Parallettes are a portable version of parallel bars. They are a pair of bars used to support your hands several inches off of the floor. Almost any exercise done with your hands on the floor can be performed on parallettes. In some exercises, the difference in leverage changes the difficulty, making them easier or harder. In other exercises, the addition of a few inches of ground clearance gives you a greater range of motion.
Performing pushups on parallettes gives you options for several different variations. The extra ground clearance allows you to lower your chest past the point of your hands, allowing you a stretch in shoulder extension. The position of the parallettes can be adjusted to alleviate pain from wrist injuries. The parallettes also allow you to rotate your elbows so they point straight back, externally rotating your shoulders and giving you a healthier shoulder position at the top of the pushup.
Upright Support and L-Sit Variations
You can hold yourself up on the parallettes with your arms by your sides. This is the upright support; placing your feet on the floor in front of you supports some of your weight if you are not yet strong enough to support your full weight. This position is the starting point for the L-sit and its variations. In the L-sit, support yourself on your hands and lift your legs until they are parallel to the floor, so your body forms an L-shape. Lifting your feet to eye-level is an advanced version known as the V-sit.
Handstand and Handstand Pushups
Performing a handstand on the floor allows you to use your full palm and all five fingers to control your balance. Switching to parallettes increases the challenge to your balance because you are supported primarily by the palms of your hands, which is a narrower foundation. When you perform handstand pushups on the floor, you must stop when your head reaches the floor. Handstand pushups on parallettes allow you to lower yourself until your shoulders reach your hands, increasing the range of motion.
Compound Exercises and Pirouettes
You can link together different movements on the parallettes to create compound exercises. For example, you can do shoot-throughs. These start as a pushup, and then you shoot your legs through the parallettes into the upright support position, and lower your hips to the ground, press back up, and shoot your legs back into the pushup. You can use parallettes to practice pirouettes with handstands or L-sits. The pirouette requires you to walk on your hands in a circle on the parallettes, switching one hand to the other parallette for a quarter-turn with each step.