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Home Gym Equipment: Parallettes and How to Build Them

Updated on September 20, 2015

Time Constraints and Balancing Acts

There is a sign hanging in the entryway of my local Gold’s Gym with the motivational phrase “Know that showing up is half the battle”. However you might feel about clichés, I think this one resonates with a lot of people. With only a finite number of hours in a day, finding the time to get to the gym for exercise can be its own challenge. As an example, I recently started a new project at work that has me commuting two hours roundtrip each day. Previously, my roundtrip commute was just an hour. One of the first things that a lot of people cut from their daily routine when free time becomes limited is fitness, and sadly I have been no exception. This is something I intend to rectify once I am fully up to speed on the project, but for the time being I have fallen back on my home gym equipment to get me through this transition. There is not a lot of free space in my basement, so my home gym equipment tends to be portable items like kettlebells, medicine balls, resistance bands, etc. In essence, items that facilitate bodyweight training for strength and conditioning.

That said, while being physically strong or fast is great, what truly separates elite athletes from the rest of the field is their sense of spatial awareness, balance and coordination. Let’s use Football players as examples. Consider a Wide Receiver…not only must he be focused on the incoming pass from the Quarterback, he must focus on it while running downfield alongside an opposing team’s defender while also being aware of where he is in relation to sidelines. Or an Offensive Lineman, whose job is to protect the Quarterback while he executes the play. The Lineman must stand his ground to block against the incoming pass rush, and this requires a tremendous sense of stability, balance and coordination.

The good news is that just as you can train for strength improvements, you can also train your sense of balance and coordination. In fact, you can do it in your own home with one small piece of equipment that will also provide tremendous strength benefits as well. Without further ado, allow me introduce you to parallettes.

What are Parallettes?

Parallettes are small gymnastic devices designed to simulate the parallel bars that you would find at a gymnastics facility. They are extremely versatile tools that can be used for a variety of movements and exercises, including: dips, push-ups, L-sits, V-sits, planche, handstands, and handstand push-ups…just to name a few…and can be used by people of varying strength and skill levels. They are lightweight, portable, and also seriously fun to use! For all these reasons, parallettes make a phenomenal addition to any home gym.

Note: Flag Pole not required.
Note: Flag Pole not required.

Do It Yourself

If you do a Google search you will find that quality, professional grade parallettes are available online in both wood and metal designs ranging anywhere from $70 to $150 in price. What you may not realize though is that a sturdy set of parallettes can be easily constructed for $20 to $30 in PVC materials readily available at your nearest home improvement store. I know what you’re thinking - ”PVC? Really?” - yes, really. These parallettes are shockingly sturdy and easily support my 180 lb. frame when I use them.

Grand Total: $26.16 + tax.

Shopping List

The following list of materials, with quantity needed in parentheses, should be available at any home improvement store:

Materials

  • 10’ of 1.5” PVC (1)
  • 1.5” Elbow Connector (4)
  • 1.5” Tee Connector (4)
  • 1.5” Cap (8)
  • PVC Primer and Glue (Optional)
  • Electrical Tape (Optional)

Tools

  • Measuring Tape
  • Sharpie
  • Fine-toothed Hacksaw or Chop Saw (Optional)
  • Sandpaper (Optional)

Cut List

You will make the following cuts, quantities in parentheses, from your 10’ piece of PVC:

  • 18” (2)
  • 12” (4)
  • 4” (8)

Measure the above listed dimensions with your tape measure and then mark the PVC with the sharpie. These dimensions add up to 116”, meaning you should have roughly 4” of PVC left over.

Fitness Legos
Fitness Legos

Measuring/Cutting Tips

  • Follow Old Adages – Measure twice, cut once. Just do it.
  • Electrical Tape – When measuring, this can be used to mark the leading edge of the cuts you will make. That is, mark the first cut with the left edge of the tape, then measure from that left edge to mark the second cut. Continue in this fashion for the remaining cuts. This is recommended as a helpful guide that wraps all the way around the PVC for when you’re hand-sawing. Additionally, this way you’re making all your measurements at once, and then making all your cuts at once, which is more efficient.
  • Power Saw – I had my Chop/Miter Saw already setup for another weekend project, so I took advantage of that to get nice clean cuts that wouldn’t require sanding. If you have access to a Chop Saw, it’s the way to go. Be aware though that you are using a thicker blade, so it will take more material with it for every cut. Because of this, I chose to measure/cut each piece one at a time, instead of making all the measurements and then all the cuts. Case in point, I had about 2.75” of PVC left over after all my cuts were complete. 1.25” had been lost to the saw blade. Measure twice, cut once!
  • Ask a Pro – If you don’t have access to a saw or do not want to buy one, you could just as easily ask an employee at the store to make the PVC cuts for you. This may also help you get the material home if you can’t fit a 10’ pipe in your car!

Assemble as shown.
Assemble as shown.

To Glue or Not To Glue...That is the Question

At this point it’s up to you whether or not to glue the pieces together. There are Pros and Cons. Gluing them will keep all the joints firmly intact, but you’ll never be able disassemble the parallettes into small pieces for storage, if desired. Gluing also adds to the cost if you don’t already have at your house.

Ultimately, I chose not to glue and instead used a rubber mallet to tap all the parts into a snug fit, and the end result is very sturdy. But if you’re still unsure, a little PVC Primer and Glue will hold everything in place nicely for an extra $7-8 at the store.

Of course when finished, the feet will be perpendicular to the top bar, like in the very top photo. Twist everything into its proper alignment, and that’s it, you’re done!

Cost Effective Fitness

Now that you’ve got yourself a valuable piece of equipment at a fraction of the retail cost, there’s nothing stopping you from using your new tool to build arm, shoulder, abdominal and core strength…all from the comfort of your own home. Some basic movements to get you started:

  • Push-ups
  • Dips
  • Tuck Sits
  • L-sits

Try these and let the rest of us know what you think in the comments!

Disclaimer: I am a fitness enthusiast. I am not a personal trainer or a medical doctor. I don't even play one on TV. If you have any uncertainties about yourself either physically or medically, you should always consult a professional in those fields before you start any new exercise routine, especially if you have a known condition. Safety is ALWAYS the priority.

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