DIY: Parallettes

When I won the Parallettes 1 course from GMB at the end of 2013, I only had little push up handles from Argos (left of the photo below) to do my workouts with. They were fine for some exercises, but the fact they were so close to the ground made it really hard to do others, and most of the time I took them to the gym and put them on a couple of step boxes to add sufficient height (as you can see here). Effective but far from ideal.

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Being cash-poor but time-rich, I thought hard about whether I needed to spend £50-odd on a metal pair, or even more on a wooden set, and decided I’d make my own. I mean really, how hard could it be?!

I discarded plastic piping, the most commonly used material on the Font of All Knowledge (aka. Google) in favour of wood, which I figured would enable me to easily put together something that would take my weight and that of any hefty friends that desired to use them.

Since I’ve been asked a lot about them – a result of their appearence in several of my YouTube videos – I thought I’d share the details of their construction, which should give you enough information to make your own set, should you desire.

What I used:
  • 1m of 38mm dowel
  • A 38mm flat-head drill bit
  • 1.5m of 2×4 timber (C24 grade)
  • Appropriate screws (or slim dowel and an appropriate drill bit)
  • Strong forearms and an electric screw driver 
  • Sandpaper
  • Clamps, spare hands and/or a workbench with built-in clamps.
How I did it:

I started out by working out some dimensions and what materials I would need. I figured that 38mm dowel would be a nice width for my hands – solid and wide enough to not cause discomfort on long sessions. I also knew that “2×4” (roughly 100mm wide x 50mm thick timber) was cheap and easily obtainable, and that formed the basis for the rest of my design. Since it’s my job, I spent a couple of minutes whipping up a model to visualise what I was going to make. I have added some handy annotations (in red) so you can see what’s what:

Dims - Parallettes - v2.2-crop

I originally planned to use slim wooden dowel instead of screws across the whole construction (looks much better), but in reality, even with two of us working on them (I roped in the help of training buddy Chris, in return for provision of materials to make his own set and a takeaway Chinese!) it took a while so we went for convenient screws. You can see the points I originally intended to fix them at below:

Ex 3 - Parallettes - v2.2

But in reality we ended up doing it slightly differently, using only two screws on each end (see final photo) and one on top, through the dowel to ensure it didn’t move around (something which I hadn’t thought about):

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Below is the underneath, showing that the two bit of timber making the uprights are very much firmly fixed to the base crosspieces!

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The finished thing:

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My verdict (after nine months of use)

These are what we Brits would describe as “solid as fuck”. There is no movement whatsoever. In fact I use them to stand on when I need to get something from the top of my wardrobe. I could probably throw them out of my second floor window and they’d only sustain a few scracthes. 

They do, however, have a couple of downsides… The main one is the feet – if you don’t have the strength/flexibility to get high when moving through the tucked position, you could scrape your feet against the top of them. This hasn’t actually happened to me, but I would feel more comfortable with less sharp edges.

Which brings me to another downside, which can also be an upside – the square uprights. They can be a bit scary with their pointy corners, but they can equally be very handy as, er, handholds  – they provide another platform to place your hands on, and add a different dimension to some moves.

Obviously they are also not exactly portable! But for me they’re a piece of kit that enables me to have a killer workout without leaving the house. 

If you’ve successfully made your own parallettes then feel free to make any recommendations or even link to some photos in the comments! Or if you don’t fancy all that effort and want to buy a pair, then get in touch with Lee Wade Turner as he usually has a few pairs of metal ones to sell. 

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