If you’re thinking: “para-whata,” you are not alone. The parallette has deep roots in gymnastics (think the parallel bars and the pommel horse). But don’t be fooled by their simplistic design. These badass bars are making their way into CrossFit boxes and HIIT workouts for a good reason.
“The portable and scaled down version of parallel bars are lower to the ground, enabling dynamic bodyweight exercises,” says Go Green, a New York City-based personal trainer and Brick’s programming director. “They benefit all strength athletes, no matter their sport of choice.”
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Because they’re light and space-efficient (hello, city living) parallettes are great for taking your at-home bodyweight workout to the next level. They provide incline to change up basic push-ups and lunges, and also build grip strength with moves like shoot-throughs and tricep dips. Most parallettes are 12 to 15 inches, but there are also higher ones that reach the 25- to 28-inch range. We recommend you start small and work your way to something taller.
“With bodyweight exercises alone, incredible strength can be developed simply by selecting positions that will increase muscle loading while avoiding impact on the joints,” Green says. “You can test your limits while strengthening the hands, forearms, core and legs,” he explains.
While parallettes are most commonly used for speed and agility drills, the muscle-burning exercises below are all about strength. Quicken the pace, and you’ve got yourself a parallete cardio workout, too.
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5 Parallette Exercises to Build Total-Body Strength
The first part of this workout focuses on strengthening your lower-body. Then, you’ll move onto arms, shoulders and upper-body and finish things off with a full-body exercise that also gets your heart rate up. Do each of the moves for 8-12 reps before repeating the entire workout for three to four sets.
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Here you’ll work a trio of lower-body muscles: quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. If you want to add weight to these lunges, Green recommends holding onto a kettlebell in each hand by your sides, or do a Goblet hold with one kettlebell.
How to: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Step your right foot behind you and place your right ankle over the parallette (a). Lower your body down into lunge, so your left leg forms a 90-degree angle to the floor. Make sure your left knee doesn’t go past your foot (b). Do 10-12 reps, then switch legs.
A parallette adds some incline to this basic full-body move, forcing your upper-body and core to work harder. You’ll also build some grip strength by holding tight onto the bars.
How to: Get into plank position with each hand holding onto a parallette. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders (a). Lower your chest between your hands, while maintaining a neutral spine (b). Engaging your core, press your body back up and fully extend your arms into plank (c). Do 8-10 reps.
3. Tricep Dips
Working your triceps and shoulders, these bodyweight burners will give you more sculpted arms. To switch things up, Green suggests trying a tricep hold, lifting your legs off the ground and holding the pose for two to five seconds.
How to: Sit in front of a parallette with your legs extended and your hands behind you shoulder-distance apart. Be sure to grip your hands firmly on the paralette as you slightly lift your butt off the floor with your arms fully extended (a). Slowly lower your butt towards the floor, while maintaining a vertical torso. You should have a bend in your elbows so they form 90-degree angles to the parallette (b). Then, press down on the parallettes and press through your palms up so your arms extend (c). Do 8-10 reps.
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4. Tricep Shoot Through
This variation adds some power to your basic tricep dip and gets your heart rate up, which makes it a great way to infuse some cardio to your usual strength routine.
How to: Sit in front of a parallette with your legs extended and your hands on the parallette shoulder-distance apart. Slightly lift your butt off the ground (a). Using your core, shoulders and triceps, push your body off the parallette and shoot your legs behind you so you’re in plank position (b). Quickly reverse your position and shoot your legs forward back into the tricep hold (c). Do 8-10 reps.
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5. Push-Up Shoot Through Tricep Dip
This last parallette variation combines three of the exercises above into a full-body move and strengthens your chest, shoulders, triceps, abs and quadriceps.
How to: Get into plank position with each hand holding onto a parallette. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders (a). Perform a push-up, lowering your chest towards the floor (b). Once you lift your body back up into plank position, shoot your legs forward into a tricep hold with your legs extended in front of your (c). Perform a tricep dip, lowering your butt towards the ground with your elbows bent into a 90-degree angle (d). Do 6-8 reps.
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