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Any form of training that utilizes your own bodyweight is very rewarding. It’s also practical in real life. In addition to having the ability to properly squat, you’ll want to be confident that you can pull your own bodyweight up to or over a bar and push your bodyweight off the floor.
Parallettes can help with the latter in some unique ways. They will improve your pushing strength and will also help you develop better control as you learn some calisthenics skills.
More than just “pushup bars”, Lebert Fitness Parallettes are a compact but essential piece of equipment for bodyweight training that will greatly improve your upper body and core strength. It’s all about the height of the bars -- they’re just high enough so that you can support yourself with straight arms and swing through them, but low enough to be challenging.
The elevation of the bars also allows for a larger range of motion in pushing movements. If you perform a pushup from the floor, you can only go as far as the ground will allow you. Performing the same movement on parallettes will enable you to go even deeper.
If you have the ability to do a basic pushup, you can start training with parallettes.
Using parallettes is far easier on the wrists than if you were supporting your bodyweight with your hands on the floor. But the pressure of the bars on your palms still may take a bit of getting used to. Not to worry, you’ll adapt. For most of the movements, you’ll grasp the bars directly in the centre, but for a few advanced moves, you’ll move more towards the far end.
For most of the parallette moves, you’ll want to rotate your upper arm so that your elbows are pointing backwards. Keep your wrists as neutral as possible; don’t allow them to flop in or out of line.
There are two types of strength that the parallettes can help you with: bent-arm strength (as in a pushup), and straight-arm strength (as in the L-sit). And while it may sound obvious -- you’ll have to really ensure that your arms are indeed straight during the latter. There will be a tendency for your arms to bend, especially on the more difficult moves. Be mindful, and don’t allow yourself to cheat!
If an exercise is too difficult to perform at all, try a modified version. To change the leverage on a pushup, try doing them from the knees. Dips can be done by assisting with your legs, either bent or straight.
When selecting a variation that’s right for you - make it the most difficult one you can do while maintaining proper form. Don’t just “bang out reps”. Each exercise should be extremely demanding, but performed mindfully and under control.
Here are a few techniques to get you started:
Shoulder Tap Pushup
Perform a standard Deep Pushup by placing your hands on the parallette bars, however in this version your feet should be about hip or shoulder-width apart. Lower yourself into the bottom of the pushup, ensuring that your upper and lower body is straight and that your head is neutral. At the top of the pushup, pause slightly and slowly remove one hand from the bar. Tap your opposite shoulder with your hand and then slowly replace it on the parallette. Ensure that this move is done smoothly and slowly, and that you don’t twist or rotate your hips as you lift and lower the arm. Do a second pushup, then lift the other hand off the bar and tap the opposite shoulder before replacing. A rep count of 4/4 or 4 per side means that you will do a total of eight pushups, tapping each arm four times.
Hollow Body Planche Lean
Place the parallettes on the floor about shoulder width apart and grasp the handle grips with the body long and straight and feet on the floor. Your feet should be together and your arms should be fully extended at the top. Now, tuck your tail (posterior pelvic tilt) and flatten out your back as much as possible as you draw in the ribcage. Finally, press your shoulders away from you as you try and raise the part of your spine that’s between your shoulder blades towards the ceiling. Walk your feet forward until your shoulders are over your hands. Go as far forward as you are able, hold for a few seconds, then walk your feet back to the neutral position. Repeat for 5 reps.
Plank Jump-Through to Dip
Place the parallettes on the floor about shoulder width apart and grasp the handle grips with the body long and straight and feet on the floor. Work on getting your hips up and into a tight tuck as you jump through the bars so that you land with your feet on the ground in front. With your chest up, perform an assisted dip by lowering yourself to the ground and pressing back up with your arms. At the top of the dip, go back into the tuck and jump back into the full plank again with legs extended.
The trick is to perform the jump-through without your feet touching the floor during the transition. If this proves too difficult, allow your feet to drag along the floor while tucking the knees as much as possible. Do this for 3 to 5 reps at a time.
Place the parallettes on the floor about shoulder width apart. Grasp the bars with your hands and bring your knees up close to your wrists. Completely straighten your arms, and ensure that your elbows are pointed towards the back. Place one knee against one arm, just above the wrist joint. Lean slightly forward and place the other knee against the other arm at the same point. Your shoulders will come forward of your wrists, and as you continue to lean eventually you will feel some balance and will be able to point both toes so that both feet are off the floor. Friction will enable your knees to stay locked in place, as your arms must be straight throughout this move.
Hold this position for 5-10 seconds.
There are just four variations involving both straight-arm and bent-arm strength. If you’d like to get started with a training program, be sure to check out “Bar Strong: Lebert Fitness Parallette Fundamentals”. This book contains 48 of my favourite parallette techniques and comes with a fun and varied training program.
Make sure you balance your workouts with some pulling strength as well using a pair of EQualizer bars. And above all, enjoy your training!