In choosing the best pilates bar, one must first decide whether the pilates exercises of interest are best served by using a ballet-style barre, or a weighted body bar. Once the bar type has been matched to the exercise program desired, important considerations include adjustability and flexibility of the equipment, whether the equipment will fit in the space allowed, and ease of storage. Additional considerations include the quality of any accompanying instructional material.
There are two categories of exercise equipment that can be referred to as a pilates bar: an anchored bar, also commonly known as a ballet bar, and a weighted bar, also known as a body bar. Each of these types of pilates bars supports a different set of exercises. The first step in choosing a pilates bar, therefore, is deciding which set of pilates exercises you are most interested in performing.
The first category of pilates bar is a stand-alone or wall-mounted bar that is identical to a ballet barre. A ballet barre supports a series of standing pilates exercises and stretches that have been developed to follow core pilates principles. Standing pilates exercises conducted at a barre are often referred to collectively as the bar method.
If a standing pilates barre method workout is desired, there are several considerations when choosing an appropriate pilates bar. A ballet-style bar can either be free-standing or anchored to the wall. While a free-standing barre is heavier, takes up more space, and can be a challenge to fold-up and store, it is portable and can thus be used anywhere in the house. A wall-anchored barre takes up much less space and doesn’t need to be stored, however it must be anchored very securely, which can be difficult in many homes. Anchoring a barre to a wall also means that the barre must always be used in that location.
To choose among different types of ballet-style pilates bars, it is also useful to consider each bar’s overall weight, portability, and ease of folding and storage. It is helpful to know where the bar will be kept and choose a bar that will fit in that location. The range of working heights of the bar is also important, so that the bar can be set at the appropriate height for the individuals who will be using it. Some portable ballet barres include attached flooring or mats, and it is useful to consider whether such flooring will be useful.
The second category of exercise equipment that can be called a pilates bar is a weighted bar similar to that used in bench pressing exercises. Also commonly called a body bar after the original BodyBar®, this style of pilates bar can be used to add weight or balance to mat pilates exercises. Body bars are available in a variety of lengths and weights, and some include attachments for resistance bands, which allow for an even larger set of exercises to be performed. This style of pilates bar is usually constructed of steel and coated in a rubber material.
When choosing a body bar, it is most useful to determine the length and weight desired. Some bars are adjustable, and thus choosing an appropriate range of size and weight is necessary. Other considerations include whether the body bar can be taken apart into smaller pieces for storage, and whether there are attachment points for resistance bands. The ability of a body bar to be adjustable is usually considered beneficial, although such adjustability can sometime make the equipment less sturdy over long periods of time. A final consideration regarding body bars is the type of grip material and positioning on the bar, since grip type can affect comfort.
A final consideration when purchasing a pilates bar is whether instructional material is supplied with the equipment. The quality of video or written instructions or workouts can impact how well and how often the equipment is used. Reviews or samples of any instructional material can often be found where the equipment will be purchased.