The Pilates Barre Explains The Core Driven Workout

The Pilates Barre, located at 35 Danbury Road in Ridgefield, is the proud recipient of TownVibe’s Readers’ Choice Awards, earning local acclaim as best Pilates studio and best Barre studio (yes, two exercise modalities under one roof).

Myth buster: Pilates is not Barre and Barre is not Pilates

“I was genuinely surprised by the number of people who were confused that these were two different awards and it hit me that I really needed to clarify,” says Sharon McSpedon, owner of The Pilates Barre.

Today, McSpedon gets to the core of these two workout regimens

“I was originally trained in both Pilates and Barre in the late 1980's. When I opened my studio in Ridgefield in 2010 after more than 20 years of teaching, I wanted to take these two disciplines and offer classes in each separately, as well as some classes that fused them because I believe there are direct benefits of both,” she explains.  

According to McSpedon, a true expert in both Pilates and Barre, each emphasizes the importance of length and strength.  “They were both developed by athletic people partially as a means of rehabilitating themselves.  In each method there is a strong emphasis on alignment, form and mental focus connected to the movement; but make no mistake, they are very different,” she says.

McSpedon talks “Barre”

Barre classes can be truly effective for toning as the isometric movements performed help shape and define muscles.

Barre is taught in a class environment and is described as being a combination of movements and principles borrowed from yoga, Pilates and dance but Barre teachers are generally not dancers nor are they Pilates or Yoga certified.  

Barre classes can be truly effective for toning. Rather than large compound movements, you can do more reps with smaller movements - this fatigues your muscles in a different way.  Isometric movements can also strengthen muscles without straining tendons or ligaments. The method focuses on fatiguing muscles and then stretching them before moving on to the next body part. The classes are fun and simply employ small props and the ballet barre, without any further equipment to negotiate.  

McSpedon talks “Pilates”

Learning Pilates is different from Barre (or any other form of exercise) because the Pilates exercises are taught systematically, like building blocks, where you master one movement and build on it to perform a more complex or dynamic movement.

In Pilates, ideally, clients go through a neuromuscular retraining as the brain and body learn to work in synergy.  It's the number one recommended exercise protocol for anyone needing to develop abdominal and back strength and it's done privately, semi-privately and in class settings. Pilates focuses more on exercises that require full range of motion as several muscle groups work simultaneously through smooth, continuous movement.  Isometric exercises are also performed but to a lesser degree.  There is a variety of apparatus designed to challenge the body in different ways and although there is a learning curve with the equipment, it is remarkably beneficial in helping clients feel and improve upon their own muscular imbalances.  Students focus on working the entire body with an emphasis on the deep core stabilizing muscles closest to the spine.

Trained instructors, but training differs

Another thing that separates the Barre and Pilates methods is the instructor training.

We hire Barre trainers that have come out of a training that’s more than a weekend or two, preferably with lots of experience teaching although we do offer apprenticeships. Barre training can be done in a shorter period of time and doesn’t necessarily require apprentice hours, but we do, and I am always looking for teachers that can command a large room.  To be fully certified in Pilates, teachers need comprehensive training in anatomy, on the mat and all the equipment, complete observation and apprentice hours and success with written and practical tests.  This can take years and most good Pilates teachers don’t stop there but continue to educate themselves beyond certification.  

If I'm taking a Barre class, I want a teacher who is trained well, who started as a student and worked to master the method prior to training. If I'm taking a Pilates class, I want an experienced teacher who is comprehensively certified; not partially certified, and who is dedicated to the practice and has worked on a lot of bodies.  In a private or semi-private session, the more hours the instructor has had training clients prior to me, and the more quality education they've had, the better hands I’m in. For clients with specific issues, this is crucial.  In both Barre and Pilates, I want teachers who can correct form verbally and with hands on cues and motivate students while keeping the class fun and interesting.

Bringing Pilates and Barre together under one roof for solid results, but wait, there’s more...Bodhi (TRX)

The Pilates Barre is dedicated to making each person's experience safe, rewarding and beneficial.

What separates The Pilates Barre from other studios is that we have dedicated Barre teachers, dedicated Pilates teachers and teachers who are certified in both. We also have teachers certified in Bodhi (TRX). Among other combination classes, we can teach Pilates Tower classes and include standing thigh and seat work from the Barre protocol or we can combine Pilates Tower work with Bodhi suspension training (TRX) by way of the towers we designed and installed.

If you’re a Pilates, Barre or TRX newbie, an initial private session with a well-trained Pilates instructor can help you to determine your fitness needs and what class or session suits those needs. Ultimately, the nature of an individual's needs determines where they should start and what scenario is best for them in terms of classes and/or sessions. A person with recent or chronic back issues is not well suited in most cases, some of the large group class.  They may not be suited for a Barre class which often emphasizes a posterior pelvic tilt or a group Tower class that requires lumbar flexion until they have been taught modifications for certain exercises.

The goal is to give clients a range of opportunities to train in different ways that are complementary but all focus on alignment, form and core stability.


Take a peek inside The Pilates Barre by visiting their brand new, dynamic website where you can not only read about studio offerings, but watch clients taking classes and reaping the benefits of Pilates, Barre, and TRX.


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