17 Parallel Bar Exercises to Build Amazing Bodyweight Strength

If you want to build ridiculous bodyweight strength and a rock-solid, capable core, parallel bar exercises can certainly help you get there.

Parallel bars are commonly used by gymnast to build overall strength to help improve performance in their respected events. They aren't just for gymnasts, though—any person can use them to help increase their overall strength and build a more impressive, capable physique.

You may already know about basic parallel bar moves like Dips, L-Sits and Inverted Rows, but there are many others.

Start at one end of the parallel bars, grasping each bar with a neutral grip. Straighten your arms so your elbows are almost locked and your feet are off the ground. Begin by bending one knee and bringing it up toward your chest and quickly lowering it as you perform the same movement with the other leg. Simultaneously start to lift one hand and move it forward along the bar followed by the other hand on the parallel bar until you are "walking" forward. Engage your core and lean forward only slightly. Continue this movement to the end of the parallel bars, and then reverse the movement back to the starting point.

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Parallel bars are commonly used by gymnast to build overall strength to help improve performance in their respected events. They aren't just for gymnasts, though—any person can use them to help increase their overall strength and build a more impressive, capable physique.

You may already know about basic parallel bar moves like Dips, L-Sits and Inverted Rows, but there are many others.

1. Bicycle Walks

Start at one end of the parallel bars, grasping each bar with a neutral grip. Straighten your arms so your elbows are almost locked and your feet are off the ground. Begin by bending one knee and bringing it up toward your chest and quickly lowering it as you perform the same movement with the other leg. Simultaneously start to lift one hand and move it forward along the bar followed by the other hand on the parallel bar until you are "walking" forward. Engage your core and lean forward only slightly. Continue this movement to the end of the parallel bars, and then reverse the movement back to the starting point.

2. Traveling Dips

Start at one end of the parallel bars, grasping each bar with a neutral grip. Straighten your arms so your elbows are almost locked and your feet are off the ground. Bend both elbows and lower yourself until your elbows are at 90 degrees. Explosively extend your elbows, raising your body forward up into the air and letting go of the bar momentarily. Come back down to grasp the bar again and immediately repeat the movement without pausing until you reach the end of the bars. Repeat the movement backwards, making sure you are engaging your core and are leaning forward only slightly.

3. Push-Ups

Start in the middle of the parallel bars, grasping each bar with a neutral grip. Straighten your arms so your elbows are almost locked and your feet are off the ground. Lift both legs off the ground, putting one foot on each parallel bar. Get into a standard Push-Up position and perform the move, engaging your core, keeping your chest out, and squeezing your glutes.

4. Plyometric Push-Ups

Warning: this is an advanced movement! If you don't have the required strength, or the bars you're on are particularly narrow/slippery, don't attempt this.

Start in the middle of the parallel bars, grasping each bar with a neutral grip. Straighten your arms so your elbows are almost locked and your feet are off the ground. Lift both legs off the ground and put one foot on each parallel bar. Get into a standard Push-Up position. Perform Push-Ups as normal, but focus on driving up with enough force that your hands leave the bar momentarily. Come back down and grasp the bar again, then immediately repeat the movement without pausing, making sure to engage your core, keep your chest out, and squeeze your glutes.

5. Push-Ups With Knee Drive

Start in the middle of the parallel bars, grasping each bar with a neutral grip. Straighten your arms so your elbows are almost locked and your feet are off the ground. Lift both legs off the ground, putting one foot on each parallel bar. Get into a standard Push-Up position. Perform a standard Push-Up while adding a knee drive toward your chest after each repetition. Alternate which knee drives on each repetition. Engage your core, keep your chest out, and squeeze your glutes.

6. Push-Ups With Spiderman Knee Drive

Start in the middle of the parallel bars, grasping each bar with a neutral grip. Straighten your arms so your elbows are almost locked and your feet are off the ground. Lift both legs off the ground putting one foot on each parallel bar. Get into a standard Push-Up position, perform a standard Push-Up while adding a knee drive toward the outside of your elbow after each repetition. Alternate which knee drives after each rep. Engage your core, keep your chest out, and squeeze your glutes.

7. Shoulder Tap Push-Ups

Start in the middle of the parallel bars, grasping each bar with a neutral grip. Straighten your arms so your elbows are almost locked and your feet are off the ground. Lift both legs off the ground putting one foot on each parallel bar. Get into a standard Push-Up position and perform a standard Push-Up. After every repetition, lift one hand and tap the opposite shoulder. Alternate which hand you're lifting after every rep. Engage your core, keep your chest out, squeeze your glutes, and focus on keeping your belly button point straight toward the ground as you tap your shoulder!

8. Single Leg Push-Ups

Start in the middle of the parallel bars, grasping each bar with a neutral grip. Straighten your arms so your elbows are almost locked and your feet are off the ground. Lift both legs off the ground putting one foot on each parallel bar. Get into a standard Push-Up position. Keeping the knees straight, lift one leg off the bar, extending it backwards in the air behind you. Perform a standard Push-Up, making sure to engage your core, keep your chest out, and squeeze your glutes. Perform an equal amount of repetitions with both legs in the air.

9. L-Sit Pendulum

Start in the middle of the parallel bars, grasping each bar with a neutral grip. Straighten your arms so your elbows are almost locked and your feet are off the ground. Keeping your knees straight, engage your core and hip flexors and lift your legs up until they are at 90 degrees. Laterally rotate your trunk to the left so your legs go over the bar, then rotate to the right keeping your legs straight, head up, chest out, and your body erect.

10. Bar-to-Bar Rotation

Start in the middle of the parallel bars, grasping each bar with a neutral grip. Straighten your arms so your elbows are almost locked and your feet are off the ground. Explosively propel yourself to the left, lifting your right hand off the bar, and rotating your whole body to the left, and grasping the bar to your left with your right hand. Pause for a moment to control your momentum, and then perform the same movement until you are back at the starting point. This exercises requires a lot of core and shoulder stability as well as explosive power!

11. Decline Crunch

Stand facing one of the parallel bars and grasp it with both hands using an overhand grip. Lift both feet off the ground and put both legs over the bar so the back of your knee is on top of the bar while still holding on with both hands. Once you have both legs on the bar, squeeze your glutes, contract your calves and hamstrings, and let go of the bar with your hands, slowly lowering your body towards the ground. Once you are hanging upside down, place your hands behind your head and perform a crunching motion.

12. Vertical Upside Down Pull-Up

Stand facing one of the parallel bars and grasp it with both hands using an underhand grip. Keeping your knees straight, lift both legs off the ground until you are in an L-Sit position. Maintaining that position, perform a standard pull making sure to engage the core and lats.

13. Monkey Bars

Start at one of the parallel bars, grasping each bar with a neutral grip. While hanging from the bar, lift both legs off the ground until you are in an L-Sit position. Keeping that position, lift one hand off the bar, moving it forwards and grasping the bar again followed quickly by the other hand on the parallel bar. Repeat this movement until you reach the end of the bars, then reverse the movement, making sure to engage your core and not swing back and forth too much.

14. Lateral Monkey Bars

Stand facing one of the parallel bars and grasp it with both hands using an overhand grip. While hanging, lift both legs off the ground until you are in an L-Sit position. Maintaining that position, lift one hand off the bar, moving it laterally and grasping the bar again, followed quickly by the other hand on the parallel bar. Repeat this movement until you reach the end of the bar, then reverse the movement, making sure to engage your core and not swing back and forth too much.

15. L-Sit Typewriter Pull-Ups

Stand facing one of the parallel bars and grasp it with both hands using an overhand grip. While hanging, lift both legs off the ground up until you are in an L-Sit position. Maintaining that position, pull yourself up until your head is over the bar. Extend your right elbow and laterally shift your body until your left cheek reaches your left hand. Reverse the movement until your right cheek reaches your right hand. Return back to the starting point and lower yourself back down. That's one repetition.

16. Hanging L-Sit Pendulum

Stand facing one of the parallel bars and grasp it with both hands using an overhand grip. While hanging, lift both legs off the ground up until you are in an L-Sit position. Maintaining that position, rotate your trunk to the left until your legs are completely facing that direction, then reverse the movement back to starting point. Now, rotate your trunk to the right, then reverse the movement back to starting point. That's one rep. Focus on contracting your core to naturally return your legs towards the starting position.

17. Hanging Windshield Wipers

Stand facing one of the parallel bars and grasp it with both hands using an overhand grip. Keeping your knees straight, lift both legs off the ground until you are in an L-Sit position. Maintaining that position, rotate your trunk to the left until your legs are parallel to the ground. Then reverse the movement back to starting point. Now, rotate your trunk to the right. Then reverse the movement back to starting point. That's one rep.

The parallel bars might be nothing more than two poles located in close proximity to one another, but their versatility is only limited by your imagination.

If any of these moves are too advanced for you, there's almost always a way to scale them down. For example, if the L-Sit Pendulum is above your current fitness level, you can simply start with the basic L-Sit and work to lengthen the intervals you can hold that position.

If you want to build ridiculous bodyweight strength and a rock-solid, capable core, parallel bar exercises can certainly help you get there.

Photo Credit: CasarsaGuru/iStock

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Topics: CORE | UPPER BODY | BUILD MUSCLE | BODYWEIGHT EXERCISES | GYMNASTICS