Did you read that and think “What the heck’s a parallette?”

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. This portable tool has been kicking around the fitness world for a few years now. But it isn’t as widely used as it should be.

Parallettes are basically bars raised up on supports. Like those push up grips you see at Wall-Mart, but longer. Gymnasts use them to train for parallel bars. And fitness enthusiasts use them to build pressing power and rock hard core strength.

I made my own several years ago for about $15 using PVC pipe. And then last summer I treated myself to a nice wooden set. They’re simple, sturdy, and you can take them apart and throw them in a bag to train on the road.

Ready to get started? Try my 3 favourite parallette moves…

1) Tuck Hold

This deceptively easy looking isometric hold is a killer core strengthener.

  • Squat between the parallettes and grasp the handles. This is the starting position.

  • Pull your knees to your chest while supporting your weight on your hands. Keep your chest up, elbow pits forward, and butt between your hands.
  • Try for 5 second holds. Repeat 10x.

I like this exercise because it’s much harder than it looks, and it forms the foundation for more advanced skills.

2) Tuck Swing to L-Sit

This one’s another core strengthener, but it also builds the strength of your legs and teaches you how to extend core strength to your extremities.

  • Squat with your feet just ahead of the parallettes and lean back to grasp the handles. This is the starting position.

  • Pull your knees to your chest in a tight tuck, and allow yourself to swing back while supporting your weight on your arms. Keep your elbows in, chest high, and hips high.

  • Exhale hard as you swing back to the front, and extend your legs out in an L-sit.
  • Hold the L-sit for 5 seconds, lower your legs to the starting position and repeat 10x.

I like this one because the swing makes it so much fun to do. And yeah, because it’s difficult.

3) Rocca Press

The Rocca is a staple of upper body development. Next to handstand pushups, it’s the best way to build vertical pressing strength with bodyweight exercise.

  • Stand just behind your parallettes and bend down to grasp the handles.
  • Shift to your toes in order to maximize the amount of weight that is over your hands—you’ll stay on your toes for the entire set.

  • Lower your head between the parallettes, exhale and press back up, recruiting your core to tighten and drive.
  • Shoulders remain in line with butt throughout, and your hips are as high above your head as possible.
  • Repeat 10-15x.

I like doing Rocca’s with the parallettes because that slight elevation makes it easier on the shoulders. And gripping the bar hard helps you recruit more muscle to crank out a few extra reps.

Pretty cool, eh?

I learned the first two exercises from my friend Ryan Hurst’s P1 program. I had a blast with his parallette course last summer, and I made serious improvements in my core strength.

Are you looking to add some variety to your bodyweight training?

Want to add a fun portable tool to your sessions?

Need new ideas for building core strength or pushing power?

Pick up a set of parallettes or make your own, and give these three exercises a try. I know you’re gonna love ‘em.

Want more ‘odd exercises’? Check out my Forbidden Fitness program, it’s filled with functional exercises drawn from more than two decades of real ninja training.