Maybe you’ve observed (or even utilized) parallette bars in the gym, since they’re a pretty classic piece of equipment. But you’re not alone if you avoid them because you have no idea what you’re even supposed to be doing with them. Don’t worry — here’s a comprehensive guide to the piece of equipment and how you can incorporate parallette bars into your routine.
How to Use Dip Bars
In case you didn’t know, dip bars (also known as parallette bars) are upsidedown U-shaped pieces of equipment. They’re often seen in pairs, with the user standing in between both bars and placing one hand on each bar to perform dip exercises (think: tricep dips). Often, parallette bars are adjustable in both height and width, so you can find the most comfortable configuration for your body and grip.
While you might catch fitness trainers and fitfluencers performing some pretty impressive, sometimes even acrobatic, exercises on the dip bars, you actually don’t have to do anything incredibly difficult to benefit from using parallette bars. In fact, one of the great things about parallette bars is that you can use them at any fitness level. “Advanced moves are just that: advanced,” says Robert DeVito, owner and performance coach at Innovation Fitness Solutions. “It is important to work through all beginner and intermediate exercises before progressing to the more advanced or ‘cool’ moves,” he emphasizes. “Additionally, keep in mind that these fitness stars are the exception, not the norm. You may or may not need to utilize the highly advanced and higher-risk moves to attain your goals,” adds DeVito.
The Key Benefits of Dip Bars
So why should you be on the lookout for these bars at the gym? Well, there are three main benefits to using dip bars.
One main benefit is that these bad boys take out the guesswork that often accompanies resistance training workouts. “Parallette bars allow you to work on push and pull movements (such as push-ups and pull-ups) without having to worry about what weights or which machine you should be using,” explains Eliza Nelson, an ACE-certified personal trainer and orthopedic exercise specialist.
“With standard weights, you adjust the load by adjusting the weight,” she explains. “With a sturdy set of parallette bars, you can adjust the resistance by positioning your body in different ways.” This quality also makes parallette bars especially great for people who aren’t working out in a gym. “If you’re new to strength training or want the convenience of working out at home, you can build strength and confidence with bodyweight exercises on the parallettes,” she notes.
Develop Body Control
“Parallette bars are a great piece of equipment to work on overall body awareness and control, as well as strength,” says Meghan Takacs, a trainer with Aaptiv, an app with trainer-led audio workouts
Body control is the primary expression there. As a coach, I discover regulated muscle motion crucial to enhance things like slender muscle volume and overall alignment in order to become a versatile athlete, no matter whichever degree,” she clarifies.
In other words, whether you’re a novice or familiar with the weight room, you can benefit from using parallette bars to develop this specific type of controlled strength and lean muscle mass. Since the dip bars are a less stable surface than the floor and many moves require your body to be suspended in space, you have to work extra hard to maintain the correct position throughout each movement.
“Intense calisthenics actually burn more body fat over time than steady-state cardio,” says Takacs. (FYI, calisthenics is a fancy term for exercises that utilize your body weight to build strength. Think: push-ups, pull-ups, squats, handstands, etc.) “Individuals tend to choose cardio because they perspire and feel as though they have accomplished something, but movements like these are far more effective in burning fat and gaining lean muscle,” she explains.
Common Dip Bar Errors
The primary concerns with dip bars are ensuring they’re set up properly and avoiding excessive exertion. Here’s what you need to know: “These bars should be used on a mat or a surface that they won’t slide on,” says Takacs.
Also, be mindful of how your wrists are positioned on the dip bars, says Nelson. “Maintaining straight wrists is important, especially for movements where your wrists are being loaded from the top down,” she explains. “For example, in a push-up, you want to ensure that your wrist is not being bent back and is in line with the front of the forearm to reduce strain to the wrist.”
It’s also a good idea to start with the simplest version of an exercise and then progress from there. “Understand that there is a progression for every movement on these bars and the fundamentals must be mastered before you can advance to more complex movements, like the ones in the videos,” advises Takacs. For instance, if your goal is to work on your inverted rows, begin with your knees bent and progress to straightening your legs, suggests Nelson. “That is the beauty of the parallette bars — they are versatile for many levels of strength and experience!” she says.
The Finest Dip Bar Workouts
Convinced you need to try dip bars out or get a pair of your own? Here, Nelson demonstrates the best parallette bar exercises, using your new favorite piece of equipment:
Why it works: L-sits (holding your bodyweight above the bars with arms locked by your sides and legs elevated out in front of you) are great but are a bit more advanced and will take some patience, says Nelson
To alter, perform an L-sit with your knees slightly curved or alternate elevating one leg off the ground at a time. Gradually, you will develop the power to sustain both legs extended in front of you.
A. Position yourself between both bars, with one hand grasping the top of each bar. Completely extend both arms to initiate lifting the feet off the ground.
B. Applying pressure with your hands on the bars, raise your knees until they are level with your hips, ensuring that your feet are directly below your knees.
C. Maintain this position for 15 to 30 seconds, or progress by extending your legs out in front of your body and holding.
D. Bend your knees and lower your feet back to the ground.
While burpees are a traditional conditioning exercise, they can be challenging or uncomfortable if you are unable to lower yourself completely to the floor with control. Introducing: the burpee climber, a combination of a burpee and a mountain climber, which brings the ground closer to you by utilizing dip bars turned on their sides.
A. Place one dip bar on the ground with the U-shape closest to you and the bottom bars angled upwards. Begin in a high plank position, with your hands gripping either side of the dip bar, shoulders aligned over wrists, and legs fully extended. This is the starting position.
B. Rapidly drive your right knee towards your chest, then extend your right leg. Immediately drive your left knee towards your chest, then extend your left leg. Repeat this sequence once more on each leg.
C. Bend your knees and jump, bringing both feet underneath your chest and positioning them directly behind your hands.
D. Release your hands from the bars, then press into your heels to rise out of the squat position and explosively jump into the air. Land gently.
E. Bend at the hips to place your hands back on the dip bars, simultaneously extending your legs to return to the starting position.
Why it works: Parallettes can be utilized to intensify push-ups, but they can also be used to make them more accessible. “The elevated bars essentially act as a surface, allowing beginners to master the fundamental movement of a push-up,” says Takacs. To gradually work your way up to push-ups with dip bars, position one bar perpendicular to your body and perform incline push-ups with your hands on the bar and your feet on the floor.
A. Begin in a high plank position with your hands on a dip bar perpendicular to your body and directly beneath your shoulders, while keeping your legs fully extended and feet hip-width apart.
B. Engage your core by tucking your tailbone and drawing your navel towards your spine. Slowly bend your elbows at a 45-degree angle to lower your body, stopping when your chest aligns with the tops of the bar.
D. Move away from the bar to straighten arms.
Why it is effective: “One of the main exercises I utilize the parallette bars for is a reverse row, to strengthen the posterior and core muscles,” says DeVito. This movement can also assist you in working towards a conventional pull-up, if that is one of your objectives.
A. Sit on the ground between the bars, grasping onto each with hands facing inward.
B. Either lengthen legs or keep legs bent with feet level on the ground (the more parallel the body is, the more challenging this motion will be), then elevate hips off the ground and fully lengthen arms to start.
C. Pull chest up to the bars, keeping elbows close to the sides.
D. Gradually and in a regulated manner, lower back to the starting position.
Why it is effective: If you have not quite mastered pull-ups yet, the parallette bars can assist you in achieving that. Since your feet are on the ground (instead of hanging in mid-air), you do not have to lift your entire body weight, giving you an opportunity to practice engaging your latissimus dorsi muscles and perfecting your form before advancing the motion.
A. Lie under a dip bar, set up so that the bar runs perpendicular to the body and is directly above the chest. Grip the bar with palms facing towards the feet. Similar to reverse rows, either extend legs or bend knees for more assistance.
B. Engage latissimus dorsi muscles and core and pull chest up towards the bar, with both elbows pointing towards the feet. Maintain a straight line from neck to tailbone.
C. Gradually and in a regulated manner, lower back to the starting position with arms fully extended.
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