One Set of Parallettes: 10 Moves
13/11/2021 | Andrew Tracey
Andrew Tracey is a long time collaborator with Bulldog Gear. A coach, writer and current fitness editor of Men’s Health Magazine, he has been in and around the fitness industry for the past 16 years. Having enjoyed and endured a number of disciplines from endurance racing, to strongman, to Crossfit AT enjoys getting neck deep in the practice just as much as the theory.
The parallettes are an incredibly versatile, yet massively under used piece of kit. Enabling you to add an enormous amount of exercises to your movement selection, as well as push further into bodyweight progressions and more advanced calisthenics, they’re an ideal tool for train-at-home athletes, as well as avid gym goers looking to score a little extra credit outside of the box.
Whether you have a set gathering dust in the corner and you’re looking for some exercise inspiration; or you’re on the fence about purchasing a pair and need a motivational push, we’ve got 10 moves that you need to try out.
Working your abdominal muscles and hip-flexors, building your ability to maintain midline stability and building stronger, more stable shoulders, The L-sit is an isometric movement that you should consider adding into your rotation, whatever your goal.
Grab your parallettes with straight arms and lift your feet from the floor with straight legs, until they’re parallel to the ground. Draw your shoulder blades down and back, actively push the bars away and focus on maintaining tension in your core. Hold this position for as long possible, aiming to progressively increase the duration of the hold.
To regress the movement, perform with bent legs to reduce the resistance.
A compound bodyweight movement par excellence that works the chest, triceps and shoulders. It’s upper body building benefits surpassed only by the pull-up, combine the two and you have a recipe for a seriously functional torso.
Hop on your parallettes with straight arms, bending your legs to lift your feet from the floor. Unlock your elbows and lean forward, slowly lower you body until you feel a stretch in your chest before explosively pressing back to locked out, straight arms.
To regress the movement, add a band to assist you back up. For a more advanced variation, perform your dips in the L-sit position.
3. INVERTED ROWS
More than just a regression for pull-ups, the inverted row is a killer movement in it’s own right. Working the muscles of the of the lats and upper back and building midline stability, the ‘horizontal pulling’ motion is something that’s often missing from a lot of functional programming.
Hang below your parallettes with straight arms in a strong plank position, creating tension from heel to shoulders. Draw your shoulder blades black and pull yourself up towards your hands, pause and squeeze at the top of the rep before slowly lowering yourself back into a hang.
For a more advanced version, check out the next entry on the list.
4. FEET ELEVATED ROWS
Upping the ante from the standard inverted row, by raising our legs and altering the angle, we’re able to increase the resistance and progress our rows, once we have the basics nailed. By raising our feet using one set of the parallettes and pulling on the other, we’re also forced to delicately control the movement to maintain balance, this more controlled tempo and tension creates the perfect environment for muscle growth.
Hang below one set of handles with straight arms, lift your legs onto to the other set so that your feet are inline with your hands and you can create a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders. Create tension through your entire body and slowly pull yourself towards the handle, pause at the top before lowering yourself under, ensuring you maintain enough control to keep the opposite handles balanced.
5. KNEE/ LEG RAISES
Consider these the L-sit’s little brother. Working your core, hip flexors and building shoulder stability. Raise just your knees for an entry level option, straighten your legs out for more resistance or try a ‘mechanical dropset’, beginning with straight legs and regressing to bent once you hit failure to fully fry your core.
Grab your parallettes with straight arms, draw your shoulder blades down and back, actively push the bars away and focus on creating tension in your core. Under control lift your feet from the floor with straight legs, until they’re parallel to the ground, pause at the top before slowly lowering your feet back towards the ground, pause just before they touch and repeat.
6. ASSISTED PISTOL SQUATS
Lower body movements are often overlooked in the quest for calisthenics mastery, but parallettes are the perfect tool for regressing one of the most sort after bodyweight skills in functional fitness- the pistol squat.
Loop a resistance band around both paralettes so that its hanging between. Facing away from the band lift one leg from the floor and bend at one knee, maintaining an upright torso, squatting down until you reach the band, use the resistance of the band to slow your descent and assist you back up to standing, repeat.
7. ASSISTED ROWS
If you’re still struggling to master the inverted rows up at no.3, the same band ‘hack’ setup just mentioned for pistol squats may be your best friend for pulling progress.
With a band looped around both paralettes hang below your handles with straight arms in a strong plank position with band crossing just below your shoulder baldes. Pull yourself up towards your hands with the band’s assistance, pause and squeeze at the top of the rep before slowly lowering yourself back into a hang.
8. DEFICIT PUSH-UPS
Push-ups never go out of fashion. They’re a portable muscle building powerhouse that have withstood the test of time like no other movement. You could perform the basic push-up forever and still see some return on your investment, but if you’re looking to up your game and revel in some bodyweight chest gains, you’ve got to go deep.
Grab a short set of paralettes (or elevate your feet to the same level as your hands on a taller set), assume a strong plank position with your arms locked out, creating tension from your shoulders to your ankles throughout. Lower your body under control until your chest passes below your hands and you feel a deep stretch before explosively pressing back up to lockout, repeat.
9. DEFICIT PIKE PUSH-UP
Once you’ve mastered the deficit push-up, it’s time to graduate to cutting some more advanced shapes. The pike push-up is your first stop on your way to handstand mastery, and the extra range of motion will help you top build a huge set of shoulders along the way.
Set your paralettes in front of a box or bench, hold both handles with straight arms and lift your feet onto the box, creating an inverted ‘L’ shape with your body. Unlock your arms and slowly lower your head until it passes below your hands. Pause here before explosively pressing back up to lockout.
10. DEFICIT HANDSTAND PUSH-UPS
With pike push-ups in the locker, you’re ready for the real deal. Deficit handstand push-ups are a seriously impressive movement that build strength, control and balance throughout your entire upper body.
Set your paralettes in front of a wall, hold both handles with straight arms and kick your legs into the air, right over your hands until they meet the wall, pause here for a moment to get your balance. Unlock your arms and slowly lower your head until it passes below your hands. Pause here before explosively pressing back up to lockout.
You may think of your weight bench as more of an ‘accessory’ than a piece of kit in it’s own right. But if you think your bench is designed solely for, well, ‘benching’, you’re not using it to it’s full potential.
Add some of these movements into your rotation and upgrade your bench game.
We touched on everything from coaching biases, nutritional myths and philosophies, and how, even though science is incredibly important, it isn’t completely infallible, and that it’s important to develop our own compass especially when it comes to nutrition and training. Enjoy!
On Episode 28 of The Bulldog Gear Podcast AT goes solo to answer some of your burning questions.