Dynamic Arts - Bar Training

Scaffolding offers the most generous in scope for barwork. Other sources of adventure should be carefully checked for strength and sound attachment to supporting walls and floor.

A vertical pole, such as a scaffold, signpost or lamppost, can be used in the following ways:

Direction change

Run past the pole, grab it, most probably with both hands, and swing around to change direction. Not a very hip move, unless you can pull your feet up to the pole and spring off.


A sideways version of a handstand using a vertical pole or any two holds placed one above another. To hold the body in a horizontal position requires the development of seldom-used muscles around the torso, shoulders and in the lower back.

There are many variations, with the neck tucked over the bar, or the armpit used as a lever. At first, swing the legs up into position and offer what resistance you can to the inevitable collapse. After some effort, you will be able to hold the position more successfully.

Pole climb, Monkey climb

Climb the pole like a monkey. Easier if the pole is slanting like the supporting frame for playground swings. If the pole is wide enough with good enough friction, like a tree trunk, it is possible to run up it. See also wall spin in the wall runs section, and rope climb in the climbing section.


A horizontal bar offers much more scope, but is more gymnastically demanding.


From a running or standing start, dive at and grab the bar. Swing through and let go, tucking slightly to avoid overbalancing backwards on landing. You can also swing back and let go, returning to where you left the ground; this is useful when you spy a broken bottle, 200 metre plummet, or doggy-do at your intended forward landing position. Variations: 180° or 360° twists before grabbing the bar, or any twist after letting go.

Swing half turn

Used to change the direction of a swing. At the high point of the swing, one hand lets go and is placed back on the bar after the body has rotated through 180°.


This will get the biggest possible initial swing from a static hanging position. Lift your legs all the way to your fingers, pull the shoulders up slightly, then relax the stomach muscles and push the feet out horizontally away from the fingers. There are a few different methods for getting up on top of the bar. If it is low enough, you can jump up, pushing down with your hands at the same time. If it is too high for this, here are some alternative techniques.

Muscle-up (planche)

A pull up and a push up, to raise the body above a bar. Requires good upper body strength. The term planche is also used in gymnastics and breakdancing where the body is held horizontally above the floor, supported only by the arms.

Back hip pullover

Reverse the hands on the bar so that palms are towards the face. Lean backwards and lift the feet up toward the hands. Straighten the back, and as the shins come up past the hands, pull up and pike. As the body moves over the bar, straighten out to end lying horizontally on the bar.


The coolest way to get on a high bar, and the method used at the start of many gymnastic bar routines.

Jump at the bar, swing forward and on the swing back, pull up the feet so the shins are level with the hands and the legs are straight. Using the momentum of the swing, pull and kick to lift the body above the bar.



From the position at the end of the back hip pullover, bend slightly, then push the feet up and back while pushing with the hands. Used to get a good swing or sometimes to get up into a handstand. Try with the hands held normally, or reversed.


A full swing around the bar. A back giant rotates towards the toes, a front giant, towards the heels.



A backward somersault dismount from a forward swing. A forward somersault dismount from a backward swing is far more dangerous because of the rotational momentum at landing. This move requires training in a gymnastics class with a foam pit to absorb early mistakes.


Hanging back somersault

Hanging vertically from the arms, tuck and rotate as in a backward roll, moving the feet through the gap between the head and bar. When at about 270° into the turn, let go and land upright on the ground. The later you get hold and earlier you release makes it look a little less playground. This move can also be done on two upright bars, like the supports for playground swings, and is a good introduction to the backflip as its gets the body used to tucking and rotating over backwards.

Falling back somersault, Sitting back somersault

From a sitting position, fall over backwards into a somersault like Burt Lancaster in The Flame and the Arrow. The bar should be at least at head height or fingertip height at full reach, and don’t chicken out or you’ll land on your head. Heads aren’t designed for landing on. In early efforts, keep your hands on the bar until a smooth and fearless drop is achieved. Then release your hold bit by bit in successive attempts until it is no longer required. If you come across the luxury of multiple bars, you can:

Monkey swing

Swing along like a monkey from bar to bar, usually on playground or keep fit course monkey bars or scaffolding.

Trapeze jump

When the monkey bars are too far apart, you have to jump. Work up a good swing, then flick like in a handspring, let go with both hands together, and grab the far bar, again with both hands together. When the move is more a drop than a jump, it is referred to as a hanging drop or lâché.

It is important to avoid sharp pulls on the elbows by cushioning the landing impact with bent and tensed arms, or by landing in a swing.



With two bars, one above the other, pull up on the lower one, and reach one or both hands for the upper one. A grab with both hands together is called a double grab.

Funambulate, tightrope walk or balance

Walk along the top of the bar, like a tightrope walker.

The Sloth

Hang from a bar like a sloth, and crawl along it.


Foot Hang

Tucking the tongues of your shoes around a bar to hold your feet in place, or wedging your feet in the angle of two right angled bars, will allow you to hang from the feet. Difficult on a polished bar, but easier on a rusty one.


See balance in the railings section and also mantelshelf in the climbing section.