Search for the Pilates sculpt bar is up 750% – how the simple tool will take your home workouts up a notch

Everything you need to know about the handy piece of kit.

Pilates sculpt bar: A woman doing Pilates
(Image credit: Getty Images)

While equipment isn’t essential for Pilates workouts - it's actually known as one of the most effective bodyweight workouts you can do - certain Pilates tools can be useful for mixing things up and challenging your body in new ways. Our favourite? A Pilates sculpt bar.

With search for the workout tool up 750% on Google Trends at current, it's certainly having its moment. This is likely because Pilates is more popular than ever right now - you'll have seen the 28 day Pilates challenge and Pilates wall workouts taking over TikTok this year. That said, it's not just another fitness fad sure to drop off the map in a couple of months. There are a whole range of benefits of Pilates - it's low-impact, gentle on the joints, and research indicates it improves flexibility, abdominal and lumbopelvic stability, and muscle strength, too.

A firm celebrity favourite, it's also largely inexpensive - you can do it on your mat from your living room or study. Keen to take your small, controlled strengthening exercises up a notch and, with the help of a bar, add resistance, build full-body strength and improve overall wellbeing? Then you're in the right place. Below, top experts explain exactly why this nifty tool can be so effective during your workouts, plus how to use one at home. 

Do be sure to check out our guides to Pilates for beginners, Reformer Pilates, and a trainer's pick of the best 30 minute Pilates workouts, while you're here. 

Pilates sculpt bars: your need-to-knows about the seriously effective piece of kit

What is a Pilates sculpt bar?

In short: the Pilates sculpt bar is a piece of equipment designed to enhance pilates workouts, explains Laura Wilson, Pilates instructor and co-owner at The Swiss Touch.

 “It typically consists of a long, lightweight bar with resistance bands with loops attached to each end,” she says. “This tool is used to add resistance to various Pilates exercises, and can replicate the foot and arm loops on a Reformer, hence intensifying the workout and targeting specific muscle groups more effectively.”


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Are Pilates sculpt bars any good?

It’s important to emphasise that, more often than not, how you use a piece of equipment is the determining factor in whether or not it’s a beneficial bit of kit (fads, obviously, excluded). That said, Wilson gives the Pilates sculpt bar the thumbs-up. 

“It provides a controlled and effective way to strengthen your muscles, can promote flexibility, can challenge your balance and coordination, and provides a safe controlled way to improve your joint stability," she explains. It can also be helpful to use when recovering from an injury, she adds.

Wilson also notes that the Pilates sculpt bar can help you replicate certain Reformer exercises, adding diversity to your usual at-home sessions and for a lower price than regular Reformer classes.

Ideally, Wilson says, you’ll use a Pilates sculpt bar alongside your bodyweight and free weights, “which are essential for joint health and muscle mass – both of which are linked to life longevity.” (Read our explainer on the benefits of ankle weights if you need more convincing). 

Do note: using a Pilates sculpt bar can take some getting used to, Wilson says, “but the benefits are worth it.”


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"Do Pilates resistance bars work? I reckon so - I'm a convert."

Amy*, a 32-year-old from Liverpool, swears by her Pilates sculpt bar for effective home workouts that don't cost the earth.

"I first got my Pilates sculpt bar during lockdown as a way to level up my home workouts. Having spare time on my hands, I used it religiously four or five times a week and soon fell in love with how easy to use yet effective it was."

"One of the main things I love is that I feel like I'm getting as good a workout in as in-studio but for a fraction of the price. Before the pandemic, I was paying £50 for a gym membership - now, I do free Pilates workouts from my living room and feel like I'm in arguably better shape."

"My strength and flexibility have improved, too, but the best bit is that I feel like I've found a workout routine that I genuinely stick too and enjoy. My fitness has improved, as has my self-confidence. If you're on the fence, I'd highly recommend." 

5 instructor-recommended exercises you can do with a Pilates sculpt bar

1. Leg press

How to? Lie on your back with your feet in the resistance bands attached to the bar and your knees bent. Then, extend your legs fully, pushing against the resistance of the bands and squeezing your glutes at the same time. Slowly bend your knees, returning to the starting position.

Why? Our expert shares this move is ideal for strengthening your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

How long? Aim for ten to twelve reps, for three sets.

2. Rowing series

How to? Sit on the floor with your legs extended, then loop the resistance bands around your feet and hold the bar with both hands. Make sure to keep your shoulders pulled back and down. 

Leaning back slightly, pull the bar towards your chest, with your elbows moving backwards. Extending your arms, return to the starting position.

Why? This move is excellent for your posture, strengthening your back, shoulders, and core, explains the pro. 

How long? Aim for ten to twelve reps, for three sets.

3. Kneeling hip extension

How to? In a four-point kneeling position, loop one foot through a resistance band, holding the bar for balance.

Then, extend the banded leg straight back, ensuring you squeeze your glutes and keep your core engaged, then return to the kneeling position.

Why? In short, this is one of the best moves for strengthening your glutes and hamstrings while also improving your core stability.

How long? Aim for ten to twelve reps, for three sets.

4. Side lying glute leg lifts

How to? Lying on your side with your body in a straight line, keep a neutral spine and your hips are stacked. Resting your head on your lower arm, hook your top foot through the resistance band loop and hold the bar at shoulder height. 

Then, keeping your hips stacked and your core engaged, slowly lift your top leg upwards while keeping it straight. Ensure the movement is controlled and is powered by your glutes. Gently lower the leg back to hip height and repeat. 

Why? This move is excellent for isolated glute strengthening and pelvic stability, shares our expert. 

How long? Aim for ten to twelve reps, for three sets.

5. Point kneeling shoulder press

How to? Start in a four-point kneeling position with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. 

Holding the Pilates sculpt bar in your hands, engage your core and keep your back flat. Then, press the bar upwards, extending your arms fully. Keep your neck neutral and avoid arching your back. Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position, maintaining control.

Why? This is a brilliant full-body exercise which targets your upper back muscles at the same time as challenging your core. 

How long? Aim for ten to twelve reps, for three sets.

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Does Pilates sculpt your body?

Good question. As Laura Wilson, Pilates instructor, points out, it's certainly one of the best workouts for boosting muscle, strength, and overall strength.

A Pilates sculpt bar, in particular, is a simple yet effective way of boosting tone. “It provides a controlled and effective way to strengthen your muscles, can promote flexibility, can challenge your balance and coordination, and provides a safe controlled way to improve your joint stability," Wilson goes on.

Final need to knows: it's a low-impact sweat session which promises to be gentle on the joints, with research also concluding that it can improve your flexibility, to boot. Ready to give it a go?

Abbi Henderson
Health Writer

Abbi Henderson is a freelance journalist and social media editor who covers health, fitness, women’s sport and lifestyle for titles including Women's Health and Stylist, among others. 

With a desire to help make healthcare, exercise and sport more accessible to women, she writes about everything from the realities of seeking medical support as a woman to those of being a female athlete fighting for equality. 

When she’s not working, she’s drinking tea, going on seaside walks, lifting weights, watching football, and probably cooking something pasta-based.