Pilates sculpt bars are currently trending - so, are they really an effective tool for building muscle from home?

EYNTK about this nifty piece of kit.

Do Pilates sculpt bars work? A woman working out
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's no secret that Pilates workouts are hot right now, and with popularity inevitably comes variations on a theme. There's classical, mat, Reformer, even clinical Pilates (offered usually by qualified physiotherapists), wall Pilates, hot Pilates - you name it, Team MC UK has probably tried it. The latest Pilates workout du jour? Pilates sculpt bar workouts. But, question: do Pilates sculpt bars work to level up your at-home practice?

Fans say that they're a cost-effective way to recreate a Reformer-style workout sans the price tag. Sculpt bars retail for as little as £6.99 and promise to be as effective as the more costly Reformer Pilates classes. Cheaper, doable from home, and a lifelong investment? You can instantly see the appeal.

While the many benefits of Pilates are well documented, Reformer is widely regarded as the most effective Pilates workout you can do, so naturally, a handy tool that promises the same results from home piqued our attention.

Below, we've spoken to top experts to pick their brains on the currently trending workout tool, plus debunk whether they're actually as effective as TikTok claims them to be. While we've got you, don't miss our guide to the best Pilates exercises for beginners and Pilates exercises, the best 20 minutes Pilates workouts, or how to add extra burn to your flow with a wall Pilates workout. Keen to invest in the best Pilates bars? We've got an edit of that, too.

Do Pilates sculpt bars work? The experts weigh in

What is a Pilates sculpt bar?

If you're picturing some kind of Reformer-esque instrument, then rest assured, a Pilates bar is actually a very simple piece of equipment.

"A Pilates sculpt bar consists of a bar with two looped bands at each end to provide resistance," explains Pilates instructor Aleksandra Warburton. "It is used to perform Pilates exercises, with the aim of intensifying moves, toning the body and furthering your practice."

Think a resistance band attached to a padded bar, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what we mean. Don't be fooled - they may look unobtrusive, but you will feel the burn.

Why are Pilates sculpt bars spiking in popularity right now?

It's safe to say that one of the legacies of the past four years is our penchant for the home workout. Accessible, affordable and effective, working out from the comfort of our own homes has never been so popular. But while we are content to stream classes online, swapping the studio for the living room doesn't mean we are willing to compromise on results: enter, home equipment.

That said, most of us have neither the space nor the budget for a Reformer Pilates machine, so kit like the sculpt bars are perfect.

"A sculpt bar is a cost-effective piece of equipment to buy outright," agrees Warburton. "It's compact and can offer variety to just practising mat pilates at home. Unlike other types of Pilates equipment, such as reformers or arcs, they're a far more accessible option for keen Pilates fans wanting to advance their home practice."

Do Pilates sculpt bars work? An expert weighs in

Call us cynical, but we believe that a piece of equipment is only any good/cost efficient/useful (insert adjective of choice) if we actually use it. And we'll only use things that are expert-backed, and tried and trusted.

With this in mind, we asked the experts for their honest opinion: are Pilates sculpt bars really an effective tool for building muscle at home? We have good news: our coaches were unanimous in saying that yes, sculpt bars are worth their (actually fairly light) weight in your home workout set-up.

"Yes, I think Pilates sculpt bar workouts are effective in improving muscle tone, strength, flexibility, and posture when done regularly and correctly," says Pilates instructor at Human Health, Collette Freeman. "Consistent practice can lead to noticeable changes in body composition and overall fitness levels. Since a sculpt bar workout incorporate an element of resistance into your practice, they also offer similar benefits to strength training, such as improving bone strength and density."

It's important to note, here, that while the experts are aligned on the benefits of a sculpt bar, more classical instructors aren't trained in how to use them, as they're not strictly part of traditional Pilates equipment. Items such as the magic circle and Pilates balls were invented and patented by Joseph Pilates himself, therefore have over a century of results-driven data to prove their worth.

In fact, some classical teachers don't like to use them - not because they're not effective, but simply because they aren't officially recognised by the Pilates community as Pilates equipment.

"As with all equipment, the effectiveness of the sculpt bar will depend on how it is being used," cautions Warburton. "It's not necessarily a piece of equipment I would recommend to my students, since we're not taught how to incorporate it when completing Pilates certification, unlike the Pilates circle, small ball, weights, spikey balls, booty bands, and so on."

That being said, Warburton agrees that if it's fitness equipment you're after, rather than a Pilates-specific kit, then go right ahead.

"I would never discourage anyone from moving their body, so if you have one and enjoy using it keep going!" she tells MC UK. "The sculpt bar is as close as you can get to a reformer Pilates environment at home for certain exercises such as squats, chest presses and leg lifts, so you do you."   

Bottom line: different kit investments will work for different people, but if you're a home Pilates fan, it could definitely be for you. 

Shop MC UK's Pilates essentials here

How can I get the most out of my at-home Pilates sculpt workout?

Pilates instructor Aleksandra Warburton believes there are four simple ways to have a great Pilates workout.

First, be sure to warm up before starting your workout to prepare your muscles and prevent injury. Next, you're going to focus on form. "This just means performing each exercise with proper posture and technique to maximize the benefits and reduce your risk of injury," she explains.

While moving, make sure to breathe deeply and connect with both mind and body. "Inhale and exhale steadily to maintain rhythm and enhance performance," she recommends. 

Finally, make sure to cool down and stretch after your workout to aid recovery and maintain flexibility.

Anna Bartter
Health Writer

Anna Bartter is a freelance journalist who writes about health, fitness and women's lifestyle for publications including Stylist, Metro and Psychologies, among others. 

She's always on a quest to find a variety of fun and functional workouts that give you the most bang for your workout buck and she's passionate about championing movement for everyone's mental and physical wellbeing.