What Is It: Pop Physique is a barre-based class that feels like a nightclub and sanctuary rolled into one.
Who Tried It: Grace Gavilanes, PEOPLE writer and reporter
Level of Difficulty: 7 (on a scale from 1 to 10).
I’m very particular about working out. I’m not a super big fan of exercise machines (don’t even get me started on running), but stick me in a high-intensity or strength training fitness class and I’m happy. Sweaty and sore, sure, but happy nonetheless.
Am I in the best shape of my life? Nope. But I’m really trying hard to get there. When I do work out, which I admit has been happening much more often in the past week or so, I opt for kickboxing or tabata. I am not a fan of classes that won’t make me sweat — which might explain my aversion to yoga (pilates is the exception), though maybe I just haven’t found the right type of yoga?
But I digress.
When a friend told me Pop Physique, a super-popular barre class on the west coast that recently launched their first-ever N.Y.C. studio, I was intrigued and totally up for a challenge. How hard could a barre class actually be? Yeah, I was in for a rude awakening.
I headed to Pop Physique on a Tuesday night after work with two of my close friends, who were both also eager to try out the workout. The studio was packed with young women of all shapes and sizes — some first timers, but most seemed to be true devotees (I could tell by their chic Pop Physique branded gear). When we walked in, we were all immediately instructed to find a mat, dumbbells and a small ball by our incredibly fit teacher, Theo, who proceeded to turn on her music playlist that consisted of hip-hop, rap and pop — my favorite.
I was pumped — tired, after a long day of work, but still pumped. It kind of felt like we were in a nightclub. I found myself lip synching, awkwardly smizing at my reflection in the full-length mirror while I lifted each weight one at a time. “Is this how the Kardashians feel?” I thought. “Yeah, I can totally see Kim doing this right now.”
We stretched, we planked and I kept sweating. This was just the warm up. While I had just started to get into a groove of working out again that same week, I mistook my ability to barely make it through a cycling class as the final step in my transformation to being a totally fit, totally capable human. It’s a pattern of mine, for sure. I lift two 8 lb. weights for five minutes and I think I’m Kate Hudson or Jillian Michaels.
Theo, however, was quick to dispel any misplaced cocky behavior. She was encouraging, for sure, but her positive personality didn’t stop her from walking around the studio to tweak or correct our form. We did so many squats and lunges away and against the ballet barre, as well as squeezing the little pink ball with our inner thighs in an effort to target our glutes.
“I can’t squeeze my butt any harder,” my best friend exclaimed in between reps. It was getting increasingly difficult but we were all determined to achieve toned thighs and a firmer butt — something Pop Physique founder Jennifer Williams says is possible.
“You’re really pushing yourself to your absolute edge,” she tells PEOPLE. “There is a deep muscle fatigue and toning that happens during the Thigh Work component of the class. You really can get the most intense, deep calorie burn.”
The last 10 minutes or so of the one-hour class powered down, literally. The lights dimmed, the music volume lowered and everyone in class laid on their backs while grasping a yellow band that was secured on the barre. We pulled on the band to help get our legs up, which not only worked our thighs and arms, but also our abs. The intensity level eventually went all the way down at the end when Theo had us concentrate on our breathing and stretching.
The Verdict: Pop Physique beat my butt. Literally. Okay, not literally, but it did leave a memorable impression on my derriere that I certainly felt the next day. It’s the kind of workout that makes you move muscles you never thought you had, which personally makes me want to keep targeting said areas until I’m more in tune with my body. While my heart will forever belong to kickboxing, it might’ve just made a special exception for barre.