Pure Barre DVD Home Workout Series

Pure Barre “Pure Results Two DVD Package” Home Workout Series

Really? A workout video reviewed by an Elevation Outdoors blogger? Is this the most uncool gear review ever? I mean, do EO readers actually care about getting their waistline bikini-ready?

That was my first thought when I received the classy, carefully packed parcel in the mail one sunny day.

Could I forfeit precious moments of my life that could be spent outside to try and achieve tight-ass perfection? I mean, I run ultra marathons; is this really necessary?

After all, I’m a fit 30-year-old girl. Not gym fit; just good ole fashioned outdoorsy fit, capable of moderately excelling at trail running, mountain biking, backcountry skiing and kayaking with a beer in my hand.

But writing this review is part of my job, so I popped in one of the packages’ two DVDs, Pure Results Feature Focus on Abs. Seconds later, iconic workout techno music pumped from my speakers.

Turn it down, I thought. Don’t let the neighbors hear.

I looked out the window. No one was there pointing and laughing. My husband wouldn’t be home for at least another hour, so I shut the blinds, pulled on my Pure Barre Signature Sticky Socks (also included in the package) and ceremoniously unrolled my yoga mat.

The Pure Barre DVD Package includes two 60-minute DVDs, Signature Sticky Socks and double tubing.

I stood in the middle of the mat and pressed the Play All button. Three extremely fit, clearly former cheerleaders beamed super white smiles into the screen, their uber peppiness forcing me to stumble backwards – good thing I had on my Sticky Socks; might have slipped otherwise.

The music faded to mere background electro-pumping sounds as the middle chick warmly welcomed me to Pure Barre, which, according to the Pure Barre website , “transforms the shape of a woman’s body in record-breaking time.”

Deemed “intelligent exercise,” Pure Barre is the “largest, most established barre franchise in the nation with more than 200 studios across the country.” While the studios feature a ballet barre, the DVD series simply provide the opportunity to burn fat, sculpt muscles and create a long, lean physique at home or on the go.

After a quick intro, my new girlfriends and I started a Warm Up. Never having partaken in a home workout series (my stepmom used to follow Denise Austin’s fitness videos, a comparable activity), I felt silly and awkward, unable to keep up with their graceful, clipped movements and the instructors’ patient commands.

While the music provided rhythm and motivation, she ever so kindly moved us through a series of small, isometric movements using phrases like “tuck,” “pulse,” and “two more minutes, you’ve got this!” I’m already thinking she’s the nicest workout lady ever.

But I don’t have a long attention span, so I return to the main menu and choose Scene Selection. A list of my troublesome womanly parts shows up on the screen: arms, thighs, abs and seat. Which would I like to focus on for 15-minutes? I click on Abs.

And you know what? That 15-minutes was not as tortuous as I thought it would be. I “shook” a little, which is a good thing, but didn’t feel debilitated or demoralized. I felt good.

So I made a pact with myself: I’d do the Abs series three to five days a week for a month and see if anything changes in my core.

Now, one month later, I have to tell you, dear EO reader, that I have some waistline definition and – gasp – even a little chiseled effect shadowing my torso. I would never say I’m bikini-ready because, well, I’m still a girl, and girls never feel like they’re totally bikini-ready. We’re ridiculous.

And I can’t say it’s solely from Pure Barre either; I do eat pretty well and it is summer, so activity levels have picked up significantly. But I really do believe that spending 15-minutes a day accountable to three women I’ll never meet but have grown to look forward to hanging out with is, overall, beneficial.

Not bad, right?

Sigh – Here goes nothing…

Price: $64.95

Includes: Two 60-Minute DVDs (One Pure Results Feature Focus on Abs & One Pure Results Feature Focus on Seat), a pair of Pure Barre’s Signature Sticky Socks, double tubing and one year HD streaming access to both workouts

Equipment Recommended: Exercise mat, set of light weights between 2-5 lbs and a stable support surface to utilize lightly for balance

General Impression: In our high-impact lifestyles, it’s nice to have low-impact options to strengthen the big muscle groups we use so much on the trail and in the water. Life is short; protect your joints, or, as Pure Barre, likes to tout, “Defy gravity by tapering everything in and lifting it up!”

The 15-Minute Barre Workout You Can Do at Home

Sumo Squat

A. 30 reps (or 1 minute) B. 15 reps (or 1 minute)

This move targets the front of the legs, hamstrings, and the seat muscles—it’s functional training at its best.Step feet out slightly wider than hips. Reach tailbone back as if you are sitting in a chair, keeping belly drawn in, spine long, and shoulders wide and down the back. Hold for 5 deep breaths.A: Bring palms to heart center as you lean back into heels and lower 1 inch. Press into heels and lift 1 inch.B: Adding on a large range of motion, press into feet to lift up to standing, drawing palms to sides. Return to squatting position.

Narrow V

This pose shapes your entire leg, especially your inner and outer thighs. Draw heels together and turn legs out so toes are about 4 inches apart in a narrow “V” position. Keeping shoulders stacked over hips, bend knees into a narrow plie. Press heels firmly together as you hover them slightly off the floor, coming onto the balls of your feet. Rest one hand on the chair for balance or bring palms together in prayer for a balance challenge. Hold for 5 deep breaths.A: Keeping your range small and controlled, lower 1 inch deeper into your plie, then lift 1 inch. B: Increasing your range of motion, drop your seat down toward your heels, then lift all the way up and squeeze your inner thighs together.

Carousel Horse

This one simple move effectively targets many muscles in the lower body, and it’s also a great balance challenge to train the core and reinforce good posture. Place palms on the chair with feet parallel and hip-distance apart. Step left foot back, bend both knees slightly into a lunge, and hold. Stack right knee directly over the ankle while left knee bends toward the floor and stays under hip. Press right foot and the ball of your left foot down evenly into the floor. Keep hips level and square, core engaged, and shoulders stacked over hips. Hold for 5 deep breaths.A: Drop left knee down 1 inch. Push into right heel and lift up 1 inch, making sure right knee stays stacked over the ankle the entire time. B: Adding on a large range of motion, drop left knee toward the floor until you find your edge. Push into right heel and lift all the way up until legs are almost straight. Repeat entire exercise, stepping right leg back.

Horse Pose

Inspired by ballet, this graceful pose works the inner and outer thighs and outer seat muscles.Take a wide step out from chair, pointing toes to 2 and 10 o’clock. Bend knees and slide down an imaginary wall. Stack shoulders over hips and engage core. Hold for 5 deep breaths.A: Lower your seat down once inch. Press into feet and lift up 1 inch.B: Adding on a large range of motion, plie down, letting right arm sweep down to your side. Press into left foot and rebound up, sweeping right arm overhead and lifting right leg out to the side as you lengthen through the right side body and lean over the chair.

Standing Seat Work

30 reps per leg

This move helps to improve balance and shape the back of the leg, seat, and core. Place hands on the chair. Sweep right foot back behind hip, lifting it a few inches off the ground until you feel your seat engage and hold. Press into left foot and think about lifting up and out of right standing hip. Engage core and lift tall through spine. Lift leg up 1 inch and lower 1 inch. Repeat, lifting left leg.

Power Leg

30 reps

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this posture—your quads will feel the burn. Facing the chair, lift heels up, bend knees, and hold. Pressing evenly through all 10 toes, keep knees in line with the middle of the toes, hips level and square, and core firm firm. Lengthen tall through your spine and relax shoulders down the back. Bend knees until you find a challenging position. Lift 1 inch, then lower.

Plank With Core Hold

30 seconds per side

Taking a traditional plank and adding a hold will heat the entire body and strengthen the core. Start in plank position, engaging thighs as you reach through heels. As you exhale, draw right knee toward chest and round your back. (Make sure that you are still pressing through your hands.) Lift abdominals toward your low back. Hold. Repeat with left leg.

Boat Pose

30 seconds

This posture will bring out your inner dancer while challenging the entire core. Sit tall on the floor with hands behind thighs. Draw legs to a table top position. As you exhale, firm core and reach arms out into a wide “V.” Hips are heavy on the floor while spine stays long and lifted, core is firm and pulling toward your low back, and shoulders are wide and down your back. Hold. (Want to take it to the next level? Straighten and extend legs.)

Thanks to our model, Tori Schelling, an instructor at Barre3 in New York City, and our friends at Lululemon for outfitting her!

Barre classes can be intimidating. There are so many little moves that can make a huge change in your body if, and only if, you do them with the right form. Luckily, Carrie Dorr, the Chief Barre Officer for PureBarre, a barre studio with more than 450 locations across the U.S., is here to help you nail your workout.

Dorr, who starts every day with meditation, says she works out for about 45 minutes a day almost every day of the week (she can’t hit every single day with three kids). She does a mix of cardio and barre, similar to the workout below.

“I love barre specifically because, out of all the fitness disciplines out there, barre really works for my body,” she says. “It makes me feel strong and flexible, fit and confident.”

Try this total-body workout series daily or a few times a week—whatever works with your schedule—to reap the major muscular benefits barre has to offer.

Tabletop

PureBarre

Targets: Gluteus maximus, hamstrings, abs, shoulder stability

How to: Put ankle weights on if you have them. Start in a tabletop position, bend right leg, flex right foot. Press heel towards ceiling slowly for 20 counts. Speed up your pace for another 20 counts. Then extend your right leg straight back, flex your foot, and lift your leg up and down a few inches for 20 counts. Speed up your pace for another 20 counts. Repeat three times, then switch sides. (Torch fat, get fit, and look and feel great with Women’s Health’s All in 18 DVD!)

Kneeling Rotation

PureBarre

Targets: Gluteus minimus, hip rotators, abs, obliques

How to: Put ankle weights on if you have them. Start in a tabletop position, extend your right leg straight out to your right side with your toes pointed. Rotate your right hip forward very slightly, then return for 20 counts. Then lift your leg up and down a few inches for 20 counts. Bright your right leg behind you on a diagonal angle, and rotate your right hip forward slightly for 20 counts. Then lift your leg up and down a few inches for 20 counts. Repeat three times, then switch sides.

Want more? Try these 12 barre-inspired exercises:

Wide Second Sliders

PureBarre

Targets: Quads, hamstrings, gluteus maximus and minimus, abs

How to: Place sliders or towels under your feet. Hold on to a support (like a barre if you’re at the gym or just your wall at home) with your left hand and bring your feet to a wide second position. Flex your feet on the sliders or towels and slowly squat up and down just a few inches for 20 counts. Then squat into a deeper position and lower up and down a few inches at a faster tempo for 20 counts. Stand up and press your right leg out straight to the side, foot flexed. Keeping your right leg straight, slowly squat up and down just a few inches for 20 counts. Then squat into a deeper position and lower up and down a few inches at a faster tempo for 20 counts. Repeat three times, then switch sides.

Related: 5 Women Share Exactly How They Totally Transformed Their Butts

Inchworms

PureBarre

Targets: Heart rate, gluteus maximus and minimus, biceps, triceps, abs

How to: Place sliders or towels under your feet. Start in a straight-arm plank and hold for 10 counts. Pull your knees toward your chest and press back out to plank for a slow 10 counts. Then slide your legs out wider than your hips and return to your plank for a slow 10 counts. Once you feel comfortable, add a slow pushup as your legs go out. Repeat three times.

Related: I Took Plank Breaks at Work Every Day for a Month—This Is What Happened

Side Plank To Crunch

PureBarre

Targets: Obliques, abs

How to: Start in a forearm side plank with your left arm down, your right hand behind your head, your right leg leg bent and planted in front of you, and your left leg floating a few inches. Hold for 10 counts, then lift your leg up and down a few inches for 20 counts. Then pull your left knee forward, bringing your right elbow to your left knee so you’re in a side crunch. Hold for 10 counts, and return to starting position, doing 10 crunches. Repeat three times, then switch sides.

I am super excited to finally bring you my personal opinion and review of the Pure Barre Pure Results Online Workout (with featured focus on thighs) today!

Before we get to the review, let’s bring you up to date on all things Pure Barre first.

My Pure Barre History:

I began taking Pure Barre studio classes in 2014 and fell in love with the non-impact routine immediately.

I never loved strength training and favored running over anything else so finding Pure Barre was the perfect complement to my workout routine. I experienced an increase in my strength (especially my core), a noticeable difference in my balance/flexibility and a leaner appearance in my muscles pretty quickly.

Pure Barre definitely lives up to their tag line of lift, tone and burn!

The stretching segments (a nice mix of yoga and pilates) were so needed in my life that I am not really sure how it is I ran so much before incorporating Pure Barre into my workout routine on a regular weekly basis.

Pure Barre Benefits For Runners:

  • Non-impact full body workout to strengthen core, abs, arms, legs and seat
  • Strength training without overdoing it
  • Cross Training
  • Stretching
  • Works to improve your stability and balance

All of this helps to prevent injury!

How I Got Started With Pure Barre From Home:

After taking several Pure Barre studio classes two years ago, I switched over to mostly at-home Pure Barre workouts (DVD”s and online workout options) for two main reasons:

The price. Pure Barre classes in the studio can be expensive.

While I do think it’s worth taking several in-studio classes in order to understand the routine with guidance from the instructors so you understand the positioning, the price can really add up if you want to continue with Pure Barre on a super regular basis.

Convenience. Getting to the studio is not always easy for me timing wise.

I love having the option to do a Pure Barre workout at home whenever I feel like it. The flexibility of at home workouts works really well if you have kids, time constraints or weather issues like snowstorms when you can’t leave the house!

What you need for the Pure Barre Pure Results online workout:

  • Internet Access
  • Free weights ( I use 3 or 5 lb weights)
  • Wall, ledge or support (like a chair)

Optional:

  • Yoga Mat < – I don’t use one since my living room is carpeted
  • Sticky Socks < – I don’t always wear the socks
  • Red Ball < – Not necessary for this workout at all but sometimes I use it to support my back during the ab section

Once you purchase an online workout, you have access for one year.

I subscribed to this Pure Results workout over the summer so it has been a part of my weekly routine for a few months.

This Pure Barre Pure Results workout with featured focus on thighs is 55 minutes in length which is the same length of time as an in-studio class.

It follows the usual Pure Barre class structure although it incorporates additional thigh exercises throughout the workout rather than just during the thigh portion of the class.

The warm up is typical but you will notice the subtle addition of thigh work, even in the planks.

The arm section is easy to follow and also incorporates slight pulses to the legs which is one of the ways they sneak in the additional thigh work.

I must admit that I was nervous to order this Pure Barre workout because a focus on thighs scared me! Some of the Pure Barre thigh exercises can burn real bad (or good, depends on how you see things) and I was nervous I would dread the workout.

Boy was I was in for a pleasant surprise. I never expected this Pure Results workout to become my favorite!

I think the reason I really like this workout is because the focus on thighs is gradually integrated throughout the workout rather at all at one time in the routine. The thigh positions are also easy to maneuver as they are not weird and twisty as some exercises can be.

I enjoy the burn from the various thigh exercises (lots of inner and outer thigh work) in this online workout and can feel myself getting stronger each week that I do them.

I am not shaking like I was the first few times I did this workout which tells me I am getting stronger.

By the time we get to the seat portion of the workout, I can definitely feel the fatigue in my legs though!

The ending section of ab work doesn’t feel too long. You really work your core and abs in Pure Barre between the warm up and ab section but this workout doesn’t feel dragged out which is a plus!

I will admit that the bridge position at the end of the workout also known in Pure Barre as back dancing, feels extra challenging in this workout because you lift one leg at a time as you lower and lift your hip.

It’s nice that they offer a modification here because lifting one leg at a time is not easy!

Overall Thoughts:

I definitely recommend this online Pure Barre workout. You can’t go wrong for the price and access that you have for a year. Since it’s online, you can do it anywhere that you are able to sign in to your Pure Barre account.

The instructor who leads the workout doesn’t annoy me and offers you modification ideas for just about every sequence.

One thing I do wish is that the online workouts had marker points so that you could easily find each section should you want to skip around. The DVD’s have that option.

Answers to Common Pure Barre Questions:

Can I run the same day as a Pure Barre workout? Yes, you can, but I do find that Pure Barre can fatigue my legs. For this reason, I only run the same day as Pure Barre if the run is an easy/recovery/short run.

I save speed work days for non-Pure Barre days.

Can I do Pure Barre on back-to back days? Yes, you can. I found however that my muscles much prefer an every other day approach but there are times where I do it on consecutive days.

Is the routine hard to follow if I have never done it before? I recommend taking a Pure Barre in studio class before ordering the DVD’s or trying an online workout. I think it’s best, as I described in this post, for the instructor to walk you through some of the moves in advance of the class and correct your form the first few times.

Do you get more of a workout out of the longer Pure Barre workouts than the shorter workouts? While the in studio classes are 55 minutes each, I find that I can get a great Pure Barre workout done in less time with some of the shorter options. Some of the Pure Barre DVD’s that I use are 35 and 45 minutes long and feel very complete in terms of workout experience. I also enjoy the Tone in 10 workouts because you can target specific areas in a short amount of time.

Pure Barre Reviews of Interest:

Pure Barre Platform < – I took this cardio version of Pure Barre in the studio over the summer

Pure Barre Pure Results (focus on seat) < – My second most popular post ever on the blog!

Pure Barre Tone in 10 Review < – You know I love the Tone in 10 Series!

Pure Barre From Home < –Goes more in-depth about the DVD’s that I use regularly

UPDATE: Please see my most recent Pure Barre review, Pure Barre On Demand!

reviewing the Pure Barre Pure Results online workout today! #purebarre @pure_barre #workouts #barre #crosstrain #runner

Are you a fan of barre classes?

Do you like at home workouts or do you stick to the studio classes?

Favorite way to cross train?

Does Pure Barre Work? Getting Fit with Barre Classes

According to their website, Pure Barre is a “total body workout that uses the ballet barre to perform small, isometric movements, which burn fat, sculpt muscles and create long, lean physiques.” We’ll get into my experience with the classes and my overall fitness impressions, but first a little background.

After I went undercover at Orangetheory, Crossfit, and BODYPUMP, I received a few emails asking my opinion of Pure Barre and I apologize for it taking me this long to get to it. I finally signed up for two Pure Barre classes: the Classic class and the Empower class. Both of which left me shaky and sweaty.

What Is a Barre?

First things first, for those of you who didn’t grow up doing some sort of dance class or other and also managed to escape watching TV shows like “Fame” or “Bunheads,” let’s clarify what exactly a barre (not a bar) is.

It’s pretty simple actually. The barre is a horizontal pole (usually wooden, like a staircase banister) that runs at waist level on which ballet dancers rest a hand (or a foot) for support during exercises. The barre usually runs along a wall (often a mirrored wall) but can also be free standing in the middle of the room. Got it? Good.

Signing Up to Pure Barre

Right off the bat, I have to hand it to Pure Barre for having an easy to use website and a reasonable introductory offer. Unlike Orangetheory though, which offered a free trial that easily got turned into two free trials, I did have to pay for my classes. But $21 for a full week of unlimited sessions isn’t bad and honestly, during my first class, I was so busy making sure that I was doing the exercises correctly that I didn’t have time to form a solid opinion.

I was happy that I took some time the night before my first class to do some reading up on Pure Barre etiquette. The fact that you can’t wear shorts to the classes threw me for a bit of a loop. I run hot. And that means I sweat a lot. Which means, I like to workout in shorts and a tank top. I do own some running pants that I wear in the winter (occasionally) but for my first class I actually ended up wearing some woollen longjohns that I usually wear under my snow pants while skiing or snowshoeing. So yeah, I was a sweaty mess. Sorry ladies.

Are Men Allowed at Pure Barre?

Which leads me to a quick point that I would like to make. I was the only dude in the class and although the website’s FAQ section makes it clear that men are absolutely welcome, the Our Story page on the same website actually states “At Pure Barre, women share a sense of community in which they are inspired and empowered by each others’ fitness and lifestyle goals.” Which I am 100 percent in favor of—the empowerment of women is something we need more of, inside and outside of the gym—but I may have felt a little more sheepish about intruding on their space had I read that before I attended class. Again, sorry ladies.

In any case, I arrived in my longjohns and socks (they also insist that you wear socks) ready to rock. Our instructor was a friendly young woman who quickly got our waivers signed, the basics covered (where the cubbies and bathrooms were), and for my first class called the Classic Workout, equipped us with a medium-sized ball, a double resistance tube, and some comedically small dumbbells (two, three, or five pounds). I opted for the fives and did not regret it. For my second class, the Empower Workout, we skipped the tube and ball and instead picked up some small risers and ankle/wrist weights.

Similar to the beginning of a yoga class we were told to find a spot on the (oddly carpeted) floor with enough room to swing our arms out to the sides. The music was switched on and we began the workout.

The Pure Barre Workout

I won’t bore you (and potentially violate some non-disclosure agreement) by taking you through each workout blow-by-blow, but I will sum them up.

  • A brief but effective full-body warm-up.
  • Some upper body isometrics, with and without the tiny weights.
  • Some upper body exercises, with and without the weights done in small muscle pulses.
  • Some core work (planks, side bends, and crunches).
  • Some lower body isometrics in the middle of the room and at the barre.
  • Some lower body exercises in the middle of the room and at the barre again, done in pulses.
  • Some short stretching (mostly the legs).
  • Finishing with some ab work (mostly crunches).

Despite the fact that the movements were small, I was using muscles that haven’t been awakened in years! Or perhaps ever.

My first comment is that for a workout program that has the word “barre” in the title, we spent less than half of the workout at the actual barre. My second comment is that I am glad we didn’t spend more time at the barre! Despite the fact that the movements were small and mostly of the isometric or small pulsing variety, I was using muscles that haven’t been awakened in years! Or perhaps ever.

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Pure Barre’s tortured purity: The punishing feminine ideal behind tucking, burning and embracing the shake

“Your ankles are showing,” I overhear one instructor say to another on an April Saturday in Los Angeles.

The ankle-barer laughs, all leggings and self-awareness. It’s true.

Her colleague is not the only to notice. At Pure Barre, covered legs are de rigueur. A chalkboard announcing studio rules prohibits legwear cut above the knees. Most “Barrebies” wear their exercise tights—studios sell pricy celeb-favorites like Alo and Beyond Yoga—pulled down over the heel of the foot so what sticks out is the toe of black sticky socks. These socks are akin to hospital wear. They’re $15 a pair, with dotted treds on the bottom and the words Pure Barre on top. I have pairs with turquoise, hot pink, and periwinkle dots.

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Founded in 2001 in Michigan where dancer/choreographer/lawyer Carrie Rezabek Dorr taught ballet-inspired Pilates classes, the Pure Barre brand—“it’s more than a workout; it’s a lifestyle”—includes a clothing line, a DVD workout series, and more than 300 studios. For the past seven months, I’ve “embraced the shake” and “tucked” in two time zones, with at least eight instructors. I like the workout—I’m the sort of adult exerciser who’s still overcompensating for years of pallid performance in Phys. Ed., so group fitness always motivates me: I work hard, I show up. Recently, a friend and I passed a yoga studio; I have so many class cards I never use, my friend confessed. Mentally, I high-fived myself and thought, that’s so not me.

But is Pure Barre so me? Though I’m at the studio four or five days a week, I’m not sure. Before class, I bring my equipment—a red tube and a set of dumbbells and a red Pure Barre playground ball—to a spot on the carpet and try not to make eye contact with anyone in the mirror. What is a resting face supposed to do, I wonder. I stretch, I examine my nails, I pick lint off my socks. I look at the rushed job I did shaving: my ankles always show.

***

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The more I “lift, tone, and burn” (L.T.B. is written on the chalkboard, along with warnings about bare feet and exposed navels) the more I wonder what effects these workouts are having on my mental health. Pure Barre cultivates sameness, a one-size fits all model of long, lean lady-strength. It’s no coincidence we all wear the same socks.

Pure Barre promotional photos feature women my age, somewhere between twenty- and thirty-something. They’re all white, all tank-topped, all with the same trim body-type: toned but not overtly muscular. A recent Tweet on Employee Appreciation Day shows a cluster of five, smiling white women—even their hair is parted the same direction. The Corporate Team appears to be all white; the faces in the photo collage at the top of the same page are mostly white. The only acceptable bodily variation seems to be a baby bump (a baby from which you must bounce back). The only distinctly non-white face I could find on Pure Barre’s Instagram page was in a post-class shot from a studio in Auburn, VA. (It’s May—I had to scroll back to February to find her.)

Strange—in a Stepford-wives-under-our-noses way—and also damaging. I’m troubled by how that imagery interacts with the brand’s language, or what Harriet Brown, author of “Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive Our Obsession with Weight–and What We Can Do about It,” calls the “‘insider’ speak … that creates a sense of community among students/members, but that anyone who’s not part of the community is ‘other,’ ‘impure.’”

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It turns out, bared ankles and banned midriffs are just the tip of Pure Barre’s purity iceberg, and that iceberg is one big, outmoded stereotype of womanhood. When we lean our red, Pure Barre-emblazoned mats against the mirrored walls and focus on our upper abs, the instructor tells us, “It should feel like you’re being punched in the gut.” (Shaping the female body demands self-abuse.) During warm-ups, we “diamond out” our legs. (Let’s remember our wedding rings, BTBs.) We crunch, “back an inch, up an inch” and then “it’s one squeeze of the thighs, one tuck of the hips.” Sometimes we spend almost half the class in these exaggerated chastity poses. “Our plumbing hates your time of the month as much as you do,” reads a sign hung over the toilet at my current studio. Does the pureness of Pure Barre stem from erasing what’s in-between our legs? Is it inconceivable that someone sporting a tank that says “MY THIGHS ARE HUNGOVER” might have neutral feelings about menstruation?

But no word in the PB lexicon is as codified and in-spoken as “tuck.” Tucking might be the brand’s most pervasive move—and the most implicitly body-shaming. The word “tuck” comes from the Old English tūcian: to punish, ill-treat. In Pure Barre, we tuck it out, from side to side, tuck right, tuck left. Depending on your position, that can involve anything from tucking the hips under (dropping your tailbone is key) to tucking your navel toward your spine, a contraction of the lower abs. The only time we’re not tucking is during final stretch. The goal is to tuck until your abdominal muscles quiver.

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If the tuck is Pure Barre’s butter, “embrace the shake” is their bread. “We’re looking for that shake zone,” the instructor says. Like a squad of legginged cheerleaders, we move in formation, kneeling, blank gazes facing the center of the room, our legs a fist’s distance apart, “while we burn out the tops of the thighs.” Sometimes we hinge at the waist, a fist pump frozen in the air. We’re looking for that shake when we stand “on highest tippy toes, heels, knees, thighs glued together,” and pulse down for two and up for two because “shaking is where the change happens.”

I have injured hips—I noted this on the questionnaires I filled out on my first trips to both Pure Barre studios. My hips are tight (“youch,” my physical therapist would say when he strapped himself into a seatbelt contraption to work on them), plagued with tendonosis from overdoing Ballet Beautiful exercises (Butt Series 1 and 2) from 2012 to 2014. Any intensive lower body engagement causes my legs to quiver at hummingbird-speed.

“Great shake right away,” the instructor tells me when we begin seat work. Sometimes we hinge over the barre, softening the standing leg and lifting the other (with a three-quarter bend and a soft foot or hip turned-out and foot flexed). “We’re slenderizing that side seat” or “we’re working our Pure Barre ledge, where the crease of your seat meets the top of your thighs.”

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My hips cringe during seat work, so maybe that’s what leads me to start poking holes—“dime-sized holes,” like the “dime-sized circles” I’m supposed to be making with my foot—in the PB dogma. Does anyone else in class hear “dime-sized” and think of the slang (to describe a woman, not a bag of drugs)? Does a dime-sized woman need to cut her movements in half and strive constantly for a narrower seat? Are all seats meant to look the same? Doesn’t each seat have its own character? And are they all supposed to shake the same? Is embracing the shake really the secret to strength? And is strength predicated on the desire to change? Is it impure (or lazy or weak) to want the body I’ve got?

Potentially. Harriet Brown thinks “there’s a fundamental confusion at the heart of programs like this. On the one hand they promote fitness, which is a fine concept. On the other hand there’s nearly always an unspoken (or maybe it’s spoken?) goal of weight loss, visible abs, etc.” Participants are encouraged to be strong, she says, “but not too strong? Strong but not strong enough to challenge certain cultural conventions? Which somehow seems almost worse than more overtly homogenous spaces or practices. At least with foot binding you know where you stand.”

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In middle school, I was obsessed with The Limited Too. I spent hours picturing how great I would look wearing leggings and one of their sweatshirts. The fabric was sumptuous, the length (butt-covering) just right, the styles (one navy variety with red plaid block letters still comes to mind) perfectly preppy-chic, I told my mother, but really I wanted the name and the social status I hoped it would bestow on me. All the popular girls wore The Limited Too. You could tell by theirs chests.

“Fifty dollars?” my mother balked. “No way.” Then she echoed my dad. “You want to be a walking billboard?”

I do, I thought then, though now I’m more conflicted. I pause when I see, “Thanks for my Pure Barre booty,” on another chalkboard (the studios favor a Pottery Barn-brand of rustique) during Teacher Appreciation Week. There’s something “Invasion of the Bodysnatchers” about the whole enterprise: We will all squeeze a little red ball and march in black stockinged feet. We will all bounce back from baby. We will all aspire to the same ass. Is that community?

Beneath the guise of fitness and self-improvement is Pure Barre’s body negativity. Your side seat is meant to be slenderized. And that may be what’s just so addictive about the brand’s particular strain of antifeminism, which Brown describes as “layered, which is why it’s so difficult to characterize. On the surface there’s nothing more feminist than strong women. But it all depends on your definition of strong. And theirs is quite complicated and not entirely empowering.”

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The strong woman can push through that shake (and embrace it). “You came here because you wanted to change your body,” my Pure Barre instructor says in the middle of a grueling set of bridges—and I can’t disagree with her. Even if I’m not one of the women penning glowing PB reviews on blogs or YouTube, I’m part of the group, what Brown terms “a community of people who all want to ‘change their bodies’ … women who are all invested in the notion that the female body is a perpetual project. If you buy in to this idea, you’re one of the group; if not, you’re not.”

Perhaps my growing ambivalence about this project foments my isolation before class begins and I have to confront my own body and the dissatisfaction I still harbor toward it. I have to accept my culpability in this feeling—I have to embrace the shake—the shake of comparison, the shake of wanting to look skinny in my black tights, the shake of obsession, the shake of self-flagellation.

Perpetuating this notion of conditional self-worth is dangerous, of course. It invites the attitude to infect other parts our lives and allows the body to become a site of retribution. In a Dudes Digest article titled “True Life: I Went To Pure Barre and It Was Fucking Miserable,” TheeMattB recounts his grueling experience attending a class. “My fiancee keeps looking at me and smiling. Borderline laughing. Can’t wait till she’s pushing out our child between her legs. I will be standing over her with a shit eating grin on my face.”

Sucks for you, the douchebag above seems to say, and sucks for you, says the weak part of me who can’t rid herself of the desire to lift and tuck her way into a new body even as I know I’m setting myself up for failure. When we conflate fitness with self-loathing, Brown observes, “we throw that moral overlay over the entire experience, so we’re … ‘good’ if we ‘get stronger’ and lose weight and ‘bad’ if we don’t. Also, maybe more importantly, it sets up an outside standard for our basic feelings of self-worth and self-efficacy. So instead of being able to follow our own internal cues—whether they’re around hunger or exercise—we assess ourselves according to the program’s criteria. And judge ourselves harshly, usually.”

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So despite my lingering hip pain, I keep going to class. I tell myself Pure Barre hasn’t exacerbated the condition. My tendonosis hasn’t worsened, but for the most part my body is the same. I don’t have a transformation story, like the kind on the PB website, where “every tuck tells a story.” I’m ashamed of that. It’s like the fitness gods can tell I haven’t fully subscribed. What I’m not ashamed of, though, is having my eyes open. You can’t help but see the other women working out around you during class. And when I watch them—none of them exactly like me, all older and younger, bodies larger and smaller, and, despite the misleading photos, with skins of many colors—and think about everything unsaid, all the mixed messages and aims we’re trying tuck toward, that’s when, for a second, I feel completely different and strong.

5 Brands Every Pure Barre Addict Loves

Every girl who takes Pure Barre or another Barre class on the regular is slightly obsessed with the clothing their studio carries. I personally have taken Pure Barre for over two and a half years now, and ever since I took my first class I became not only obsessed with the workout but also the clothing that came along with it. Owning my first pair of Splits 59 Raquel leggings was a dream and trying on Beyond Yoga spacedye for the first time felt like butter on my skin. Here are the five brands that every barre addict knows and loves:

Splits 59

Their Raquel flare yoga pants and Loren bra are essential. The material is thick, but not thick in a way that will make class miserably hot, and will ware perfectly without stretching out over time.

Alo Yoga

Alo Yoga is known for their cutting edge designs and patterns. Their goddess leggings will make your legs look a mile long and their airbrush leggings come in no joke 20 colors/prints.

Emi Jay

While Emi Jay is mostly known for their hair accessories (which are the bomb). They also have a collection of tank tops and t-shirts that have catchy phrases on them like “Barre Addict”, “Messy Buns and Getting Stuff Done”, and “Work Hard, Play Harder”. Bonus: their hair ties don’t leave a dreadful crease in your hair.

Beyond Yoga

Beyond Yoga may have the softest leggings in the athleisure universe. Their space dye leggings are to die for and their collaborations with Kate Spade perfectly merge the worlds of pinks, bows, and work out gear.

Lululemon

Because every girl who workouts/takes barre/loves athleisure ware loves Lululemon. Their leggings, tank top, and bras are simply amazing.

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