What: Pop Physique, a unique barre-inspired fitness concept that incorporates elements of ballet, Pilates and light weight work into a fun and fast-paced workout.
Where: I visited the Santa Monica location at 1335 4th St., but there are 12 other studios in the greater Los Angeles area, as well as one in Jupiter, Fla.
What To Expect: As I learned from firsthand experience, students can expect to sweat. A lot. Each class can burn more than 500 calories while taking students through a challenging series of small, isolated movements and holds that target the arms, legs, butt and abdomen in separate intervals.
Duration: One (efficient) hour
In-Class Experience: "Embrace those shakes, ladies!" seemed to be the most popular exclamation from our instructor during class. Throughout each sequence of movements, it felt like we were pushing our muscles to their absolute exhaustion, and the shakes that resulted were quite visible among all 11 women in the class.
During the warm-up alone, we remained in plank position on our mats for more than three minutes, while at the same time completing leg lifts, knee tucks and holds. I remember feeling each muscle trembling more and more with each passing second, and I wondered how I would ever make it through the entire hour-long workout.
Once we had completed the initial warm-up, we moved on to the arm portion of class. Our instructor guided us through a strenuous set of repetitive triceps dips, push-ups and movements with light hand weights. I was using two-pound weights, but during the exercises, nothing could have felt heavier. Combined with the repetitions, I felt immediate resistance and toning from them.
Following arms, we transitioned to the barres for some leg work, featuring ballet-inspired pliés, squats on relevé, tucks and thigh squeezes. For me, and for most of the students, this was the most challenging portion of class. All around the room, legs were wobbling from the exertion and I was surprised that no one collapsed.
Just when all of our shaking legs were about to give out, we moved back on to our mats to work our butts and core with a series of hip and leg raises, leg circles and bridge holds. The movements were low impact, but repetitive and long, making them both difficult and effective.
Our instructor then rounded out the class with a period of much-needed stretching and left us with a few announcements and positive encouragement for the week ahead.
Benefits: Thanks to its intense toning sequences, Pop Physique promises to improve its students posture and flexibility, while also increasing abdominal strength, tone and overall body awareness. According to its website, those who attend class 3-4 times a week can expect to feel and see longer, leaner muscles, flatter abs and a tighter butt in a period of just six weeks.
Fitness Level Required: None. All levels are welcome -- however, few modifications were offered during class, so beginners might want to ask for extra instruction if needed.
Cost: A single class is $20, but Pop Physique offers special rates for five-class, 10-class, 20-class and 30-class packs. The studio also sells unlimited month passes for $175, which retail for $100 for new clients.
Final Verdict: Compared to other barre classes I've tried, Pop Physique felt much more energized and upbeat. Set to the latest indie and electric tracks by artists such as Deadmau5 and Avicii, the workout was fun and fast-paced. The hour flew by despite my initial fear that I wouldn't be able to make it past the warm-up.
The one complaint I have is the price. Twenty dollars per class seems a bit steep. With similar classes at Cardio Barre, The Main Barre and Bar Method ranging from $17 to $25, however, Pop Physique's pricing is relatively competitive.
And sticker-shock aside, Pop Physique might just be well worth the benefits. Following class, I felt sore in muscles I didn't even know I had. I felt stronger, more toned, and have no doubt that regular attendance would be transformative. While finding the motivation to exercise is one of the hardest things for me to do, the fun and rewarding nature of Pop Physique will keep me coming back to its classes on a regular basis.