Movement Minute - Parallette Practice

Somewhere back in 2010ish, I remember getting my first glimpse of just how strong and ripped you could get from just bodyweight training alone.  I came across an underground group of physical culturists who trained on playground equipment in the boroughs of New York. The physiques on these guys were only eclipsed by their ability to perform impossible feats.


My head nearly exploded the first time I saw a planche push up. I had never seen anyone do anything nearly as impressive in the gym. I knew I had to explore this culture and bring some of it into my own practice.  This was the inspiration for buying my first pair of parallettes.  


In the fitness world, parallettes or “p-bars” are a highly underutilized tool.  At first glance they look only like glorified push up handles, easy to dismiss. CrossFit really popularized the tool by bringing L sits and handstand push ups into the training fold.  Whenever I visit a CF gym however, I see the parallettes (usually the DIY PVC versions) taking up space in the corner.  


Hmmm, why is that?


Well maybe you start out with a few sets of push ups. OK, nothing special. Then an L sit. 5 seconds in your quads are cramping, your core is in knots, and your cheeks are shaking. For there on out it’s pretty easy to say “ok, I'm good, pass the barbell.” 


The parallettes require very intentional progression…which in turn takes some creativity.  You also get a lesson in patience and being present in your current level. You cannot skip ahead without having a built a foundation, this makes parallette training very honest.  With the p-bars, you’re at where you’re at. However, this give you a chance to get creative with the drills that work for you. 


Patience and consistency are rewarded in calisthenic training as the p-bars can yield both strength and size (hypertrophy) when used properly.  The secret is time under tension.  Parallettes encourage you to place a higher degree of stimulus on the nervous system through sustained strength and stability.  


The video is an example what some of my parallette training currently looks like.

  • Handstand to shoulder (bent arm) stand
  • Shoulder stand to L sit
  • Elevated pike push ups
  • Knee tucks.

These drills will pave the way to the more advanced skills I’m working towards, the planche and handstand push up.  I’m not sure I’ll ever fully solidify those skills, but the progressions alone can craft an impressive physique that performs. 


Overall, I find bodyweight training to be more engaging and more applicable to practical performance than isolated weightlifting. While weight training strengthens the pieces of the body, calisthenics integrates strength through the core of the body.  It’s a personal preference but I encourage everyone to invest at least a little time learning to manipulate their own bodyweight. 


I know, I know. The learning curve. It’s damn steep. But for real, what’s the rush?


There is no rush. There is no finish line. There are no standards.  There is just you and the massive amount of potential that resides within. Acknowledge that shit. Nurture it. Draw it out. All it takes is a step; the step builds momentum and becomes belief.


So take a chance on your greatness and get started.