I'm a fitness writer who loves strength training. This is why I prefer this 15-minute barre routine to most of the Pilates workouts I've tried

Barre workouts like this one are great for improving muscle mass

Fitness writer Alice Porter performs a barre workout in a gym
(Image credit: Alice Porter)

I've been training with dumbbells and barbells for years and I swear by strength work for building muscle and keeping me fit. I've also recently started experimenting with Pilates, a type of bodyweight workout that focuses on small, controlled movements.

While Pilates is great for targeting underused muscles and improving posture, I find it doesn’t provide a sufficient challenge to help me build full-body strength. I need to use heavy weights in order to do this.

However, I recently came across a video from yoga and barre instructor Mara Cimatoribus that seemed to combine these two training styles. It's a barre routine, which is a type of exercise inspired by ballet. Like Pilates, it focuses on slow, controlled movements, but this particular routine incorporates dumbbells. I was intrigued by the 15-minute workout and decided to try it for myself.

How to do Mara Cimatoribus' Barre workout

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There are eight exercises in this routine and I repeated each one 8-12 times. You'll need a pair of dumbbells to do it, ideally a heavier pair and a lighter pair. You can pick up a great pair of spinlock adjustable dumbbells on Amazon for less than $50, which can be tweaked to suit your fitness level.

Why I preferred this barre routine to a standard Pilates workout

Fitness writer Alice Porter performs a barre workout in a gym

(Image credit: Alice Porter)

Pilates routines can make my muscles burn and provide an endurance challenge, but they rarely help me build strength. This barre routine incorporated a pair of relatively heavy weights, spomy strength was challenged from the get-go and I had to push myself to complete all the repetitions. It's easy to imagine coming back to this routine and increasing the weight and building strength over time.

The session still followed some of the principles of Pilates (like moving slowly and engaging my core) so it helped me work on posture and coordination, specifically with moves like the three-point push-up and the side-plank crunch with hip taps.

The workout incorporated the things I like most about both styles of my training: strength building and controlled endurance work.

Overall, I think Pilates and barre are both great ways to move your body. But if your goal is to increase muscle mass, this type of barre workout might be the better—it’s certainly one I'll revisit.

Alice Porter
Freelancer Writer

Alice Porter is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle topics including health, fitness and wellness. She is particularly interested in women's health, strength training and fitness trends and writes for publications including Stylist Magazine, Refinery29, The Independent and Glamour Magazine. Like many other people, Alice's personal interest in combining HIIT training with strength work quickly turned into a CrossFit obsession and she trains at a box in south London. When she's not throwing weights around or attempting handstand push-ups, you can probably find her on long walks in nature, buried in a book or hopping on a flight to just about anywhere it will take her.