school, so time is of importance!)

    1. emily

      Christina!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you for your comment!!! You go because it is close to your home (and that makes sense) and you like it…nothing wrong with that!! I liked teaching my barre classes when I taught them at the dance studio. I don’t teach them now because, well, I found something that I enjoy coaching more and that helps a lot more women get stronger and get the bodies they want. ;) Strong, powerful bodies that can squat and deadlift and press weight they never thought imaginable. And you got my post…you really read it. Do it if you like it. Do it if it works for you. If it is not working for you, stop. Don’t do it thinking you will end up looking like a ballerina. Only ballerinas look like ballerinas. ;) Great comment! Good luck!

  24. Christina

    Oh Also! I don’t think I’m ever going to get a “ballerina” body! I am of south-east asian decent with an ample bum and there is no way in hell that any amount of thigh/seat work is gonna change that LOL .

  25. Amy

    I”m glad that I found this post – thank you for writing so eloquently. After few years of going to a big, commercial gym and doing “cardio” and some weight machines with little to no results (had no knowledge of heavy lifting, never touched a barbel) in my early 20s, I decided to take barre classes before my wedding – and I saw a great result (combined with dieting, of course) after 3 months of 5+/week classes. Ia hindsight, of course I saw results because I was dieting and going to those classes 5 times/week!

    I continued to take barre classes for another 3 years, but never really achieving what I wanted to look like – without the pressure of wedding and dieting, my body was not changing. And I noticed that I kept using the same weights during classes – 3lb weights, not ever going up to 5lb. So I looked elsewhere – and found few, but honest opinions posted online, just like yours. (This article is by far the most thorough and thoughtful, thank you)

    I wholeheartedly agree that their promise of “long, lean muscles” is not truthful. Barre class instructors are most of the time dancers, so they already had “dancer’s body”. It’s not from barre classes – it’s their genetics and of course, years of intense, real dancing. And most girls in the classes are naturally thin to begin with – and they start taking 5times/week bar classes and put on some muscles on their thin body – I have to say I envied them. Now I realize that I will never look like them because 1. I’m not them and I don’t have to look a certain way 2. Barre classes will not make me thinner, leaner or longer.

    Now I”m getting back to the gym and looking to start to learn how to lift heavy. Wow, it feels great – I feel stronger, refreshed and extremely rewarding – without exhausting my muscles with 100 repetitions with 2lb dumbbells.

    I loved barre classes while attended – but I think I liked the “idea” of it more. They typically have beautiful studios that make you feel pampered almost like a spa, and community feel was also a draw. It worked for me while it did, but now I’m ready to get strong for real.

    1. emily

      Wow. Amy, thank you so much for your thoughtful and honest comment in regards to my post. YOU read the article….something that some of my other “readers” who negatively commented on the post did NOT do. ;) I enjoyed teaching those classes very, very much when I taught them and I helped many people feel better. And yes, some people got “stronger” but one should not stop there. ANYTHING will work for awhile….this is true. But after awhile, things stop working and you need to stress your body differently so it will continue to grow and change. There is nothing wrong with these classes….but will they truly give you the body you want, a stronger, healthier body that can help you become a better you? I don’t know about that. Our life consists of lifting things and carrying things and sprinting to catch a bus. Why not train for LIFE? ;)

      I am so happy you enjoyed this post and it made you question….now you are getting strong. For real. ;) Thank you.

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  27. Vanessa

    i am doing the Barre method, and I am a pro Pilates teacher. Barre classes are making me much much stronger. And I enjoy becoming more “compact” instead of building more muscle. I think you are beautiful, but I would not be happy in a big muscly body. I like slipping into my 100 % cotton jeans with no spandex in them and feeling svelt like a kitty cat. Anyway- i think lifting heavy is super cool- but the physical effects are not for me.

    1. emily

      They are not for everyone. But if you want to be able to still walk upright when you are 80, I think building muscle through resistance training is the way to go. My goal is to be 90 and still able to do for myself and that means a strong body with muscle in all the right places. I am beautiful and I have a muscular frame to boot. This means more to me than fitting into a pair of jeans. Thank you for your comment. Good luck with barre!

  28. Lauren

    Thanks for the interesting perspective. I hadn’t really thought about the verbiage they use, but what you said does make sense. I did a few months of hot barre classes last year and really enjoyed it. I am planning to start again next month, but your article has inspired me to add strength/weight training to my regular workout routine. Always good to mix it up Do you think its essential for a beginner to start with a trainer to minimize risk of injury or would it be ok if I used youtube videos/DVD’s?

  29. kiki

    Hi Emily, this post is old so I hope you are still reading comments and available to answer. I just started taking Barre classes. I am about 40 pounds overweight, with a huge rack, and combined nursing of two children for about 5 years. At this point I am all hunched over. My question is, I thought that the idea of bar was to create upright carriage and good posture. My aim with taking the classes 5 days a week is sure to lose some weight and get some muscle, sure, and I am out of shape enough that it’s quite a significant cardio workout for me. Also, I’m having to lift my own body weight which is at this point at about 175, and pretty significant. But I mainly want to get really good posture. Your article has inspired me to add some heavier weight training to my routine. I am curious though if the idea of long lean muscles has more to do with upright posture and good carriage, like a dancer’s body. That’s what I consider a dancer’s body, not something like being tall and willowy like a ballerina. I’m wondering if you can advise? Thanks so much.

    1. emily

      Hi Kiki,
      My apologies for getting back to you so late. I have not been writing much these past few weeks as my sister recently died from colon cancer and my mind has been a little preoccupied. ;( Thank you for your comment and for reading the article. I think the long, lean muscles has more to do with mis-leading marketing and saying the “right thing” to women more than anything. Long is determined by your genetics. You are either tall or short. Blame your parents. ;) Lean is determined by how much fat you have – lose body fat and you will have leaner legs. Long and lean have nothing to do with how much barre work you do or don’t do. Strength training will make you stronger, build muscle and if you are eating enough protein and watching your caloric intake, you will see a change in your body composition. Your weight may stay the same or even go up, but your clothes will start to fit you differently as your body slowly changes shape due to your new weight training regimen. By getting stronger, your posture will improve as you will carry yourself differently. Pushing and pulling exercises (push ups, rows, bench presses, overhead presses) will strengthen your upper body as well as your whole body. Add in squats and deadlifts and magic happens. Barre was created to get women in the door by promising them a ballerina body because, well, I guess, a lot of women want to look like ballerinas. ;)

  30. Elizabeth

    Hi Emily,

    I’ve been doing barre classes for 3 months and I appreciated your article. Although I love the classes at barre and am nearing the end of my monthly renewal, I honestly don’t know if my body is “built” to achieve the benefits that barre promotes and am questioning if I should continue with barre. I am 48 years old, 5’5″ and in good shape but after doing barre for 3 months at 3 classes a week and cardio 2 to 3 times a week, my thighs and glutes have bulked up to the point that I can barely fit in my clothes. Needless to say, it has been very depressing. I am very conscious about what I eat and feel like I am larger than I have ever been. With that said, there have been positive aspects to barre – I am stronger, more tone, and my butt is visibly more lifted. I have read the barre sites and keep thinking I will eventually start to lean out and the bulk will go away but at a cost of $150/month, I wonder if this is actually going to happen or if three months from now, I’ll still be having the same thoughts as I have today. I have worked out since I was in college – more cardio than weights but since I turned 40, I have focused more on weights and I have seen great results, which I avoided in my earlier years where I only focused on cardio. I like the barre classes for the results they promote but after 3 months of feeling “large”, it has become an issue for me in that I am concerned to continue down the same path. I have always been strong and build muscle easily (especially thigh muscle) and although barre is not a weight lifting class, it may be just enough my body needs to bulk instead of lean. Your comments are appreciated.

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  32. Melissa

    I’m late to the game seeing this. I was actually looking up becoming an instructor when I found your site. You seem to be incredibly defensive when someone doesn’t agree with you.

    You say women should want to be strong over and over and whether you mean to or not, suggest that strength comes from one certain form of exercise- weight lifting. I know incredibly strong women who do a wide array of workouts. I believe that it is most important to have a good diet and stick to something. A lot of people would never stick to weight lifting the way they would in a barre class.

    I have been doing barre for a year now. I am also an ex dancer. I have seen incredible changes in my body. I am without a doubt much more toned. Almost every person I know has commented on the changes in my body. I do not believe there was false advertising at all, my thighs are absolutely leaner. My butt is higher. I have photos to prove it. I didn’t change a single thing about my lifestyle except for adding pure barre classes to my schedule. I don’t believe there was any false advertising. I am shocked with my results.

    You also mention barre being bad on your knees. Honestly, almost every workout out there has risks of you do it too often or have bad form, with the exception of maybe swimming. Crossfit is constantly having complains for injuries. I think it’s pretty ridiculous to say that barre is bad for you.

    Maybe your goal of the article was not to say that barre style classes are bad or wrong, but that’s absolutely how it comes off. It also comes off condescending and defensive (in the comments), which is why I will defend it back to you. Barre has changed my fitness life, and as a previous commenter mentioned, that should thrill you as an instructor. And yes, I read every single word and comment of this.

    1. emily

      Good for you!!!! I am glad that barre has changed your life. Strength training has changed my life. Thank you for your comment. Also, thank you for putting words in my mouth. I do not believe that anywhere in the article I talked about barre being bad for you knees. Did you even read my article???????? Where do I say that barre is good or bad? If if works for you, wonderful. I will keep deadlifting and squatting to get stronger.

  33. Christine

    I have read both the article Emily has written, attended a pureBarre class, and I am a ballet dancer. Kudos Emily, I concur with everything you have said. The misrepresentation of what “barre” exercise classes can do physiologically are ridiculous. I can cite numerous websites regarding the “barre” workout to obtain a “ballerinas physique” or “build” and using “dancing” exercises to obtain that look. There is no barre in “barre” fitness classes. Actually, the class I took actually contradicted my ballet training. Diet, training, and genetics are what make a ballerinas body. Ballet just utilizes the body. Ballet barre is not exercising, you also use artistry. I applaude all the woman that want to be fit, the problem is the industry that allows these exercises with claims that are unrealistic, that is concerning. I do not think that weight lifting makes anyone look “manly,” just as I do not think the women that attend “barre” fitness classes look like ballerinas. I wish everyone much success in their fitness adventures. I am telling you if you want a to go to barre, go to your local dance studio. Learn the art while achieving better posture and flexibility. Classes cost about 15 dollars for an hour and half class. Want to get strong do weight training. Don’t let marketing ploys give you false expectations of what your body should or shouldn’t look like.

    1. emily

      Thank you for your comment Christine. You summed it up perfectly: “I am telling you if you want a to go to barre, go to your local dance studio. Learn the art while achieving better posture and flexibility. Classes cost about 15 dollars for an hour and half class. Want to get strong do weight training. Don’t let marketing ploys give you false expectations of what your body should or shouldn’t look like.”

      Exactly. Get stronger by strength training. Take a ballet class for the movement quality, flexibility and better posture. Could not have said this better myself. Thank you Christine for your comment. ;)

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