• 2017.03.24
  • See you at the barre

No, I am not talking about meeting up for drinks. I am talking about the ballet barre which is used to workout at ‘Pure Barre’ studios. Pure Barre is a workout I stumbled upon in my neighborhood while out for a stroll. I took a look inside to learn more about it because I have never seen anything like in in The Netherlands or Japan. Interestingly, although it has over 375 locations all over the US and Canada, Pure Barre was started right here in Michigan, in Birmingham to be exact. After the looking, of course, I also had to sign up and try it for myself. Let me tell you about my experience with this unique and popular workout.

Although Pure Barre uses a barre just like ballet, the actual workout has very little to do with it. Every workout is 55 minutes and consists low impact strength training alternated with stretching to create long, lean muscles like a dancer. But don’t be deceived. This workout is very hard! I’ve done sports all my life, and I am having a hard time every time I join a class. And, it doesn’t get “easy”.


Why is that? The movements are little and designed to target just a certain muscle which starts shaking almost immediately if you do it right. So almost the entire workout, you are trying to stay in it and ignore the burn. It is challenging, but rewarding. Only a few tools are used beside the barre, namely a rubbery double tube, mostly used for stretching and adding resistance, dumbbells for lifting, a small rubbery ball for resistance between the inner thighs and a mat for floor exercises. Another important item in Pure Barre are sticky socks. The studio is carpeted and the sticky socks work really well to keep you from slipping when concentrating on a difficult pose. A portion of the workout is done standing on your toes and/or on one leg, so the extra resistance makes a difference. Personally, I really enjoy using mostly just your own body and not having to rely on heavy tools or machines to work out. Also, they switch up the routine every lesson, so you never do the same workout twice. Although some of the poses look a little silly, in general all participants are women, so no matter what direction you’re bending your body in, it is a comfortable environment to just focus on yourself and what you are doing. There is a men’s restroom in the building, but I don’t think it sees much action.


So what about results? The Pure Barre slogan is “lift, tone and burn” and that is almost exactly what it does. The workout definitely lifts your seat and tones the muscles of the thighs, abs and arms, creating a strong and lean body. For me I started to feel the difference from the 4-5th time, and I felt a lot stronger after about the 10th workout. Now, six months in (going 3-4 times a week), I really feel very good about my progress, even though I haven’t lost any weight. I might have even have gained a few pounds, but it doesn’t show because everything is just tighter, firmer, more athletic. Might I even say the extra weight might just be muscle mass? Anyway, although I would like to tell you that Pure Barre will help you lose a lot of weight, that has not been my personal experience. However, I can see that this workout will give you even greater results if combined with a healthy diet.

Besides the results, a reason for joining a Pure Barre studio is the sense of community they work at. All the instructors are very friendly, welcoming people and from time to time there are events held to bring people closer together, such as special classes, challenges and events (like going to the bar after the barre). Also, women of all ages and sizes come to workout together and it is very easy to start a conversation with the person next to you (or grunt in pain together). The instructors are very encouraging during the class saying things like “You can do it.” “You’re stronger than you think” and “All together, final ten!”, but it’s absolutely no problem if you need to take it down a nudge or take a break. Everyone is there to enjoy themselves and work hard at their own pace.

The only negative thing I have to say about it really, is that it comes with a pricetag. A single lesson is currently priced at $20,- (¥2,250) and a one month unlimited pass is $185,- (¥20,850). There are cheaper options if you want to do a two-week or month trial, but after those are finished the prices go up. The socks are about $15,- (but you can find cheaper options online) and if you would like to look the part with all your clothes from the Pure Barre brand or Lululemon, which is a very popular athletic brand here in America, your wallet will probably also start to feel the burn. However, if you like group lessons and challenging workouts, the results are there and the personal, intimate setting makes for a really pleasant experience. So, if perhaps the Pure Barre workout will also become available in Japan somewhere in the future, give it a try (and good luck on those final ten squeezes!).


  • Martha Hickey
  • JobTeacher, Illustrator

Martha was born and raised in Amsterdam but has lived in Japan for 2,5 years as part of her studies of Japanese language and culture. She is very interested in the connection between culture and communication between Dutch and Japanese people especially. Now relocated to live in Novi, Michigan, she intends to explore cultural differences amongst an even broader range.

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