One thing that I really love here in Waikiki are the small outdoor fitness stations. This workout is done in one of them, using only parallel bars.
This workout was born just by playing around at one of those parks in another early morning.
It was not one of those well structured and well thought through workouts. I went out to just play, and it turned out to be pretty great.
It has taken me a long time to realize that working out doesn't have to mean only running, only weight lifting or only doing HIIT workouts. I used to think that if it's not one of those things, it doesn't count as a workout. Now, I really enjoy some playfulness and spontaneity when I'm working out, and this parallel bar workout was exactly like that.
If you have time, stop, try out new things and play around. Try to pull yourself over a bar a few times. Climb on the bars. See what you can I can with them.
It's actually a lot of fun, and not structuring and preparing every single workout ahead leaves much more room for exploring and playing. Or, you can always do your planned workouts, and if you have time, go and play as well. It's just important not to forget about that.
Because the entire outdoors can be your gym.
Working Out on Parallel Bars
So, what kind of exercises can you do on parallel bars?
First of all, parallel bars are awesome for full body training. You can train arms, legs, core and back, and often all at once within one movement.
When you're doing leg raises, you work your abs, arms and legs.
By doing triceps dips, the focus is on triceps, but you need to hold your core really tight to avoid swinging too much.
When you do push ups on a parallel bar, you use your arms and chest, but at the same time, you need to keep your core tight or otherwise you'll just drop between the bars…
5 Movements Parallel Bar Workout
Here's the workout I did the other day. Bright and early, as usual, to avoid crowds. Fresh air, just a few people around me, beach right there…
Pretty much paradise!
I'm really into ladder workouts lately, so this another one. You'll be doing 5 exercises, following this scheme: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.
In round 1, you'll be doing 10 reps of each one of those exercises. In round 2, you'll be doing 9. Then 8, then 7, then 6… Continue all the way until you're at one rep of each exercise.
You can stop there, but if you feel strong and want more, go ahead and add one more ladder, working your way from one rep of each exercise to 10 again.
Here's the workout!
And here are the movements:
Parallel Bar Workout: Leg Raises
This is a great exercise for arms, abs and hip flexors. If you want to do L-Sits or Pistol Squats but find holding your legs in front of you very hard, part of the problem may be in weak hip flexors. This exercise will help you to strengthen them.
Keep the arms locked, chest open and lift the legs up in front of you. If that feels really hard, you can bend the knees and lift the knees to your chest.
If you can't do L-Sits, the problem may also be in weak core. You can do a ton of crunches, but to be able to do straight Leg Raises, Toes to Bars or L-Sits, you want to do Leg Raises, Knees to Bars and L-Sits to improve that 🙂
Ideally, you want to swing as little as you can to make your abs work really hard. I could do better job with that, I'm still swinging quite a bit.
Parallel Bar Workout: Pull Ups
This is a simpler version of a pull up, so if you can't do one yet or are simply looking for ways to do something little different, you can try parallel bar Pull Ups.
You'll work your arms, upper back and core.
Go under the bars, hold one bar and straighten your arms. Then pull yourself up, coming as close to the bar as you possibly can. Ideally, you want to your chest to touch the bars.
Be sure to control your form and keep the hips from sinking (=no butt to the ground). Your body should be in one long line when you look at it from the side.
Parallel Bar Workout: Dips
Dips mostly focus on triceps, but also shoulders and upper back. But again, you need to tuck your abs in too to keep your posture good and minimize swinging.
Ideally, your hands should be under your shoulders and just outside your hips. But that depends of the width of the bars. The ones I used were a little too wide.
To do the dips, lock the elbows and keep the chest up. Bend your elbows as much as you can–the more you bend, the harder you work when pressing yourself up again.
Try and keep your body in place as well as you can and avoid swinging. Little bit of swing will happen anyway, but try to keep it to minimum. Unless you're using very high bars, you'll probably have to bend your knees and cross the feet.
Parallel Bar Workout: Push Ups
This exercise is very similar to regular Push Ups, working your arms, chest and shoulders. Tuck the abs in and squeeze your butt when doing that.
What's great about doing push ups on parallel bars is that you can actually go lower than in a regular push up, therefore making the exercise harder for yourself.
And if your wrists ever get sore from doing the regular push ups, you should try practicing push ups on the bars. When you're holding the bars, your wrists will be straight, so you put much less pressure on them.
Get in a push up position by placing the toes on each bar and holding from the bars with your hands. Bend the elbows and go as low as you can, then press yourself up again. The lower you go, the more you work!
The hips may sink easily in this movemebt, but try not to let it happen as it will tilt your lower back and possibly cause pain later.
Parallel Bar Workout: Over the Bar Swings
Now to the super fun part! This is one exercise that I remember from long time ago when we did some gymnastics in high school.
Lock the elbows and keep the chest up. Swing the legs between the two bars, and then simply swing them over one bar. From there, swing the legs back to the middle and after that, to the other side.
That's definitely the most fun and playful part of the workout. Don't be intimidated and give it a try!
Have fun with your workouts! If you're lucky, you may have some outdoor fitness stations with pull up, monkey and parallel bars close to your house. Maybe there's a playground–you can do a lot of things there as well. Take the chance and see what you can do with all that fun equipment.
Most importantly, get creative and find time to play! It's fun and you get in a workout in a different but super fun way.