Sunday, December 6, 2009

Better Technique on the Monkey Bars

Monkey bars aren't taken seriously as an exercise apparatus--they're a play structure or a station on a obstacle course; e.g.:

West Pointer navigating the bars.

The cadet is racing the clock, but he's using the inefficient straight-arm technique learned on the playground. He could go a lot faster by recognizing that physics, not fitness, is holding him back.

With his arm extended like that, the cadet's body swings like a pendulum. Like a pendulum, his swing has a natural period that is dependent on body length and mostly independent of effort. So a would-be monkey who uses the straight-arm technique faces a natural limit on maximum speed; about all he can do to improve his speed is to transfer from one rung to the next as smoothly as possible, or skip rungs, which is impermissible in timed obstacle course runs.

What's the alternative? I use a bent-arm technique that eliminates the swing, substituting a rapid grip-and-pull motion for propulsion:

That's my backyard monkey-bar installation and the video is from a portion of my regular routine. Monkey bars are a nice alternative to ordinary pullups, providing a workout with more variety, less repetitive-motion injury, and more fun.

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