While we may not use monkey bars anymore, they were a key piece of equipment to developing the upper body strength we had as children. We may notice our upper body strength starting to wane as we age, but there are things we can do to rebuild this key component of physical fitness over time.
Climbing & Upper Body Strength
If you were a kid who played on the monkey bars, you probably excelled at pull-ups and other bodyweight movements. Not only did playing on the monkey bars help with developing back and shoulder muscles, it also helped with forearm and grip strength needed for climbing all sorts of objects (like the rope in gym class), as well as helped you overcome fears like heights and falling that carried well into your adult life.
All you thought you were doing was having fun!
Why You Should Add Pulling Strength
Upper body strength (and, in particular, pulling strength) is very important as it promotes good posture, wards off osteoporosis and arthritis, and aids in pulling yourself up and over an object, as well as allows you to climb with greater ease.
If you are performing a pulling motion that is unsupported by another object (like a strict pull up vs. a lat pull down, for example), it also improve grip strength, strengthen your core since proper pull up form requires you to keep your body tight as in this example, and helps with breathing mechanics.
Why Monkey Bars Are Difficult
You also were better equipped to pull your own body weight as a kid because of physiological differences between adults and children:
- lower body weight
- shorter limbs
- greater flexibility in the latissimus (the back muscle that runs from the arm to the pelvis)
- sedentary lifestyles, such as driving and sitting at the computer
That is not to say that you can’t work toward regaining some of the upper body strength you had when you were a child.
How to Strengthen Your Upper Body
Work with your favorite fitness professional to design a plan that works for you at your current ability level. You may want to start slow with movements like the Prestige lat pull down, or other exercises that gradually build back, shoulder and general upper body strength.
You may also want to tailor your upper body workouts to what equipment is available to you - maybe you have a pull up bar, a lat pull down machine, an assisted pull up machine like our Jungle Gym.
Also, if you have children, playing with them on the playground is also a helpful way to get in a little physical activity, especially upper body exercises, while having some fun with your family.
Check out our new Workout Center to explore workout programming designed to help you achieve your goals, regardless of you current ability level.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series, when we talk about crawling, and how to regain total body strength and flexibility by doing this seemingly easy but effective exercise.