Most bars are so made that they may be raised or lowered according to the stature of the user. Their height should be well below the armpits.
From this position are made the movements as shown in the accompanying illustrations. For the first a few preliminary swings are taken, then the feet are swung up behind, and come to rest on the bar at full stretch of the legs. (Fig. 4.) a right angle with the upper part of the limb
Fig. 3. A right sit vault on the parallel bars. The seat is entirely on the left bar, and the right leg forms
For the second a swing forward is taken, and the feet raised and brought over the left-hand bar until one is in a sitting position, the left hand releasing its grip and being carried upward. The seat is entirely on the left bar, and the right leg should form a right angle with the upper part of the limb. (Fig. 3)
But there are one or two cautions to be borne in mind. Never exercise alone until familiar with the apparatus, and never without a suitable mat on each of the surrounding sides.
The parallel bars usually form the skeleton or framework of the various complicated and highly spectacular gymnastic groups, known as set figures or pyramids, which form so effective a tableau for the termination of a display. (Fig. 5.)
Besides the different apparatus mentioned, others find their place in all well-equipped gymnasia for women, happily far more numerous than was the case twenty years ago, though not as well attended as they should be. Horizontal climbing ladders, occasionally the Swedish "boom," bars for high jumping, ropes for climbing, and the ever popu-lar swinging "rings," stirrup-shaped or circular, each find a place, and contribute to physical gain and improvement in health and spirits and the enjoyment of the merry companionship that is to be obtained through the medium of membership of a gymnastic class. The value of gymnastic work, especially for girls whose hours of leisure are short and for whom the evenings give the only opportunity for recreation, cannot be overestimated. And if there previously existed any doubts as to the pitch of gymnastic excellence to which women can arrive, such must have been dispelled by the exhibition given by the Danish ladies, which formed one of the prettiest features of the Olympic Games held in London in 1908.
rest on the bars at full stretch of the legs
Fig. 4. On the parallel bars. After a few preliminary swings, the feet are swung up behind and come to
The novice who desires to take up gymnastics need not feel disheartened by the ease with which experts perform movements of the most complicated and apparently difficult kind. Gymnastic exercises arevariably more easy of execution than they appear; most certainly great skill is requisite, but confidence is as important as skill. And confidence is something to be gained by all; it is simply the outcome of familiarity with the apparatus.
It is a wise plan to gain some of this familiarity before actually proceeding to learn any of the movements. If this can be done in the company of one moderately advanced in the art so much the better. After a few minutes on her own account, the novice will be greatly surprised to find herself capable of going through movements which previously she was quite sure were far beyond her.
Begin with the easiest and simplest of exercises; do not try to do a "screw long-arm balance" on the parallel bars before the proper method of alighting from the bar has been learned, or attempt a "cut and catch" on the rings before a long swing has been satisfactorily mastered. Learn slowly and thoroughly. This does not mean drudgery, for in the well-found gymnasium there are many pieces of apparatus, and the greatest benefit to be derived from attendance comes from the use of all.
There are some who confine their practice simply to, say. the parallels and the horse. They become experts on these two instruments, and are useful when displays are given but they miss a great deal that would be good for them.
By varying one's work, there is not only that variety which interests but which increases the physical benefit also. No one piece of apparatus can give that all-round improvement which will result from a more extended use.
The parallels help to strengthen the arms and shoulders, to expand the chest and straighten the back; the horse is invaluable for stimulating quickness of movement and promoting suppleness and elasticity; the rings are excellent for inculcating confidence. Nor should the facilities for jumping and rope and pole climbing be neglected. These exercises, the latter particularly, bring into play muscles that are liable under ordinary conditions to suffer from want of use.
In all gymnastic work style should never be neglected - a bad style means harder work with loss of grace and effect. From the beginning try to get accuracy into all movements, even those of the simplest kind.
Fig. 5. A human pyramid. Such spectacular groups usually have the parallel bars as their framework or skeleton