Calories Burned During a Bar Method Class: Why it’s Not a Zero-Sum Game


One of the most commonly asked questions I get at the Bar Method is how many calories you burn during a workout. No scientific assessments of caloric burn-rate in Bar Method classes have yet been done, but here’s what I can tell you based on burn rates of comparable exercise techniques. A 125-pound woman in good shape burns about 350 calories with the Bar Method DVD workouts (and closer to 400 calories in a beginning/intermediate studio class due to the faster pace). In addition, Bar Method workouts give an approximately 100-calorie additional post-workout burn-off from the build-up of lactic acid.

Advanced classes burn more, as a Bar Method student named Kristen reported a few years ago. “I wore my heart rate monitor for a couple of level two classes, and burned almost 500 calories [per class];” she said. “I burn about 600 on an hour long run.” Another student, a guy who took his first class wearing a heart rate monitor, told me he burned 800 calories. Students in other bar fitness classes who wore calorie counting devices reported burn-offs of between 136 and 701 calories.

Heart Rate MonitorThe variation in these numbers is due to differences in these students’ body size, gender, age, muscle mass, level of fitness, when they last ate, the level of the class, their familiarity with the workout, etc. Another reason for the variation in results is the heart rate monitors themselves. As one researcher wrote, “All caloric expenditure information that you read off of a heart monitor or an exercise machine like a treadmill or indoor bike, are estimates of calories spent and usually not very accurate.”

Nevertheless people are fascinated by the idea that we can make a zero-sum game of calories in/calories out, but in practice, this approach may not live up to all the interest it generates. If we could actually tweak our caloric intake and outtake by measuring it – even if heart rate monitors were 100% accurate — it wouldn’t matter how many extra calories we burned in a particular workout. As long as we burn at least some additional calories, they’d add up, and we’d lose weight sooner or later. The truth is, weight loss doesn’t routinely result from exercise, not because of our inability to measure calories “out,” but because of our inability to control calories “in.” The real culprit is, in a word, food. Our deep attachment to this substance has ways of tricking us into refueling after we work out in spite of our intentions. Consider two of food’s lesser strategies for getting us to eat:

Your Moment Dove commercialFood as pleasure: Many people grow to expect a certain amount of pleasure from food, apart from their need to satisfy their hunger, so that it becomes an entitlement. We ate dessert as children and through sheer habit feel we warrant it indefinitely. TV commercials play to this mindset by showing us beautiful young women eating candy as if it contained the secret of happiness.

StarbucksFood as comfort: The comforting feeling food gives us can serve an emotional sedative. In the new movie “No Strings Attached” Natalie Portman, when upset with her love life, wolfs down three boxes of donut holes. Donut holes are 220 calories each, and let’s say there are six of them per box. That would mean that she’d be consuming almost 4,000 calories, two days worth of fuel, to make herself feel better (great movie by the way – except that it was hard to believe that Natalie Portland’s size zero character ever ate an excess calorie in her life).

If these emotional addictions to food don’t do the trick of seducing us into replacing our calories just burned off, food pulls out its big guns, namely hunger pangs. After an intense workout, hunger will scream at you to replace those calories. Even if you succeed in resisting the Starbucks Venti White Chocolate Mocha (630 calories), you might distractedly go for a second helping at dinner or an extra piece of the birthday cake served at the office, all devoured before you put much thought into doing so.

The good news in this state of affairs is that exercise absolutely will change your body dramatically if you commit to it for the long term. Numerous studies made of people over decades have found that those who lead sedentary lives tend to gain weight from age 30 – 60 while those who exercise stay lean and youthful. Other research found that exercise performed regularly has appetite-suppressing qualities.

I’d like to add that Bar Method workout in particular includes a few additional features that help you lose weight and keep it off.

  • It builds dense muscle mass in our large muscle groups. Dense muscles increase metabolic rate, plus make us feel more energetic and less in need of sweet pick-me-ups throughout the day.
  • It boosts confidence and mental toughness, strengthening our ability to make resolutions and follow through on them.
  • It rewards us for leaning down because the exercises are more doable the lighter you get. Over time, students learn on a visceral level that fewer pounds translate into more ability to get through the workout.
  • It gives us beautiful bodies that become a source of continual positive feedback for staying lean.

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None of these weight-control techniques involve calculating calories but there is plenty of evidence that they work. Thousands of Bar Method students have transformed their bodies, and hundreds have written in to tell us about it.

18 replies
  1. Patti
    Patti says:

    Love this post. As a former 20 year owner of an aerobic exercise studio and a high intensity exercise class devotee, I can say there is NOTHING like The Bar Method.

    This class makes women pretty on the outside and the inside. It sculpts, tones, lifts and lengthens in all the right places. It also builds a centered, strong and calm feminine spirit. Another bonus is it does not beat up your face!

  2. Candy
    Candy says:

    Just turned 60, addicted to bar method for years, and I concur with everything said in the blog. Strutting my stuff in a string bikini in O’ahu, thank you Burr!!!

  3. The Get In Shape Girl
    The Get In Shape Girl says:

    I always recommend my clients bring a protein shake (just protein to add water) for right after our workouts. It helps muscles recover and keeps their eyes from wondering to the Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks they drive past on their way home. I do agree, while strength training and cardiovascular training are important, many people can lose weight just by consuming less calories. That just goes to show those calories are the culprit!

  4. Bar Method Headquarters
    Bar Method Headquarters says:


    Thanks for the “LOVE” and for being such a die hard fan. We always celebrate a “centered, strong and calm feminine spirit.”

    The Bar Method Headquarters

  5. Bar Method Headquarters
    Bar Method Headquarters says:

    Hi Candy:

    We love your post and would love to see pics of you strutting your Bar Method body in Oahu. Visit to share your posts and inspire other women of all shapes and ages.

    Best Regards,
    The Bar Method Headquarters

  6. Bar Method Headquarters
    Bar Method Headquarters says:

    Hi Michelle,

    The Bar Method is based on the Lotte Berk Method, a strengthening and stretching technique that was in turn based on the teachings of Lotte Berk, a British dancer who invented the original exercises in the 1960s. Callanetics is also based on Lotte Berk’s exercise system. It was developed by a friend of the The Lotte Berk Method’s founder (Lydia Bach). Both systems were launched in New York City in the 1970s.

    As exercises systems will do, the two techniques immediately veered in different directions. The Lotte Berk Method acquired yoga stretches between the exercises and became more structured and intense. Decades later the Bar Method veered from the Lotte Berk Method by realigning the exercises under the guidance of physical therapists, subtracting and adding exercises, making fuller use of music and rhythm, and streamlining the format for a smoother, more seamless flow.

  7. Suzanne Oswald
    Suzanne Oswald says:

    I am almost two months in to my minimum 6 months experiment to reshape my body, health, and spirit with Bar Method and Primal/Paleo eating. The classes help calm and center me, and I’m getting all kinds of comments about the shapeliness of my legs – and keep in mind I’m 45.

  8. roni ianniello
    roni ianniello says:

    I am 55 years old and have just joined a bar method studio and love it. I hope that I can attain a body like the 60 year old woman above- my goal. Had my first 2 classes this week and will attempt at least 3 classes a week.

  9. Lori
    Lori says:

    Help me out here.Any suggestions please…I am into my second week of The barre method.
    I have gained 3 pounds, my thighs are bigger and my waist hasn’t gone down. I have read that this can happen. I am 52, I think I am struggling with hormonal weight gain as well. Will the barre method really help me loose all this. I am going to also start the paleo along with the Barre. I am praying this all goes away in 6 months and by next summer I am wearing that bikini!! I definitly love the Barre Method and plan on sticking to it.

  10. Bar Method Headquarters
    Bar Method Headquarters says:

    Hi Lori,

    Don’t give up!

    Do The Bar Method consistently for 6 months and eat mindfully, and you will slim down.

    Best wishes,

    Bar Method HQ

  11. Suzanne Garrett
    Suzanne Garrett says:

    I gained muscle weight before there was any fat loss. Keep measuring, and you will see body composition results and increased strength over time.

  12. Bar Method Headquarters
    Bar Method Headquarters says:

    Thanks for your comment, Vinnie! You’re right, many men benefit from The Bar Method.


    Bar Method HQ

  13. Leslie King
    Leslie King says:

    I am 73 years old and have just completed my first year of Bar Method. Besides reshaping my bootie and taking some of the jiggle out of my upper arms, I no longer have arthritis pain in my hips and legs. In addition, I have lost about 8 pounds over the past year. I try to go to Bar at least three times a week, and still feel more comfortable in the Level 1 class. I love the way I feel after Bar, and it continues to the next day. I recommend Bar to anyone that will listen to me! I really appreciate Rachael Good and her staff at Montrose Bar Method in Houston. They continue to tweak my form and give me special attention! Thanks to Bar, I expect to enjoy the golden years to my fullest!

  14. Nana
    Nana says:

    I am in my first month of class. I am attending two times a week. I go to the gym 4 times a week. I am 60 years old. The most shocking thing of all for me, was seeing myself in the mirror. I usually see myself dressed standing vertically. I know I’ve gained a few pounds But I had no idea how much fuller I look now. That alone has motivated me to get with the program and drop a few pounds. I do not take any classes at my gym mostly because of had knee problems. I can tell you the bar method is so intense and I can really feel that I’m working out. It’s my hope that I can write again in 3 to 4 months with some good news about looking better in the mirror!


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