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If you are trying to decide how to choose the right set of parallettes to buy, there are several points to consider. When you look at different sets, be sure to inquire about the following characteristics:

Length

One of the key exercises on a set of parallettes is a pirouette. The parallettes should be long enough for the gymnast to safely perform this exercise. Unfortunately, a lot of parallettes on the market are not built with this exercise in mind. Most are built for “pressing exercises,” which do not require much length. But, pirouettes are essential to the development of a gymnast’s basics and need to be incorporated in their daily workout.

So, how long is long enough? At a minium, each parallette should be slightly longer than the gymnast’s shoulder width. Each step on a pirouette should be about shoulder-width apart, so the parallettes need to be long enough to accomodate this.

Height

When looking at the best height for your set of parallettes, several exercises should be considered. Parallettes should be high enough for beginners to do L-sits and for advanced gymnasts to do handstand pushups. When a beginner does an L-sit, they may not yet be strong enough to hold their legs up parallel with the bars. Their legs will usually dip below the bars, so if the bars are not high enough the gymnast will not be able to keep his feet off the ground.

Advanced gymnasts do not have this problem when they are doing L-sits, but in order to do handstand pushups the bars have to be high enough to allow for the gymnast’s head to go below the bars. From our experience, we have found that their should be around 7 inches from the top of the parallette rail to the ground. This allows room for both beginners and advanced gymnasts, while not being too high to compromise the stability and safety of the parallettes.

Portability

Portability is an often overlooked quality in a set of parallettes. If the parallettes are too heavy or too bulky, it is not feasable to transport the parallettes easily. It is a tremendous advantage for a gymnast to have access to a set of parallettes when travelling to a competition or sitting in a hotel room. Sometimes when at a competition the gymnast is not able to get into the gym before the big day, but having a set of parallettes handy allows the gymnast to get an adequate workout in prior to the meet.

Stability

The stability of the parallettes is crucial not only for safety reasons, but also for proper technique development. The base of the parallettes needs to be long enough to prevent the parallettes from rocking or tipping over when the gymnast is training. Also, if the gymnast fears the bars are going to move or tip over while performing an exercise, he will tend to compensate the technique of the skill. The length of the parallette base should be constructed in direct proportion to the height of the parallettes. The higher the parallettes are, the longer the base should be to alleviate rocking or tipping over.

Size of Rail

The size of the parallette rail should be as close as possible to the size of the actual parallel bars rail. Especaially important for the beginner levels, this serves to enhance familiarity with the parallel bars. Depending on the manufacturer, the size and shape of a parallel bar rail can vary slightly but, we have found a diameter of 1.5 inches to be about average.

Durability

Obviously, the set of parallettes you buy is an investment in your gymnast’s career. You want them to last! Throughout our careers we have trained on parallettes made out of every type of material imaginable and had the opportunity to test their durability over the years.

The majority of parallettes on the market today are made with a wood parallette rail. It is important that the wood is hard and consistent. In the testing we performed using several different types of woods, we found some interesting results. Pine, a very popular wood used for parallette rails, was just too soft a wood to stand the force of a bigger gymnast. Oak was an extremely hard wood, but it tended to chip off easily because of the inconsistency of the grain. We found that maple provided the best result for the different woods in overall strength and consistency of grain. The maple is a little more costly, but definitely proves to be worth the money for a long-term investment.

Though maple wood tends to be the most durable, it’s weight may be a factor when considering portability. PVC has proven to be extremely durable and lightweight. The PVC provides a slight flex in the bar, comprable to the flex in the actual parallel bars you see when gymnasts are competing. The PVC must be reinforced with a strong adhesive, however, to ensure it’s durability.

Where to Buy

When looking for the perfect set of parallettes to buy, be sure to consider all of the above characteristics. It really is a long term investment in your gymnast’s career, so you want to make sure you get the most for your money. Don’t be fooled by fancy paint jobs or marketing schemes by the manufacturers. Just focus on the essentials mentioned above.

When we researched the marketplace for just the right set of parallettes that had all the qualities mentioned above, we were hard-pressed to find one. So, we went to work. We worked with an engineer to design the exact set of parallettes we were looking for. We came up with two different versions, each for a specific purpose.
American Gymnast Travellettes

Dimensions: 1.25″ diameter bar, 23″ long, 8″ high, each base is 11 1/4″ wide

For the gymnast on the go…the American Gymnast Travellettes are perfect for use at home, in the gym, or to take with you when you travel to your next competition. Our Travellettes will fit easily in your bag so you can take your workout with you. We designed the American Gymnast Travellettes eactly the same as our traditional Parallettes, but used a durable, lightweight PVC with a unique interlocking design making assembly a snap. Never miss another workout!

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American-Gymnast-ParallettesAmerican Gymnast Parallettes

Dimensions: 1.5″ diameter solid maple bar, 24″ long, 7″ high, each base is 11″ wide

An essential training aide to every gymnast’s career, the American Gymnast Parallettes were specially designed by gymnasts, for gymnasts. Used by World and Olympic Team Members, these parallettes are perfect for training at home or in the gym.