“When did you start parkour?”
“When did you stop?”
Everyone did at least a bit of parkour as a kid. At one point in your life, you climbed a tree, a rock, a rooftop. You jumped and tumbled off furniture because it was fun. Remember “floor-is-lava?” You still play? I still play floor-is-lava almost every day. If you like(d) that game, you might enjoy parkour too.
Our society has never been more sedentary and out of shape. More than two-thirds of Americans are obese or overweight. Why has our health suffered so greatly? One reason is a lack of movement and/or physical play in our daily lives. I’m not here to convince you that everyone should do parkour, but I am here to challenge how you view exercise.
Have you ever thought, “Working out is too hard/boring/etc” or “I don’t have time/energy/motivation/etc”? Try not to see it as something negative. Instead, try to reframe exercise as fun and playful. The next time you see a kid swinging on monkey bars, watch their process of exploration.
Kids don’t count calories or time workouts. Kids move because it’s fun, challenging, and exciting. They want to explore their surroundings, and their own potential, through movement. Parkour can help you achieve that which seems impossible for most, if not all humans.
Parkour at its root is about self-improvement, through movement. It doesn’t matter if you’re learning to squat or double backflip. What matters most is that you safely explore your limits or even advance yourself. Even if you have little desire to become a world-class parkour athlete/artist, my simple challenge to you is this: just move more often.
Take it as slow as you want or need. Remember, even the most simple movements will help prepare you for other skills that may seem unattainable right now. If you need some ideas on where to start, the list below outlines five of my favorite basic movements for people to work on, regardless of their age, weight, skill, or fitness level. By practicing these fundamental movements, you will develop more strength and mobility, as well as the confidence to progress to dynamic parkour basics like rolling, balancing, and climbing.
#1 Full squat
The full squat is one of the most important positions for any person to master. This position is essential for developing optimal posture and mobility in the ankles, hips, and back. The better you are at this position, the less injuries you will experience. Try accumulating 1 minute of time in a full squat today, 2 minutes tomorrow, and so on until you accumulate 30 minutes of time in a full squat on the 30 day.
- Easier: 1) full squat (hip-width stance, heels-elevated) 1) full squat (hip-width stance, heels-elevated)
- Harder: 1) full squat (hip-width stance, arms overhead) 2) full squat (feet/knees together) 3) rail balance (forward, low)
#2 Passive hang
If you have tight/stiff shoulders in the overhead position, hangs are a simple, effective way to loosen up and improve shoulder mobility. For all levels (depending on the “high bar” obstacle), hangs build grip strength. Through decompression, hangs also work to maintain a healthy spine.
Add hangs into warm-ups, cool-downs, and ideally, everyday life. For example, an at-home pull-up bar is one of the best ways to make convenient/consistent strength and mobility gains. Make a habit of daily hanging and if possible, try progressively adding weight and/or regularly changing up the “high bar” texture/size/grip (tree branches, scaffolding, playground bars, etc).
- Easier: 1) feet-assisted hang
- Harder: 1) scapular pull-up 3) jumping pull-up + negative 3) pull-up / chin-up
#3 Straight-arm wall support
The straight-arm wall support is a beginner level static hold for building upper body + core strength. This carries over well to stronger/faster vaults, top-outs, climb-ups, etc. It’s important to actively push through the arms/hands while maintaining full-body tension in a hollow/piked position. Also, push hard to maintain scapular depression + protraction (shoulders down and rounded). If you can comfortably hold this movement for at least 20-30 seconds, begin working on more challenging progressions.
- Easier: 1) straight-arm front plank 2) bent-arm front plank
- Harder: 1) bent-arm wall support 2) jumping wall dip + eccentric 3) wall dip
#4 Quadrupedal movement (forward, basic)
Quadrupedal movement (QM) is widely used in parkour as both a strength training exercise and a practical skill. The most simple form of QM is the reciprocating (basic), forward-moving variation. This parkour strength training movement is a killer full-body exercise that also develops the coordination and balance skills needed for vaults. In general, QM is useful as a means to get over, under, and through small spaces, navigate across irregular surfaces, and provide extra security when moving at heights.
- Easier: 1) front plank 2) straight arm front plank 3) scapular push-up
- Harder: 1) QM (basic, backwards) 2) QM (basic, backwards, up stairs) 3) cat balance
Jogging is a great way to build up your general level of fitness for more high impact things such as jumping and sprinting. Among the specific benefits of jogging are weight loss, increased bone density, and improved cardiovascular endurance. Once a baseline level of fitness has been established, you can proceed to higher intensity movement like jumping and sprinting.
- Easier: 1) Walking/hiking 2) Stair-walking
- Harder: 1) Sprinting
Looking for more challenge?
Try these reads…
…or these video playlists full of movement demos for different levels of skill/strength/etc: