They don't call it a jungle gym for nothing. Jon Hinds, owner of the Monkey Bar Gym, says monkey bars are one of the most effective and versatile workout tools you probably never think to utilize. They can accommodate tons of bodyweight exercises, they're available to pretty much anyone within distance of a playground or park, and they're adaptable for athletes of every fitness level, Hinds says. 

Below you'll find 20 different examples of moves that will hone a trimmer, fitter body overall, while targeting and highlighting specific muscle groups and weaknesses. Hinds has suggested reps and sets, but note the ranges are flexible. At first, these will seriously challenge your flexibility, grip strength, and overall strength—so you'll probably err on the lighter side of reps and sets and the longer side of rest.

"Rest on each exercise is dependent on your ability to repeat the same reps again," Hinds says. "When working at high levels, this is usually 3-5 minutes of rest between sets; when working at easier levels and intensities, you may only rest 30 seconds to a minute." More rest will translate into strength, while less rest will give you much more of a pump and aid in developing muscle size and strength, he adds.

So, fire up Google Maps, and locate the nearest playground. Don't want to face the elements? No problem. Many gyms have monkey bar or parallel bars, which will work for most (not all) of these moves, as will a pullup bar. 

1. Pullups

How to do it: Grasp the bar with an overhand grip. Keep your legs straight, and glutes and core engaged as you pull your chin above bar. This is referred to as a tactical style pullup—often used in the military and by gymnasts. Because your legs are kept straight and slightly in front of your body as you pull up, your core is firing and stimulated, which protects your lower back and capitalizes on full-body tension.

Reps: As many as possible 
Sets: 5 (work up to 10 as you progress) *The key here (as with all the exercises that follow) is to keep solid form. Don’t cheat to get reps and sets if your strength isn’t there yet. Begin with 5 sets of 5 reps, and work your way up to 10. Hypertrophy is the key to muscle growth and strength gains, so keep adding as you progress.) 
Rest: Beginners completing fewer sets can take 30sec to 1min; advanced athletes completing higher sets take 3-5min. 

To make it harder, advance to L-Seat Pullups by lifting and holding your legs out in front of you at a 90-degree angle. Complete 5x5. 

2. Lateral Moving Pullups

How to do it: Essentially, you swing from left to right as you move laterally across one of the parallel bars.

Reps: 5 each side
Sets: 5 (work up to 10 as you progress)
Rest: Beginners completing fewer sets can take 30sec to 1min; advanced athletes completing higher sets take 3-5min. 

3. Hand Over Hand

How to do it: This is the basic or regular monkey bar movement. Keeping your arms straight to slightly bent, make your way across the monkey bars and back as smoothly as possible. You can swing your legs or let them dead hang as you move from one bar to the next. This is a phenomenal grip strength builder. 

Reps: Go all the way down the monkey bars and back.
Sets: 5
Rest: Beginners completing fewer sets can take 30sec to 1min; advanced athletes completing higher sets take 3-5min. 

4. Side-to-Side Swinging Pullups

How to do it: These are similar to the lateral moving pullups, only you’re swinging your legs from side to side to gain momentum  as you execute a pullup on one side, then you swing laterally and do a pullup on the other. This is an excellent exercise for your lats, grip strength, and full body overall.  

Reps: 5
Sets: Try to get as close to 10 as you can.
Rest: Beginners completing fewer sets can take 30sec to 1min; advanced athletes completing higher sets take 3-5min. 

5. Bar Kips

How to do it: Starting from the bottom of a pullup position—your legs dead hanging straight down—begin to swing your body into a hollow position. To do this, pull your belly in and extend your legs out so they’re slightly in front of your body. Your shoulders are the prime movers here. When your body is squeezed and forward in the midst of the hollow position, your body will resemble the letter C. Next, forcefully pull back so your body and chest move forward and your legs move back behind your body (think of creating an inverted C). Keep alternating these two motions until you can see above the bar. When you can pull high enough to see above the bar, pull into the bar, then quickly push away, swinging back into the forward position (inverted C). From here, you’ll drop down to the hanging position and begin again.

Expert tips

1. Get this rhythm down. Practice transitioning from the front to inverted C formations before you try pulling up to the bar and push away at the top.
2. To help you pull and gain momentum, you want to pull your hips up towards the bar and pull your hands down towards your hips—simultaneously and forcefully.
 
Reps: 5-10
Sets: Try to get as close to 10 as you can.
Rest: Beginners completing fewer sets can take 30sec to 1min; advanced athletes completing higher sets take 3-5min. 

6. Bar Dips

How to do it: To dip, you need to get your upper body above the monkey bars and your hips even with them. You can do this by executing a muscleup, an around-the-world type movement, or simply climbing up the ladder and positioning yourself. Grasp the main parallel bars. Lower your body so your arms make 90-degree angles and your chest is parallel to the bars, then extend up fully.

Reps: 5 (work up to 10 as you progress)
Sets: 5 (work up to 10 as you progress)
Rest: Beginners completing fewer sets can take 30sec to 1min; advanced athletes completing higher sets take 3-5min. 

7. Bar Muscle-ups

How to do it: There are about 14 basic ways to execute muscleups, Hinds says: close grip, wide grip, split grip, overhand grip, underhand grip, narrow grip, switching grips, walk ups, so on and so forth. But the basic bar muscleup is based off a kipping pullup first and foremost. 

Start with your hands in an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Pull your legs back slightly, then forcefully pull your chest over the bar. As your chest is above the bar, extend your arms straight so that your waist is roughly in line with the bar and your body is still above it. Drop back down using momentum, then pull back up. “When done properly, you can float over the bar to the top position without hardly bending your arms at all,” Hinds says. 

Reps: 1-5 with good form
Sets: Try to get as close to 10 as you can.
Rest: Beginners completing fewer sets can take 30sec to 1min; advanced athletes completing higher sets take 3-5min. 

8. Skin the Cat

How to do it: Beginners should first learn how to do a front lever. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip. Pull your legs and hips up, while simultaneously leaning back. Your knees should be tucked and touching your elbows, and your back should be rounded. Now, slowly extend your legs out, keeping them together as you straighten them completely. Keep your core engaged the entire time, and pull down so your arms are now extended, too. 

Skin the cat begins like a front lever, only you keep your knees bent and skip the last leg extension step. Instead, you bring your legs between your arms (think of threading them through) all the way until your feet are hanging underneath your body. You’ll rotate as far as you can forward, then reverse the rotation until you’re back in the original hanging position.

Reps: 5 (work up to 10 as you progress)
Sets: 5 (work up to 10 as you progress)
Rest: Beginners completing fewer sets can take 30sec to 1min; advanced athletes completing higher sets take 3-5min. 

9. Hanging Leg Raises

How to do it: Starting from a pullup position and bring your knees to your elbows (not knees to arm pits).

Reps: 5
Sets: 10
Rest: Beginners completing fewer sets can take 30sec to 1min; advanced athletes completing higher sets take 3-5min. 

When you can complete 10 sets of 5 reps, complete hanging leg raises with your legs straight, keeping them straight as you touch your feet to the bar.

10. Windshield Wipers

How to do it: These are similar to hanging leg raises, only when your legs are ¾ of the way up to the bar, begin to move them side to side—like windshield wipers. Keep the movement slow as you laterally rotate as far as you can control to your left, then right.

Reps: 5 each side
Sets: Try to get as close to 10 as you can.
Rest: Beginners completing fewer sets can take 30sec to 1min; advanced athletes completing higher sets take 3-5min. 

11. Assisted Pistols

How to do it: Stand with your left foot about one foot away from a vertical pole (attached to the monkey bars). With your arms straight, hold onto the bar at hip height, and raise your right leg out in front (to the side of the pole). Make sure you extend through your heel as you squat butt to heel.

Reps: 5 (work up to 10 as you progress) each side
Sets: 5 (work up to 10 as you progress)
Rest: Beginners completing fewer sets can take 30sec to 1min; advanced athletes completing higher sets take 3-5min. 

Note: When you can complete 10 reps and sets, increase the reps, add weight, or lose the bar.

12. Ice Cream Makers

How to do it: This movement is similar to the lever. You’ll assume an overhand grip a little bit wide than shoulder-width. Pull your body up to the top position of a standard pullup. Keeping your body rigid, drop back a bit, straighten your arms and elevate your hips; your body should be one straight line parallel to the ground and arms fully locked out. Make sure your toes are pointed, and lats and abs are flexed. Then quickly rotate back to the top of the position. 

Reps: 5
Sets: 5
Rest: Beginners completing fewer sets can take 30sec to 1min; advanced athletes completing higher sets take 3-5min. 

13. Body Rows (No legs)

How to do it: This movement is similar to a bent-knee lever hold, except once your knees and elbows are practically touching, you’ll straighten and lift your legs up toward the sky. Make sure to keep your torso parallel to the ground. From here, complete a row so your chest comes up toward the bar, then return to the straight arm position. You’ll keep your legs vertical and body horizontal the entire time. 

Reps: 5
Sets: 5 (work up to 10 as you progress)
Rest: Beginners completing fewer sets can take 30sec to 1min; advanced athletes completing higher sets take 3-5min.   

14. Typewriters

How to do it: If you're starting from the right, pull up toward your right hand. With your right arm bent and left arm straight, push over to the left side (focus on using your right tricep to push from the right and your left bicep to pull to the left). Complete a negative by slowly letting your bent left arm down. Now, pull up toward the left, reversing the movements. That's one rep.

Reps: 5
Sets: 5
Rest: Beginners completing fewer sets can take 30sec to 1min; advanced athletes completing higher sets take 3-5min.   

15. Bar Hangs

How to do it: Using a wide, overhand grip, simply dead hang from a bar for the recommended duration. Doing this daily will improve grip strength and balance from wrists to shoulders, Hinds says.

Duration: 30 sec (increasing the duration by 10 second intervals as you progress)
Sets: 5
Rest: Beginners completing fewer sets can take 30sec to 1min; advanced athletes completing higher sets take 3-5min. 

“When you’re just beginning, do 1 or 2 sets of bar hangs daily, working your way up to staying on the bar for up to 10 minutes without coming down,” Hinds says.  

16. Front Backs

How to do it: Start at the bottom of a pullup position, pull halfway up, then brace your body and pull forward while opening your elbows wide. Reverse the movement by pushing your body back and down, closing your elbows in. Make sure to keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees the entire time.

Reps: 5 (front to back is 1 rep)
Sets: 5 (work up to 10 as you progress)
Rest: Beginners completing fewer sets can take 30sec to 1min; advanced athletes completing higher sets take 3-5min. 

17. Traveling Dips

How to do it: Grasp a hand on either bar of a set of parallel bars (if you have enough room to fit between them!). Dip down, then step your right arm out to your right. Dip again. Now, take a step with your left arm. Dip again. Repeat this pattern across the length of the monkey bars and then work backwards on your return (facing the same direction). Each dip counts as 1 rep. If you can't fit between parallel bars, travel laterally along the outside of one of the main bars that make up the monkey bars.

Reps: 5 (work up to 10 as you progress)
Sets: 5 (work up to 10 as you progress)
Rest: Rest: Beginners completing fewer sets can take 30sec to 1min; advanced athletes completing higher sets take 3-5min.

Note: Go slower to make it harder.

18. Wrist Grip Pullups

How to do it: Grab the bar with one hand (overhand). Your free hand grabs hold of that wrist. Execute pullups as you would normally, then repeat on the other side. “I recommend doing your weaker arm first,” Hinds says, to help balance out any weaknesses. 

Reps: 5
Sets: 5
Rest: Beginners completing fewer sets can take 30sec to 1min; advanced athletes completing higher sets take 3-5min.

Note: Lower the grip on the working arm to make it more difficult. Think of this as a precursor to a one-arm pullup. 

19. Commando Pullups w/ Single-Arm Negative Focus

How to do it: Stand perpendicular to a parallel bar and assume a commando grip. (Similar to a grip you’d use climbing a rope: Position your hands so they’re facing each other with one in front of the other.) Position your right hand so its closest to your face. Pull all the way up and touch your right shoulder to the bar. From here, squeeze your right arm pit and pull that elbow in, lightening the grip on your left arm (but keeping it on the bar). Do a 3- to 5-count negative rep all the while squeezing that right elbow into your side as you descend down.

Reps: 5 (work up to 10 as you progress)
Sets: 5 (work up to 10 as you progress)
Rest: Beginners completing fewer sets can take 30sec to 1min; advanced athletes completing higher sets take 3-5min.

Note: This is an additional step in working towards the one-arm pullup. “As you improve, lighten the grip more and more on your far hand,” Hinds says. “Again, always begin with the weaker arm first.

20. One-Arm Pullup

How to do it: Begin with a firm, overhand grip of the bar. Take the opposite arm and extend it out and across your body as you begin to execute the pullup. Squeeze the armpit of your pulling arm and pull the opposite shoulder towards your working arm. Keep the movement controlled.

Reps: 1 (work up to 5 as you progress)
Sets: 1-5
Rest: Beginners completing fewer sets can take 30sec to 1min; advanced athletes completing higher sets take 3-5 min.