Straight to the Bar

All Things Strength


The Demise of Monkey Bars
Posted By Scott Bird

Monkeying Around

Monkeying Around.

‘Hey hey, we’re the Monkeys, and people say we monkey around’
– Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart

A few weeks ago I visited Sofala, an old mining town near Bathurst, NSW. Russell Drysdale depicted the main street in his 1947 painting Sofala, and it hasn’t changed much in the 60 years since. It’s a dry, desolate, dusty place – and quite beautiful. I love it.

Whilst walking along this same street I noticed something that I haven’t seen for a number of years – monkey bars. There they were, in a childrens’ playground neatly slotted between a pub and a toilet block (perhaps not the best location, but it was relatively well protected from the sun). It was a very unusual sight.
If you’re not quite sure what monkey bars are, picture a smooth-runged steel ladder placed on its side. The whole thing is supported on poles, keeping it 7′ or 8′ off the ground. A chinning bar on steroids, if you will.

A few decades ago – when I would have first played around on monkey bars – they seemed to be everywhere. In their original, simple form or as part of more elaborate constructions such as rockets and aeroplanes. To a young boy with a big imagination, they were magical.

Fast forward 20 years or so, to the mid ’90s. Due to their popularity – they were being used almost 8 times as much as other playground equipment [1] – there were an alarming number of accidents. Many of these were minor (as anyone who’s ever fallen awkwardly from a chinning bar will attest), but politicians the world over began to grow worried that something more sinister was possible. Fearful of lawsuits, many of the monkey bars were removed.

The result? A major source of entertaining upper-back work was largely taken away from an entire generation. Sure, there are still any number of ways children can perform chin-ups. But none is so much fun as a climb across the monkey bars.


1. Injury and frequency of use of playground equipment in
public schools and parks in Brisbane, Australia

J W Nixon, C H C Acton, B Wallis, M F Ballesteros, D Battistutta
Injury Prevention, 2003

Over to you. Drop us a line on Twitter ( @scottbird ), or add a comment below.



NB : if you love talking about strength-training as much as I do, you might also like to check out the weekly newsletter (there's also a daily version available). A regular dose of fitness-focussed discussions, absolutely free.



  1. Monday, 31 May 2021 – Strength & Fitness Newsletter - […] Gem From The Vault : The Demise of Monkey BarsScott Andrew Bird | Follow @scottbirdA major source of upper-back…
  2. Monday, 5 Jun 2023 | Strength & Fitness Newsletter - […] Gem From The Vault : The Demise of Monkey BarsScott Andrew BirdWonderful things. […]

Leave a Reply

What's This?

Straight to the Bar is the online home of fitness enthusiast Scott Bird, and looks at the many training approaches, essential techniques, uncommon exercises and superb equipment to help you become as strong as humanly possible. In short, this site is the home of all things strength.

images of strength


Want to see (and learn) more Feats of Strength like this? Dive in.

Just Joined Us? Try These.

There are some incredible writers on the team here. To give you an idea, check these out :

If you enjoyed these, check out the complete ‘Best Of Straight to the Bar‘ list. Fantastic.

setting up a home gym?

If you’re getting ready to put together a solid Home Gym (fantastic thing), here’s how.

For more, swing by the full guide. Absolutely free.

And of course, you’ll find everything you need over in the SttB Strength Store. Massive range.

Ever Tried Kettlebells?

If you’ve seen people using them but never taken the plunge yourself, here are the ones I use personally. You can also pick up a book/DVD/course if you want to learn how to put them to work.

Ready To Learn Even More?

I love learning new skills, and the many seminars & workshops available are a great way to do that. If you’re looking for a specific type of workshop nearby, check out the ones on Dragon Door. Great mix of kettlebell and calisthenics-based offerings.

The Precision Nutrition Certification Program

The Precision Nutrition Certification Program

The Precision Nutrition Certification Program.

If you’re a fitness professional and love the Precision Nutrition approach, check out their certification offering. To say it’s comprehensive is an understatement.

Wherever You Are, We Are.

In addition to the main site, you can share your strength-training passion with a like-minded community on :

Wherever you like to hang out, get your regular dose of strength. Straight to the Bar.

Written By Scott Bird
Scott is a long-time fitness enthusiast (Jan 2004!), writer and photographer living in Sydney, Australia. If you share the passion for spending a bit of time under a bar, welcome. Love hearing how everyone else trains. You can connect via X (Formerly Twitter), Facebook and the various networks listed in the sidebar.
Drawing of Scott Andrew Bird performing a deadlift. Artwork by Vince Palko.