The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Parallets

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Parallets

From helping your handstand to getting started with your l-sit, parallets should be a staple in any beginner’s hand-balancing workout. Let me tell you why:

Typically, Calisthenics tells you to stick with the bare essentials of equipment. Some rings, a pull-up bar and that’s it. But sometimes, having one or two more things at home can make your training easier.

Take hand-balancing, for example. It’s crucial to calisthenics, but it’s one hell of a challenge when you’re just starting out:

You need to get your legs up straight, keep your balance and hold your posture. Even if you’re using a wall or support blocks, your wrists and hands will usually get tired long before the rest of your body is ready to give up.

And that’s where a little piece of equipment like parallets comes in handy. They’re an awesome and affordable hand-balancing tool that allows you to do train longer safely. You can even go to our Calisthenics Academy shop and get them today.

But how can I use parallets?

Parallets can help you in so many different ways, but there isn’t much info about how to actually add them to your training, or how to work out with them. This is why we’ve created a guide. Let’s dive into it!

WHY SHOULD I ADD PARALLETS TO MY TRAINING?

Here are some of the awesome benefits parallets have:

  • Prolong your training. You can practice hand-balancing on the ground until you start experiencing wrist fatigue, then switch to using the parallets for the rest of your training session.
  • Prevent overuse injury. Hands and wrists aren’t naturally equipped to carry our entire body weight. If you don’t train them properly, they’ll quickly develop overuse injuries that take a lot of time to heal. As a beginner, parallets will help you train properly without putting too much stress onto your hands and wrists.
  • Add an extra step to your progressions. Is working on the floor too hard right off the bat? Try training with parallets as an extra step towards working on the ground.
  • Practice moves you can’t do on the ground. Can’t do an L-sit on the ground because, well, you just can’t yet? Start on parallets! They take you off the ground enough for you to get started.

6 ways to include parallets in your training

Here are 6 basic moves you can train on your parallets for a wider range of movement, easier progressions while safeguarding your wrists and hands.

Be careful with your wrists’ position! When starting, always keep them in a neutral position to prevent overexertion.

L-Sit
How-to: 
Keep your hips extended at the same level as your hands. Raise your legs as high as you can, preferably to a 90-degree angle, parallel to the floor. If you can’t, focus on keeping your feet off the ground while holding your back and arms straight.
Photo credit: Crossfit Magnus

Tuck-Sit
How-to:
Keep your hips extended, slightly in front of your hands, and your back as straight as you can maintain it. Your knees should be tightly held to get her and your head is held in a neutral position.
Photo credit: GMB Fitness

Push-up
How-to: 
Keep the parallets wide enough that your hands and shoulders are at the same width. Bend your knees if you need to, and lower down with your elbows tucked in. As per calisthenics, lower slowly while exhaling (4s) and push up quickly with a 1s pause each way. Watch out for your hip position and keep them aligned with your body!
Photo credit: Men’s Fitness

Tuck-Planche
How-to: Push down on your shoulders, round your back and pull your knees together, tight against your chest. Remember, keep your wrists in a neutral position.
Photo credit: Men’s Fitness

Dips
How-to: You have the option to do L-Sit dips, or follow the image with your feet on the ground. Keep your elbows tucked in and exhale while going down slowly (4s) and inhale coming up.
Photo credit: Desert Cart

Handstand (against the wall)
How-to: 
Place your hands on the parallets as close to the wall as you can while staying balanced. Align your head, shoulders and back, bring your stomach in to avoid the “banana” shape. Push your shoulders down and keep your head neutral (don’t overextend your neck). Try letting only your feet touch the wall.
Photo credit: Men’s Fitness

Wanna workout? Include your parallets!

  • Use the best warm-up for you.
    If you don’t have one, here’s a good warm-up routine from GMB Fitness:
  1. Shoulder circles – 5 times each direction
  2. Up/Down/Right/left neck tilts – 5 times each side
  3. Arm crossovers – 5 times each side
  4. Wrist stretches, fingers facing into and away from the knees – 5 times each
  5. Elbow circles with hands on the ground – 5 times each way
  6. Scapular shrugs, hands, and knees on the ground – 5-10 times
  7. Cat/Cow alternation – 5 each pose, hold for 3-5s
  8. Shake out those shoulders for a few seconds!
  • Dips – 5-12 reps
  • L-sit 5-10s
  • Tuck-sit 5-10s
  • Tuck planche 5-10s
  • Push-up – 5-12 reps
  • Rest 90s-2 minutes
  • Repeat steps 2-7 for no more than 3-4 rounds.
You can end your workout with a handstand (against the wall), holding for 10-45s.

 

Interested in getting your own set of parallets? Check out our shop at Calisthenics Academy!

Have your own experience with parallets? Share it in the comments or in our Facebook group.

Professional trainer, ex cross-fitter and a long time calisthenic practitioner. I started with Convict Conditioning and achieved levels of strength which enabled me to take part in street workouts championships. Check Out our Resources and Start Building Real Strength just using your Bodyweight!
6 Simple Tips to Avoid Shoulder Injury

6 Simple Tips to Avoid Shoulder Injury

I wish there had been a resource on keeping shoulders healthy when I first got into barbell strength training, because I certainly could have used it.

Or maybe there was but I was too thick-skinned to listen. Injuries are for old guys and pussies, I always thought.

avoid shoulder pain

avoid shoulder pain

Boy, was I wrong.

While I’m by no means a “shoulder expert”, my own shoulder problems have led me to modify and find safer ways of training over the years.

Plus, I have seen my fair share of guys with shoulder issues training hockey players – a sport where shoulder injuries are about as commonplace as Big Macs on a fat kid’s dinner plate.

6 simple tips to avoid shoulder injury

1. Use a Thick Bar or Fat Gripz for Pressing

Few people realize this but a larger diameter bar is actually less stressful on the joints than a regular one.

Plus, you can’t go as heavy with a thicker bar. So you still get a great training effect with lighter loads, which is safer.

avoid shoulder pain

avoid shoulder pain

Get a pair of these. You can thank me later.

2. Avoid Explosive Overhead Work

Snatches and jerks can wreak havoc on the shoulders, especially if your shoulder and thoracic mobility suck. For some guys even a clean can become problematic, causing pain in the catch position.

For an easy fix, replace those movements with kettlebell swings – performed no higher than shoulder height (arms parallel to floor) – and various medicine ball throws.

You’ll still be able to train for increased power without the risk of being sidelined due to injury.

avoid shoulder pain

avoid shoulder pain

Most non-Olympic lifters lack the mobility to perform overhead exercises safely

And don’t worry about what some die-hard Olympic lifting fanatic said about the necessity of snatching, jerking and cleaning for improved athleticism on some training forum.

You can’t train when injured. Stick with what’s comfortable.

If you absolutely insist on Olympic lifting regardless of the risks involved, focus on pull variations and perform snatches with a clean grip.

3. Scale Back on Overhead Pressing

Overhead presses have gained the unwarranted reputation of destroying guys’ shoulders.

They don’t. But they can definitely aggravate existing ones.

Know the difference.

Behind-the-neck presses will likely go out the window if you’ve had shoulder problems and wish to keep them healthy in the long run. Regular military presses perhaps as well.

Your best bet would then be to perform a standing overhead press with leg drive or what most people know as a ”push press” – this helps in overcoming the bottom part of the lift which is more stressful than after the barbell clears the sticking point, and where most shoulder injuries occur.

But even then, the stress on the joints may be too much when using a straight bar.

If that’s the case, 1 arm dumbbell push presses, thick bar push presses and log presses (with a neutral grip) should be your top choices for direct overhead work.

4. Do Landmine or Incline Bench Presses

For those of you experiencing pain/discomfort every time you attempt any direct overhead work, your next option is to switch to incline benching.

Any barbell or dumbbell variation will get the job done, just make sure the bench is set up at a 15-30 degree angle. I’ve found this to be a better choice than a flat bench for trainees with existing shoulder problems while you still get to go heavy here.

Another, even safer pressing movement is the landmine press, which can be done standing or from a half-kneeling position, just like Tony Gentilcore does in the video below. I prefer half-kneeling for beginners since it teaches you how to properly lock in the abs and squeeze the glutes, avoiding compensation from the lower back with overhead exercises.

5. Don’t Go Full Range of Motion

That means leaving a couple centimeters of space between chest and bar in the bottom position of any bench press variation.

And, as I have already mentioned in the past, performing pulls and high pulls on cleans and snatches.

When barbell pressing overhead, you’d start the movement at about chin level, not off the upper chest.

On dips, your upper arm should go no lower than parallel to the floor. The bottom portion of the dip contributes very little to additional strength gains but is a lot more stressful on the shoulders than with the upper arm at and above 90 degrees.

On chins, especially if done on a fixed bar, leave a slight, barely noticeable bend in the elbows at the bottom. This will keep all the tension and stress on the muscles instead of the joints.

6. Avoid Failure and Locking Out at the Top

Another way to make things even safer is to never go near failure, grinding and locking out those ugly-looking reps that take you five seconds to complete. All reps should be done in a piston-like fashion – smooth, good bar speed, just shy of full range of motion both at the bottom and at the top.

So if you were incline benching the 40 kg dumbbells, you’d bring the DB’s down to within a few centimeters of touching the chest at the bottom and within a few centimeters of locking out at the top. This ensures that your upper body muscles bear the brunt of the physical stress – not the wrists, elbows and shoulders.

Once you start getting close to that territory where lifting speed slows down, having to take a couple seconds between each rep with the dumbbells held at the top with straight elbows, terminate the set.

Here’s Ronnie Coleman demonstrating exactly what I mean on the dumbbell bench press:

While you won’t be able to use as much weight and perform as many reps as you normally would when locking out at the top, you’ll stay in the game far longer into the future.

And that’s all that matters.

7. Use Gymnastic Rings

Gymnastic rings are special in that they allow for natural movement of the joints to occur.

Some people experience shoulder pain when performing dips or chin-ups on straight bars even without any external load. Since the bar is fixed, you can’t move freely and that could lead to joint problems down the road.

With chins on rings, for example, you can start with your palms facing away and finish with your palms facing you or you can keep a neutral grip the entire time.

It’s up to you and can be dictated by what feels safest and most natural for your body, as demonstrated by Ben Bruno below.

So now you know how to avoid shoulder pain.

To finish off, here are my TOP 5 safest, most effective upper body pressing movements for those suffering from shoulder issues, in no particular order…

  1. Thick bar or Fat Gripz floor press
  2. 1 arm DB push press (neutral grip if necessary)
  3. 1/2 kneeling landmine or kettlebell press
  4. Log clean & push press
  5. Ring push-up

You can still train hard and heavy while injured. But you gotta train smart. See other tips on staying off the injury for calisthenics athletes.

And of course, the best way to protect your shoulder is to train naturally through calisthenics. See how you can replace weight training with bodyweight and calisthenics exercises here. 

That means ditching the exercises that cause pain. And replacing them with safer options.

Follow these recommendations and keep getting stronger without grinding your shoulders into dust.

blank
Yunus Barisik, CSCS, is the owner and head trainer at Next Level Athletics in Helsinki, Finland. He has worked with hundreds of clients from all walks of life – from business owners and office workers to junior and high school hockey players all the way to the collegiate and pro levels.

Combining old school training methods with the latest research, Yunus helps his clients get stronger, faster, leaner and more awesome in general as fast as humanly possible through proper strength training and nutrition prescription.

For more information, please visit www.next-level-athletics.com or you can e-mail Yunus anytime at yunus@next-level-athletics.com.

Reduce Lower Back Pain to ZERO – with Calisthenics

Reduce Lower Back Pain to ZERO – with Calisthenics

Today I will talk about the well-known problem of having constant pain in the lower back.

Lower back pain occurs through interconnection and overlapping of TENDONS and MUSCLES, and NERVES and NERVE ROOTS that travel to the feet from the lower back. Also, lower back pain can occur due to interconnection of both small and complex joints and also spinal discs.

Lower back pain can cause severe muscle spasms or even worse, it can be chronic. This problem can be also caused by taking a hit in the lower back (for example, during sport game as basketball, handball etc.), during lifting weights in the gym or even through any other physical activity.

I personally have friends that are facing chronic lower back pain that transfers from the lower back to the legs and feet. This problem is known as sciatica.

After many therapies, medications and all other treatments one of them come with a conclusion.

“I started stretching on a daily basis and gradually started implementing exercise that increased my strength in the lower back. One doctor said that I have a NERVE – DISC interconnection problem. That actually caused the pain to occur in my lower back. The doctor said that by stretching I’m preventing the possible NERVE-DISC connection which will result in pain occurrence. After my stretching routines, I was doing a couple of bodyweight exercises with the slowest tempo possible. If there was a sign of pain, I was stopping immediately and continued the day after. I was doing this for 5 months. Now I’m playing professional basketball and lift 170 kg on the regular deadlift.”

First of all I will start with the stretching section. I will mention a couple of exercises that you will do on a daily basis, right after you wake up in the morning, and before bed.

These stretches will focus on stretching the muscles of the hips (especially glutes), hamstrings and lower back.

Pigeon Pose 

Pigeon

Happy Baby

happy b

Half Lord of the Fish

lord of fish 

Lumbar Twist Pose

 Lumbar Twist

Cat Stretch

Cat Stretch

Single Knee to Chest Hug

Hug knee

Double Knee Chest Hug

 2knee 

Leg stretch with a Strap

 Leg stretch wrap

Figure 4 stretch

 figure 4

All these exercises are to be done gently, without forcing. If you notice any discomfort while you are doing these exercises, stop immediately. Focus on doing more than 10 seconds stretches for couple of sets. Make sure you stretch the both sides in those exercises that are single leg/side stretches.

Now let me proceed to the most important and forgotten method of strengthening the lower back.

Lower back strength = Injury free

I start from this formula. Those people who are limited in their physical activity are actually having a problem with each and every body part, due to their weak development.

You have seen athletes go through horrible injuries and yet they come back and play again.

You think that having torn cartilage in your knee is weaker injury than the lower back injury? You are wrong. For both injuries real treatment method, strength training program and patience is needed.

Top 5  bodyweight exercises to  strengthen your lower back

Let’s look at the top 5 bodyweight exercises you can do that will strengthen your lower back and will release the feeling of pain.

Hyperextension

hyper

This exercise is to be done on a machine like in the picture below. If you don’t have access to this machine than you can improvise by asking someone to hold your legs while you are lifting your upper body. NOTE: Keep your arms on your head.

Like all other exercises, this one needs to be done in slow tempo.  Again, if you feel any discomfort stop immediately.

Planks

plank

For me the best exercise that targets the whole body is the regular plank.

By doing planks you are strengthening each and every little muscle in your body. I’m mentioning this exercise because it is great for strengthening the muscle of the lower back too. Start by holding 20 seconds and gradually increase the time. Don’t force, the key is to know when is the right time to stop.

Superman Lift

Superman

Superman Lifts Is the most advanced exercise of these 5 along with the plank.

This exercise can be done both in isometric and dynamic way. I really do suggest that you first start with doing accessory exercises for this one. An example is the exercise bellow known as “Lower Back Extension – Leg Lifts”. Also if you have chronic problem it is suggested to start from lifting 1 hand and 1 leg separately, that will also work your lower back and upper back muscles.

super123

Lower Back Extension – Leg Lifts

leg lifts

This exercise is an accessory one for the superman exercise that I mentioned above.

The Lower Back Leg lifts targets all muscles from which the lower back and lower body is consisted. Starting from the hip muscles (glutes), then hamstrings and the most important part the deep pelvic muscles this exercise will strengthen your lower back like no other exercise will.

Lift and lower slowly. If you want to, you can hold the top position for 1 or 2 seconds before lowering your legs back to start.

As I mentioned in the superman exercise you can start with lifting only one leg and progress to this 2 leg variation.

Bridge

glute bridge

Bridging is the forgotten method of developing strong and healthy lower back and healthy spine.

Lift your butt from the ground like in the picture bellow, and hold that position for 2 seconds. Than lower back down, and lift again. This move should be done as slow as possible, that will prevent you from possible injury and unwanted activation of the irritated nerves.

By combining these stretches and strengthening exercises you will see tremendous improvements on your goal of releasing yourself from those long lasting lower back problems.

REMEMBER!

Do every exercise as slow as possible. Don’t force! Start by doing no more than 8-10 repetitions and gradually add sets and increase the reps.

STRETCH A LOT. But again, DON’T FORCE.

Do the stretches as much as you can, it is suggested to do them in the morning and in the evening, but if you can do more, than DO IT!

About the strengthening exercises it is recommended to be done once in a day for no more than 15-20 minutes for start.

TRAIN HARD, TRAIN SMART, EAT HEALTHY!

calisthenics training program

calisthenics training program

Professional trainer, ex cross-fitter and a long time calisthenic practitioner. I started with Convict Conditioning and achieved levels of strength which enabled me to take part in street workouts championships. Check Out our Resources and Start Building Real Strength just using your Bodyweight!
5 Little-Known Secrets to Prevent Injuries in Sports like Calisthenics

5 Little-Known Secrets to Prevent Injuries in Sports like Calisthenics

By now you’re probably more than well aware that [tweet_box design=”box_06″]bodyweight training is an excellent way to prevent injuries in sport[/tweet_box] and long term overuse injuries that are inevitable in traditional strength training (using weights).

As it turns out using your own bodyweight for resistance is extremely less taxing on your joints which leads to fewer injuries.

However, as with any form of training injuries CAN still occur and [tweet_box design=”box_06″]you need to learn how to prevent injuries in sports especially calisthenics[/tweet_box]

Have no fear though!

Following I have created a checklist of sorts to make sure that everyone, from beginners to bodyweight pros, can avoid injury and continue to crush their bodyweight workouts.

If you feel like there’s something we’re missing be sure to let me know. I want to know what you do to continue feeling fresh. Post your best tips in the comment section!

1) Warm-Up For At Least 10 Minutes

The most common mistake that I see in regards to bodyweight training (or really all training in general) is the lack of a proper warm-up.

If you were about to run in a track meet you wouldn’t just line up without having warmed up, so why would you enter the gym and start your workout with out warming up?

Some incorrectly believe that because they are training bodyweight style that they don’t need to warm-up, which is WRONG! If anything bodyweight training requires more of a warm-up!

The great thing is that there really is no wrong way to warm-up. But 10 minutes of some sort of continuous movement will ensure blood is flowing to your joints, lubricating them and helping you avoid injury.

2) Invest In A Lacrosse Ball

You’re probably scratching your head and thinking how a lacrosse ball is going to help you with bodyweight training.

We all know that becoming really good at bodyweight movements takes a lot of time, and certainly A LOT of practice. One drawback of all of this practice is that your joints can take a pounding (wrists, and elbows particularly).

This is where the lacrosse ball comes in to play.

In your spare time, rolling or massaging your joint areas with the lax ball will help enormously in avoiding unwanted joint pain.

It really is that easy, and again there’s no wrong way to go about it. Similar to the picture shown, just find a sore muscle or joint and work the lax ball around the sore area for a minute or two.

By making this a regular part of your free time (you could do this at home or even at your work desk), you will avoid the typical muscle and joint soreness that is experienced after working out.

Lax Ball

3) Make Sure to Use Your Progressions

The other day while training I saw a guy come in, warm-up and go straight into doing handstand push-ups as his first movement.

My wrists cringed for him.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing handstand push-ups first in your work out, but going straight into them would be similar to someone walking in and putting 225 lbs. on a bench press straight off.

Instead, the smart play would be to work up to those handstand push-ups by doing some normal push-ups, then progressing to some handstand holds, and then the handstand push-ups. Nothing too extensive, just to get your body (i.e. your wrists) used to the movement.

Every bodyweight movement has modified “easier” versions of the full exercise, don’t be afraid to use them!

4) Switch It Up

Switching the exercises you use to target individual muscle areas has two key benefits:

-Your muscles eventually adapt to your training stimuli so doing the same exercises over and over again rapidly causes them to lose their effectiveness

-Doing the same exercises in the same fashion over and over again can be troublesome on your joints

The most efficient way to effectively “switch” up your training is to create two weekly templates “A” & “B”.

So one week you do week “A” workouts, and then the following week you do “B” workouts and rotate weekly thereafter.

Doing this will make sure your joints are being overused, and your muscles won’t get used to any one particular movement.

meditation

5) Change Your Mindset

When I first got into doing bodyweight workouts I was transitioning, like some of you may be, from doing traditional strength training using weights (barbells and dumbbells).

I was used to entering the gym cranking my Metallica or Public Enemy, fired up to crush some new PRs.

Unfortunately I learned the hard way that this approach DOES NOT work with bodyweight training.

To get getter at these movements you HAVE to think of it as going to practice vs. going to train.

The mindset can’t be, “I’m going to work out.”

It should be, “I’m going to hone my skills.”

Making this key shift (thinks like Yoga or meditation as seen in the picture can help) in mindset will automatically help you avoid progressing to failure and injuring yourself in the process. Because at the end of the day bodyweight movements require incredible skill.

No one came out of the womb playing Chopin on the piano. It takes years of daily practice. Bodyweight training is the same way, it takes daily commitment to practice to get better, but the results are most definitely worth it!

Hopefully by now you have a clear(er) picture of what you need to do to avoid injury while bodyweight training.

Remember, I want to hear from you!

What kinds of steps do you take to properly warm up for your bodyweight training sessions?

How have you effectively changed your mindset to avoid training to failure?

How have you used a lacrosse ball to avoid muscle/joint soreness?

I look forward to reading all of your responses in the comments section!

calisthenics training program

calisthenics training program

Professional trainer, ex cross-fitter and a long time calisthenic practitioner. I started with Convict Conditioning and achieved levels of strength which enabled me to take part in street workouts championships. Check Out our Resources and Start Building Real Strength just using your Bodyweight!