By Kathleen Braine
Updated Feb 04, 2015 @ 2:45 pm
Kimberly Ryan, left and Amanda Meltzer participate in the Barre + Cardio class, instructed by Megan Strand, at Exhale Mind Body Spa, at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica, June 10, 2014.
Credit: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

About two years ago, I took my first barre class, and quickly became a devotee. Barre classes started to become super-trendy around five years ago, with studios popping up all over major cities across the United States. In case you've somehow missed the trend, Barre is a Pilates and ballet-inspired fitness method that centers around a ballet barre and occasionally throws in some resistance bands and free weights. It's focused on isometric movements in combination with high-repetition, low-resistance strength training. The workout increases flexibility, lengthens muscles, tones muscles, and burns fat. The workout is also so trendy, you might get lucky enough to run into a celeb during class.

So basically, what's not to love? Well, first things first, it's REALLY HARD. After my first barre class, my arms were so sore, I was barely able to lift my conditioner bottle in the shower. This workout does not mess around. Secondly, the sheer number of Barre classes and brands can be pretty overwhelming. If you're like me, and you're not a member of a gym that offers barre classes (Equinox and NYSC have offerings, among others), you can hit up one of the numerous studios offering barre classes around your city, but how to choose? Take a look at my not-so-definitive tour of NYC Barre classes below!

Pure Barre is the biggest and most established barre franchise in the country, and you can certainly tell—their instructors are extremely professional and their studios are big, clean, modern, and located everywhere. Their classes are THE standard for barre classes that will whip you into shape and leave you sweating, with no frills or crazy changes to the usual formula. The music at these studios is pretty tame in comparison to other classes (I've experienced some particularly lackluster generic elevator-style "dance music" with no vocals), but that does vary by instructor.

Cost: $33 dollars for a single class. One month unlimited for $150 for new clients.

Physique holds a special place in my heart as the first type of barre class I attended. It was NOT easy. Physique 57 has become the SoulCycle of barre classes in NYC, with trendy studios, fun music, and branded clothing. I usually love the vibe, and most of their locations have fully-equipped studios, which is a nice plus. Additionally, they offer a ton of variety in class type—from four different levels of their standard barre class, to additional variants such as yoga-focused classes and dance-focused cardio.

Cost: $36 dollars for a single class, 8 classes for $150 for new clients

Barre3 classes actually originated in Portland, but they have since taken up residence in many major US cities, including both NYC and my hometown of Columbus, OH. Barre3 classes place more emphasis on less weight and more repetitions than any of the other barre classes I have attended, and the pace of class can be slightly laid back in comparison to the high energy Physique and Pure Barre. However, the class is still a crazy fun workout, and I've had instructors in Portland, Columbus, and NYC make me sore for days with their Barre3 antics.

Cost: $33 for a single class in NYC, $20 in Portland and Columbus.

The Bar Method offers the same level variations of classes as Physique 57, and also boasts studios in cities across the country. The Bar Method workouts are also often more targeted to a specific muscle group per session depending on what instructor you end up with—some will focus more on core work, while others will spend more time on legs.

Cost: $37 for a single class, one month unlimited for $195 for new clients

Exhale Spas in NYC offer Core Fusion Barre and Yoga classes in addition to regular spa services. The classes have become very popular because they're extremely challenging, and the class studios (located in Exhale Spas), are gorgeous and posh. Similar to Pure Barre, the music can leave something to be desired depending on the class (I'm a sucker for good top 40, EDM, and jock jam-esque pop, which may be my own problem I suppose!), but if you're looking for a tough workout in a luxe studio, Exhale is a great place to be.

Cost: $37 for a single class, 5, 10, and 20 class packs offered for slight discounts.