5 Muscle Building Monkey Bar Exercises | Stephen Coleclough
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5 Muscle Building Monkey Bar Exercises

5 Muscle Building Monkey Bar Exercises

Most of us have a lot of experience playing on monkey bars from when we were children.

Swinging along horizontal ladders and hanging upside down was a ton of fun!

It felt easy to traverse the bars and perform somersaults.

Using monkey bars is much more challenging for adults.

That’s because most adults have less strength proportionate to their weight.

It’s much harder to lift yourself up with one arm when you are a 120 kilogram adult!

The strength required for adults to use monkey bars make them an excellent form of exercise.

They are perfect for improving upper body and core strength.

They are also still a lot of fun to use!

This post will share some of the best muscle-building monkey bar exercises to help you get started.

What muscles do you build when using monkey bars?

Performing exercises on monkey bars will strengthen many muscle groups including:

Abdominal muscles and obliques

When you are hanging from monkey bars, your abdominal muscles are working hard to provide you with stability.

You will also be strengthening your obliques whenever you make a twisting motion while hanging from the bars.


The act of gripping the monkey bars will really put some pressure on your forearms.

It is also one of the most effective forms of exercises for improving grip strength.

Latisimus Dorsi

Your lats will also be engaged to stabilise your body when you traverse monkey bars.

Monkey bars are an excellent way to strengthen this muscle with little risk of injury.

Deltoids (Shoulder Muscles)

There is a reason why male gymnasts always have those amazing deltoids.

Supporting your entire body weight with your arms will put a lot of stress on the arms and shoulders.

You may see gains that surpass what you could achieve using weights alone.


Moving across a monkey bar and pulling yourself over the bar will significantly strengthen your biceps.

The best muscle-building monkey bar exercises

Here are some great monkey bar exercises that will build muscle in a short space of time.

Dead hang

If you haven’t been on monkey bars for a while, this is a great starting point.

You can perform this exercise to get used to carrying your body weight with your arms.

Simply grab the bar with both hands and hang your body from it for 10 to 20 seconds.

Focus on using the strength in your arms to support your weight instead of your joints.

Once you have mastered a two handed dead hang, try performing a one handed dead hang.

Start with two hands on the bar, then release one for 5 seconds.

Use two hands again for about 10 seconds then release your other hand for 5 seconds. Repeat the exercise for 2 to 3 minutes.

Pull ups

Pulls ups are a great exercise for improving the strength of your biceps, shoulders, lats, obliques, and abdominals.

If you haven’t done a pull up for a while, start with one or two of repetitions.

You will be surprised by how much strength they require, particularly if you are on the heavy side.

If you are struggling to perform pull ups, lift some weights on a pull down resistance machine to strength your back, shoulders, and biceps.

The best way to do pull-ups is to perform four sets until failure.

Give yourself three or 4 minutes between sets.

By the fourth set, your muscles will be screaming and you will have definitely worked up a sweat!

Lateral moving pull ups

To perform a lateral pull up, use a wide hand grip on the bar before pulling yourself up.

Once you are at the top of the bar, swing your shoulders and torso left and right as you move across one of the parallel bars.

This will engage you lateral muscles.

Perform 5 repetitions on each side and at least 5 sets.

Bar kips

This is a more advanced move that is a lot of fun.

Start in the dead hanging position with your legs straight.

Swing your legs forward and pull your belly in to reach a hollow position, where your body looks like the letter C.

Then swing the other way so your chest is forward and legs behind your body.

Alternate between these two positions until you can see over the bar.

Then pull yourself towards the bar and lift your body over the bar.

Checkout this video to see the move in action (he does it in one go, but you can swing your legs multiple times before pulling yourself up).

Hanging leg raises

This exercise is fantastic for improving core strength.

Start in a dead hang position, then bring your knees towards your elbows, with your legs bent.

Once you feel comfortable with this exercise, there are many variations you can perform with straight legs at different angles.

This excellent video showcases various types of hanging leg raises.

If you have reasonable fitness, start with 5 reps and 10 sets.

You may have to adjust the number of sets and reps you perform when using a variation of the hanging leg raise, as they can be much harder.

We hope you enjoyed 5 Muscle-building Monkey Bar Exercises.

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Stephen Coleclough
Stephen Coleclough

Stephen Coleclough is a personal trainer and online fitness/nutrition coach from the UK. He loves heavy squats, smashing PRs and bacon sandwiches. You can follow him on Twitter at ColecloughPT.

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