People often ask me, “When did you start parkour?” My favorite response is, “When did you stop?” You see, every single one of you did some version of parkour when you were little. At one point in your life, you climbed a tree. You leaped and tumbled off the couch. Do you remember the game, “The Floor is Made Out of Lava”? I still play that game all the time. And you should too! We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.
Our society has never been more sedentary and out of shape. In fact, more than two-thirds of Americans are either obese or overweight. Why has our health suffered so greatly? One reason is the lack of movement 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 said, “Working out is too hard” or “I don’t have time for exercise”? Try not to see it as something negative. Instead, view exercise as fun and playful. The next time you see a kid swinging on monkey bars, stop and watch. Kids don’t count calories or time workouts. Kids move around because it’s fun, challenging, and exciting. They want to explore their surroundings, and their own potential, through movement. Through parkour, the hunger to move is fed with extra creativity and discipline, allowing you to accomplish that which seems superhuman, or even impossible.
Parkour at its root is about self-improvement, through movement. It doesn’t matter if you are learning how to squat or how to double backflip. All that matters is that you explore your own potential and advance yourself. Even if you have no desire to become the next parkour all-star, my challenge to you is to move more often.
The list below describes and demonstrates my top five basic exercises for people to work on, regardless of their age, weight, skill, or fitness level. By practicing these exercises, you will be well on your way to developing more mobility, increasing strength, and progressing toward some of the dynamic movements you’ve seen in parkour videos online.
#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.
Harder Progression: Air Squat
#2 Passive bar hang
If you have tight/stiff shoulders in the overhead position, passive “bar” hangs are a simple, effective way to loosen up and improve shoulder mobility. For all levels, passive hangs also build grip strength and help decompress/maintain a healthy spine.
Add passive 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 gains. Make a habit of daily hanging and if possible, try progressively adding weight and/or regularly changing up the “bar” texture/size/grip (tree branches, scaffolding, playground bars, etc).
Harder Progression: Jumping Pull-up / Negative
#3 Straight-arm wall support
The wall support is a beginner exercise to develop the necessary upper body and core strength for vaults and climb ups. It is important to actively push through the arms and shoulders while maintaining a tight core. Try working on this exercise until you can hold it with good form for 30 seconds and then move on to jumping wall dips and negatives.
Harder Progression: Jumping Wall Dip / Negative
#4 Quadrupedal movement (forwards, basic)
Quadrupedal movement, moving on four limbs, is widely used in parkour as both a conditioning exercise and a practical technique for movement. The most basic form of quadrupedal movement is the reciprocating, forward-moving variation. Like all quadrupedal movement, this technique is a great full body exercise and it develops coordination and weight transferring skills needed for other movements. In parkour, quadrupedal movement is useful as a means to get under or through small spaces, navigate across irregular surfaces, or provide extra security and stabilization when moving at heights.
Harder Progression: Quadrupedal Movement (Backwards, Basic)
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.
Harder Progression: Sprinting
Looking for more challenge?
If you’ve already mastered all of these exercises and are looking for more challenge and variation, check out the Top 10 Exercises for Beginners in Parkour, Parkour Strength Training book, or the following playlists full of exercise video demos: