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Too old, too fat, too weak for parkour? Start with these 5 basic movements

“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.

Full squat (hip-width stance)

A hip-width stance full squat is one of the most important positions for any human to master. Although it’s slightly easier than the feet/knees together full squat, a hip-width stance is arguably more common in training, sport, and life. In general, the full squat position is essential for developing optimal mechanics and mobility in the ankles, hips, and back. The better you get at full squats, the more robust your joints become.

To improve at the full squat, you must be consistent and gradually make it harder over time. Start with the static holds but also be sure to actively move in and out of a full squat in many different ways. Another method of progressively overloading your squat is to accumulate 1 minute of time in a full squat on day 1, 2 minutes on the next day, and so on (until you reach 30 min on day 30).

Hang (passive shoulders, pronated grip)

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).

Wall support (straight-arm)

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.

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.

Barefoot walk

Barefoot walking is a simple, effective solution to building stronger feet & ankles. Many people spend too much time wearing and moving in shoes, resulting in stupid feet that don’t work well. Add in more barefoot walking to warm-ups, cool-downs, and everyday life in order to regain better movement mechanics.

Learn more

Ryan Ford is author of Parkour Strength Training and founder of ParkourEDU & Apex School of Movement

Join the discussion!

  • So my friend is fat and wants to train. Could anyone tell some tips or things to be more aware of when you are fat to avoid injury and progress faster?

  • He should start of with the beginner exercises for 30 days and then he should focus on fitness for a while,even if he/she doesn’t lose a lot he/she will still be able to progress faster,but remember No matter what age or weight she can still do it

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