Parallel Bars Drills and Skills

Competition set parallel bars are 195 cm high and 350 cm long. Width can be adjusted to the preference of the gymnast. Typically close to the length from the elboe to the tip of the fingers. A routine will be constructed of primarily swing and flight elements, with strength elements commonly included. A routine must include a swing element above the bars, a swing element below the bars and a skill that involves releasing and regrasping both bars.


Back off tucked
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Back uprise
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  • A strong upper arm support and swing should be developed.
  • The shoulders should be behind the elbows and the arms should be in an obtuse angle. Gymnasts (especially younger gymnasts) tend to put their shoulders close to their hands.
  • The push should be initiated late in the swing, and when it does occur it is an aggressive rapid push.
Basket swing
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  • The basket swing is difficult to understand for newer gymnasts.
  • Start the gymnast doing basket swings on a single rail. This forces them to stay piked, and it is easier to understand the swing.
  • On the parallel bars have the gymnast hold a tight pike, looking at their knees. Then the swing should be initiated by pulling and pushing with the arms. (Not to a bend, but shuttled to generate swing)
  • Once the gymnast can generate some swing with their arms they should begin to pump the swing by piking tightly on the downward phases and opening on the upward phases.
Forward roll
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  • No drills yet available for this skill.
Kip (single rail)
  • The gymnast should have a strong kip on a bar. The kip on the single rail is made more difficult by the other bar not allowing for full compression.
  • A slight false grip will help to get to support.
  • The gymnast should concentrate on kipping very late. Keep well extended until after the rearward swing is initiated, then kip very aggressively.
Layaway to swing
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  • A strong layaway to a swing is essential for p-bars, yet is frequently done incorrectly hindering under-bar work.
  • Set up an 8" mat perpendicular to the bars leaning against the inside of one pair of uprights. Have the gymnast start in an open hollow support with their feet on the bars, and hands over the inside edge of the mat. They can then kick their feet off the bar and swing down into the mat. The gymnast should remain hollow until just before hitting the mat.
  • One of the biggest hindrances to a layaway is the fear of peeling. If the gymnast is arched as they initiate the swing there is a significantly increased chance of peeling. The downward swing should be hollow, and extended in the shoulders.
Moy to upper arm
  • Develop a good layaway to swing
  • Once the gymnast has a decent swing the moy is simply a matter of riding the swing up and throwing the bars back.
  • A lot of gymnasts will try to release the bars early, the throw must occur near the peak of the swing otherwise the skill will travel forward too much, and not high enough for completion.
  • To land the moy in a piked upper arm support the swing must be more aggressive, and a substantial tap must occur on the upwards phase of the swing. Many gymnasts will lift their hips rather than their toes upon release.
Support swing
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  • As a gymnast begins to learn a basic swing it should be stressed that getting their feet high is not their primary goal.
  • Gymnasts have a tendency to pike in the front of the swing to get their feet above the bars. This ends up killing the swing. The gymnasts body should be straight from shoulders to toes with special consideration to pushing the shoulders back and hips up in the front swing.
  • As the swing develops the gymnast should hollow in the back swing and push their shoulders down.
  • The gymnast should shrug their shoulders through the bottom of the swing. This will create a more solid base for the swing and enable the swing to "pop" as skills are attempted.
Upper arm swing
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  • New gymnasts will complain incessantly about the pain these swings cause. The key to minimizing the pain is aggressively pushing down with the arms so the shoulders are well above the bars.
  • Most gymnasts will have a tendency to bend their arms to the point where their shoulders are very close to their hands. The arms should be bent at a little more than a 90 degree angle.
  • Upper arm shrugs will help strengthen this position.
  • It is important for the heels to lead in the rear swing for backuprises, forward rolls, and similar skills.


Back off (piked or layed out)
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  • Drill: Stack mats to the level of the bars. Have gymnasts swing off to land on their backs on the mats. They should stay as extended as possible and land high on their backs. As the gymnasts displays improvement raise the height of the mats to help develop height in the dismount.
  • The release should occur as late as possible to generate height and rotation. An early release will cause the dismount to travel forward.
  • A deep shrug through the bottom followed by an aggressive pop at the release point will increase the height of the dismount.
  • If the gymnast intends to do twisting dismounts, they should dismount to the left for right twist, and to the right for left twist. This is so that the twist is towards the bar.
Back uprise straddle cut
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  • A heel tap will enable the gymnast to clear their legs while keeping the hips as low as possible.
  • An aggressive throwing of the bars is necessary to get the shoulders back and legs forward.
  • The gymnast must cut their legs as fast as possible to be ready to catch the bars for a swing or L.
Cast to upper arm
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  • The key to success in this skill is aggressively turning over early.
  • Most gymnasts tend to turn over too little and/or too late, resulting in the skill traveling forward instead of upward.
  • The shoulders need to drop back aggressively while the gymnast keeps their head in at the initiation of the skill.
  • The gymnast also needs to compress the pike as much as possible early on to allow for an explosive cast.
  • The bars should be thrown back as the gymnast passes between them.
Front uprise
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  • The most common error in this skill is to lift the toes and pike in the front.
  • The shoulders need to be away from the hands as in the back uprise.
  • The hips and chest should be lifted in the front, no piking should occur unless the uprise ends with the gymnasts hips above their shoulders.
  • The gymnast should think about leaning back during this skill.
Half pirouette
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  • Work handstand pirouettes on low parallel bars. Initiate the pirouette immediately upon reaching handstand to simulate doing the pirouette immediately out of the swing.
  • Work 1/4 pirouette to 1 bar and hold. This will help develop stability. (keep tight)
  • Keep tight and hollow. The tendency is to arch on this skill. Keep the handstand extended and tight.
  • The skill should be done in two quick steps, not slow.
  • Work the skill immediately out of the swing. Working it out of a still handstand is not the ideal.
Kip (between the bars)
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  • The most common error on kips is attempting the kip motion too early in the swing cycle. The pike should occur after the back swing has begun, and the kip should occur after the swing passes vertical.
  • A kip on P-bars turns over more than a kip on a single rail. The gymnast should compress to basket position. This will enable the kip to generate sufficient swing to lead to other skills.
  • Work repetitive drop kips to develop a stronger kip.
Kip to L
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  • No drills yet available for this skill.
Peach to support
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  • A peach to support is very much like a clear hip on high bar. During the initiation phase the body must be kept tight and hollow, head in as the shoulder are dropped back aggressively.
  • As the body passes vertical the bars should be thrown back aggressively to generate lift.
  • Working clear hips on a low bar over exaggerating the wrist shift will help to develop the feel for a peach.
Rear stutz (for right twisting stutz)
  • Work this skill on the floor with tape lines first. The gymnast should start in a push up position with their hands on parallel tape lines spaced as their bar setting. Then the gymnast should push off their left hand reach it across to the right tape line, immediately push and reach their right hand back for the other line. The end rear support should be fully extended, and no piking should have occurred during the drill.
  • Once on bars the key is to complete the skill quickly during the transition phase of the swing. It should be initiated just before the peak of the swing so the skill is completed as the swing peaks.
Reverse pirouette (discussion based on pirouette initiating with right arm)
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  • On low parallel bars work reverse 1/4 pirouette to hold.
  • An aggressive push of the left arm is necessary to initiate this skill.
  • Keep on top of the bars. The most common error is to shift too far to the right and pike down.
  • It is very important to keep the shoulder angle open and head neutral. Piked shoulders will result in falling off to the right.
  • A common error is to pike down over the left bar. It's important to keep the shoulders open and weight over the bars.
  • The gymnast needs to push off the right arm aggressively.
Straddle cut
  • The swing prior to a straddle cut should be small. If the swing is big a significantly more aggressive block off the bar is required to rotate the shoulders back enough to complete the skill.
  • Start in an arched prone support on floor. Pop off the arms and straddle cut to seated pike.
  • The swing for a straddle cut should involve a slight pike on the rearward phase of the front swing followed by a heel drive to give loft to the rear swing. Then the gymnast should pop off their arms aggressively and excecute the straddle cut.
  • Quick legs are essential for excecuting this skill.


Back off with 1/2 twist
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  • No drills yet available for this skill.
Back toss to handstand from upper arm
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  • No drills yet available for this skill.
Back uprise to handstand
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  • Though uncomfortable, working upper arm forward rolls with a straight body will help develop this skill.
  • The tendency is to push too early and not allow enough time for the swing to turn over.
  • The push should not start until the gymnasts swing is near vertical.
  • An aggressive heel tap is necessary to help carry the swing to handstand.
  • Working lots of handstand push ups couldn't hurt.
Backuprise rear stutz
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  • No drills yet available for this skill.
Cast to support
  • See Cast to Upper arm in A skills above for the development of this skill.
  • The gymnast needs to be more aggressive and be prepared to reach for and push on the bars.
Hop 1/2 pierouette
  • The motion is the same as a reverse pirouette. See A skills above.
  • A strong hop handstand is necessary to properly excecute this skill.
  • For the hop, the heels should lead the swing keeping a slight arch and shrugged sholders until the hop is initiated.
  • The power from the hop comes from the shoulders blocking and the body transitioning from arch to hollow. The tendency is to hop early, so be sure to initiate the hop almost at the handstand.
  • Hop handstands should be drilled until they are consistant and powerful.
  • Work hop 1/4 turn to one bar. This should be done in such a way so that after catching the 1/4 turn the gymnast should hollow down over the opposite bar.
  • Once the 1/4 turn is solid the 1/2 is just a matter of catching the 1/4 with one arm initially and completing the turn. Be sure to keep extended shoulders
Moy to support
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  • A very strong throw is required to catch a moy in support.
  • Work a straight arm back extention roll coming significantly short of the hanstand, throw the floor back and try to catch in a rear support.
  • Gymnasts much reach for the bars aggressively after the throw. Many gymnasts wait for the bars to come to them.
Peach immediate straddle cut
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  • No drills yet available for this skill.
Pike press handstand
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  • No drills yet available for this skill.
Straddle kip to straddle L press handstand on one rail
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  • After the glide the gymnast should compress for the stalder kip as quickly and aggressively as possible.
  • Starting the skill with an over grip will help to maintain pressure on the bar during the kip.
  • As the kip rises the feet need to be kept up to prepare for the press handstand, if the legs drop early the press is significantly more difficult.
  • On a high bar work stalder kip press out to swing, repeat.


1/1 Pierouette (3 step)
  • The 3 step 1/1 pierouette is a forward 1/4 pierouette, a reverse 1/2 pierouette and another forward 1/4 pierouette. The gymnast should be solid on both forward and reverse pierouettes.
  • Work 3 step 1/1s on floor with tape lines indicating bar location. This will enable the gymnast to focus on the technique of the skill without worrying about the bars.
  • It is critical to stay tight and extended with open shoulders throughout. There is a tendency to pike the shoulders on the second step of the skill resulting in the gymnast coming off of the bars.
  • During the 1/2 reverse phase the gymnast must reach under themselves for the bar, they will be slightly off balance over the opposite bar. This is where most gymnasts fall, generally to the outside of the bar from being to far over the single rail.
  • Work the 1/1 on paralettes.
Back giant
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  • No drills yet available for this skill.
Back off with 1/1 twist
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  • No drills yet available for this skill.
Back toss to handstand
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  • On a trampoline work seat drop to handstand, backwards. This simulates the feel of a back toss reasonably well and will help develop the stall necessary to catch in a handstand.
  • This is a skill pbar blocks or carpeted padded rails are very useful. It is mainly a confidence skill.
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  • Drill: Stack mats or use port-a-pits next to the bar so that the top of the stack is well above the bars. The mats should be next to the bar opposite the support arm. The gymnast should execute a swing 3/4 turn to support on 1 bar with their feet or legs on the mats. This will develop to a swing 3/4 turn to handstand on 1 bar. The gymnast then just needs to reach for the other bar to execute a diomidov.
  • Straddling and loose legs are a common problem in this skill. Ensure that the gymnasts legs are together and tight.
  • An open body is also essential. Piking is another common problem and should be avoided from the beginning.
  • The gymnast should ride the swing as long as possible. This will help to open the shoulders making the turn significantly easier.
Double back off
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  • The gymnast should be able to do a back off onto mats stacked near bar height.
  • Work back 1 1/4 to stacked mats. An open release is important. There is a tendency to rush the skill and tuck before the bars are released.
  • Swing and block. The swing from handstand should initiate by pushing away as if to do a giant, then bring the shoulders forward, shrug throught the bottom and pop as the bars are released.
Front off with 1/1 twist
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  • No drills yet available for this skill.
Front toss to support
  • Though not a difficult skill to learn, this is a difficult skill to be consistent on.
  • The common error on this skill is to bend the arms resulting in a forward roll on the bars.
  • Drill: Have the gymnast hold a forward support on floor, slightly arched, shoulders shrugged. Lift the gymnasts feet and toss them up and over the gymnast (of course the gymnast should be briefed). The gymnast should try and land in an extended rear support.
  • A good shrug and pop are essential to making the skill.
  • The gymnast must reach for the bar quickly so that support can be established before the gymnasts full weight is on the bars.
Front uprise straddle cut to handstand
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  • A tap similar to a reverse hecht tap initiates the motion. From an upper arm tap swing the gymnast must initiate the tap then immediately throw their heels back and hips and chest up.
  • Immediately following the tap the gymnast must straddle and aggressively throw the bars back. Then they must reach forward quickly to establish support as soon as possible.
Healy twirl
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  • Take a broomstick in your support arm for the healy (right for this discussion). Hold it straight up above your head palm facing in. Rotate the stick counterclockwise as you bring your arm backwards until the stick has rotated 360 degrees and your arm is down by your side.
  • This skill should be worked on floor to an 8" mat to develop a feel for it.
  • The shoulder must be pushed out as much as possible to allow for a smooth rotation in the shoulder complex.
  • The turn should be completed as early as possible so the support can be re-established before the bottom of the swing.
  • After the gymnast has shown a tight extended healy on floor, graduate to a set of parralettes next to a stack of mats. The mats should be higher than the bars.
  • After the gymnast shows consistency in catching the bar graduate to the high bars with a thin mat across the bars.
  • An ideal mat is an old mat that will get pulled through the bars as the gymnast completes the skill, but one that slows the swing somewhat.
Inbar kip to V-press handstand
  • As the kip rises the gymnast should direct their toes upwards and push back aggressively on the bar. The will enable the kip to finish in a V, rather than in an L.
  • The hardest part of this skill is clearing the bar during the press. See V-press handsand under Floor C Skills for initial conditioning.
  • In addition to the above it is critical to work V-press handstand on a single rail to develop the control and strength for this part of the skill.
Kip immediate front straddle cut to handstand
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  • No drills yet available for this skill.
Moy front straddle cut with intermediate support
  • A moy front straddle cut is very similar to a moy to support except the support phase is transitional.
  • Work front uprise straddle cut
  • As the gymnast reaches for the bars they must block back to continue the forward rise and drive their heels backwards
Peach handstand straight arm
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  • No drills yet available for this skill.
Peach to handstand, bent arm
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  • A peach to handstand is similar in motion to a clear hip to handstand on high bar, allowing for a greater pike in the bottom phase of the skill.
  • There is a tendency to throw the head back and look for the bars, which will cause an arch and loss of upward motion.
  • The head should be kept in as long as possible, and the toes should be directed at the ceiling.
  • Working neck kip to handstand on floor while keeping the head in throughout will help develop this feel.
Stutzkehr to handstand
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  • From a rear support on parallettes with the feet well above the shoulders, work through the Stutz motion.
  • Riding the swing as long as possible greatly improves the chances of success with this skill.
  • The support arm must be on the bar as long as possible, almost to the handstand.
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  • No drills yet available for this skill.


Double back off piked
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  • No drills yet available for this skill.
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  • No drills yet available for this skill.
Giant full turn
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  • No drills yet available for this skill.
Healy twirl from english handstand on one rail
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  • No drills yet available for this skill.
Hop 3/4 pierouette
  • See drills for hop 1/2 pirouette in C skills above.
  • Development of this skill is the same up to the hop 1/4 turn. At this point the gymnast needs to catch the 1/4 turn on top of the bar in a mixed grip.
  • Once the 1/4 to mixed grip is consistant add a 1/2 turn after the catch.
  • Work towards grabbing the bar with one arm and completing the 3/4 turn. It is critical to have a fully extended shoulder at this point. The gymnast must also be very tight.
Peach handstand with 1/4 turn to one rail
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  • No drills yet available for this skill.
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  • No drills yet available for this skill.


Note: If you are working these skills you are probably beyond the usefullness of these pages, but hey they are cool skills.
Giant to double back toss
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  • No drills yet available for this skill.