Friday, February 8, 2008

My Really Cool Homemade Parallettes

My new training tool!

I've never really thought of myself as handy when it comes to repairing or making things, but these parallettes are just about the easiest (and one of the most useful) pieces of equipment that anyone could put together. I've been toying with the idea of making my own parallettes for quite a while now, but the thought of having to spend the time chipping away at PVC pipe with a $5 handsaw was rather off-putting. But I really needed to work on my L-sits and experiment with the ton of cool gymnastic exercises that could be done with parallettes, so I finally got around to writing down a list of the materials I needed to get to make my own.

Well, I finally made a stop at the ACE Hardware Store down on Washtenaw yesterday on my way back from Oly lifting training and picked up 1 1/2 diameter PVC pipe and assorted pipe fittings (elbows, t-joints, caps - see the link I posted above for the full specs and layout), together with PVC cement and some sandpaper. The total cost of the equipment I bought was only about twenty dollars. Armed with my purchases, I made my way home and began my novice attempt at building homemade gym equipment. As expected, it took me a while to coax the cheap, generic handsaw into working properly and taking less than ten minutes to cut through a section of pipe. The sawing produced a myriad of fine PVC shavings which just about floated everywhere, almost made me wheeze, before being subsumed into the carpet flooring of my apartment. Oh well. After about an hour of sawing, sweating, and sneezing, I finally had fourteen neat sections of pipe of varying lengths (2 24", 4 8", 8 5"). I then connected the pipes to the fittings, by using the PVC primer and the cement, taking care to ensure that everything was properly aligned. Not too much to complain about this bit, except for the overpowering fumes of the PVC cement. Voila! Parallettes! Finally, I had a pair of parallettes to show for all my effort. I tried them out by doing a couple L-sits and holds and was very pleased with their stability.

(I did give that initial pair of parallettes away to my friend, but I made another set today for myself. For my own set, I sanded the parallel bars to give them a better grip. They'll hold chalk better that way as well. In addition, I didn't glue the perpendicular supports to the parallel bars at the 90-degree elbows, but I did glue everything else together. Not gluing the supports to the bars makes it possible for me to dismantle the parallettes for ease of packing if I were to bring them along on my travels, for instance. This makes them essentially the same as these American Gymnast Travelettes, except that those cost like a good thirty bucks more. Well, I suppose you don't have to suffer through PVC dust shavings-induced sneezing fits or risk getting high on the fumes from the PVC cement, though.)

I'd strongly urge everyone to make or procure a pair of parallettes. They're easily constructed - as a hardware noob like me can testify - and pretty foolproof to make (although you might like to invest in a better handsaw or a pipe-cutter). Also, there's no end to the gymnastic progressions that you can practice. L-sits, straddle holds, planches, handstands - the possibilities are limitless. These gymnastic movements are also some of the hardest to master and require continuous practice and many static holds. Parallettes are definitely something you want to add to your arsenal of home gym equipment!

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