Let’s start with a quick fact about the parallel bars: Back in the day when tv’s were shot in black and white, female gymnasts used to use the parallel bars in place of their uneven bars. Yup, all they did was they adjusted the bars at different heights. You may ask how they were able to swing with the bars being so narrow. Well, the answer is that the construction of the routines were completely different back then and require less aggressive swinging skills.
Anyway, the parallel bars (or p-bars as they’re often called) are approximately 6 feet high off the ground. The width of the bars can be adjusted to the gymnast’s liking (the width of the bars usually depend on how wide the gymnast’s shoulders are). Most of the p-bars produced in the US are made of fiberglass, while p-bars abroad are generally made out of wood (different countries make different types of equipment). Another interesting thing about the p-bars is that you will often see gymnasts applying a variety of things on their hands before putting on chalk. The reason why gymnasts do this is to make sure that they have a good grip on the bar. People will use anything from honey to home-made sugar water on their hand. I’ve even seen guys that put corn syrup or salt water on their hands…it basically depends on each gymnast’s preference (very interesting, I know).
The following are the five categories for the Parallel Bars:
- Elements that show support with both hands on the bar
- Elements that show support with upper arms on the bar
- Long swings (elements that resemble swinging on the high bar)
- Elements that show the stoop position through the bottom
Personally, I’ve always liked the parallel bars. For me, it’s always been the most fun event to watch and most fun to do. The following is a sample routine of me from Winter Cup 2009:
Notice that as soon as I start the routine, I fulfill element 4 by doing a skill called a “peach basket with a half turn.” Element 3 is also covered near the start of my routine when I do a giant swing (the thing that resembles a swing on the high bar). The skill immediately following that, is called an “upper-arm straddle cut,” which takes care of element 2. Closer to the end of my routine, you will see that I do several support skills in order to cover element 1. And finally, element 5 (the dismount) is obvious because it comes at the very end of the performance.