In parkour, athletes learn to turn the world into a playground. But they should also learn to use common objects like trees, rails, benches, and walls as exercise equipment. Even though I recommend some basic weightlifting for intermediate and advanced athletes, you can still get a great workout by doing only bodyweight exercises. In this article, I have compiled a list of my top 10 bodyweight exercises for intermediate level parkour practitioners. Looking for even more on the subject? Check out my book, Parkour Strength Training.
A classic gymnastics exercise, the L-sit is a phenomenal exercise for developing full body tension and abdominal and hip flexor strength and flexibility. With the obvious similarities between parkour and gymnastics conditioning, an L-sit is a great core exercise addition to any traceur’s training regimen.
Easier Progression: Tucked L-sit
Harder Progression: V-sit
#9 Cat balance
Cat balance is a technique used to move along the tops of narrow obstacles such as rails, walls, or I-beams. By keeping the center of gravity low and having more points of contact with the obstacle, cat balancing can be safer, faster, and more stable than moving on two feet. Because every muscle in the body helps in balancing and moving along the obstacle, the cat balance is a great conditioning exercise, particularly for the legs, forearms, and shoulders.
#8 Toes to bar
Toes to bar is a great core exercise with perfect application to a fundamental skill needed in parkour; the ability to lift your body from a hanging position without changing the orientation of your arms. In order to do many techniques including underbars, pullovers, kips, and laches, you cannot rely on only lifting your body with your arms, you must also learn to lift your body while maintaining the same arm angle in relation to the ground. Toes to bar are like knees to elbows, but require a bit more strength and flexibility to execute.
#7 Tuck planche
After the frog stand, the tuck planche is the second level of the planche progressions. All of the planche progressions are a great way to increase your ability to create and sustain full body tension. By developing your planche progressions, you will develop incredible strength, especially in your shoulders, arms, and core. This will translate to better climb ups, vaults, handstands, and more.
Easier Progression: Frog Stand AKA Crow Pose
Harder Progression: Advanced Tuck Planche
#6 Front lever (advanced tuck)
The front lever is an incredible exercise for developing full body tension and pulling strength in your arms and back. While a fully laid out front lever may not be necessary for parkour athletes to pursue, a solid advanced tuck front lever will help strengthen your climb-ups, muscle-ups, and more.
#5 Freestanding handstand
A strong handstand is a valuable tool for building ground/air awareness. It’s a fundamental skill for safer falling and better tricks. No need to worry about “perfect” form and alignment, unless your goals are something like elite gymnastics or professional circus. For many athletes, it’s more beneficial to focus on building adaptability and control across many different handstand variations and challenges (e.g. handstand walking, up/down stairs, presses, on walls/rails, etc).
#4 Pistol squat (level 1)
Pistol squats are a challenging single-leg squat classic in which you hold a leg straight in front of you while lowering down on the other. The goal is to build better squat *and* pike mobility by keeping your front leg hovering above the floor as you squat as low as possible.
Staying balanced while you keep your foot flat on the floor takes strength, skill, and significant ankle mobility. You’re doing great if you can keep your front leg fully locked out during the movement. You’re a beast if you can grab the straightened leg with one or both hands throughout the full movement.
Level 1 = flat foot, no foot grab, free leg straight + off ground, butt to heel
Level 2 = flat foot, grab foot w/ 1 hand, free leg straight + off ground, butt to heel
Level 3 = flat foot, grab foot w/ 2 hands, free leg straight + off ground, butt to heel
#3 Nordic curl eccentric + push-up assist
By letting down as slow as possible, you can develop the same strength needed to go back up. By adding in a little bit of a push up from the ground, it makes it possible to still back up and challenge yourself through the full range of motion.
Easier Progression: Harop Curl
Harder Progression: Unassisted Glute Ham Raise
A variation of the muscle-up, climb-ups are used to climb up and over a wall from the hanging position. Climb-ups are used extensively in parkour; after doing wall pops, cat leaps, and climbing in general. The climb-up builds the necessary strength and coordination to overcome any shape wall and is an invaluable skill for any practitioner.
Easier Progression: Jumping climb-up
Harder Progression: Weighted climb-up
#1 Depth jump for height
The depth jump for height is one of the most useful plyometric exercises for increasing jumping power. By jumping off an object and immediately back up as high as you can, you will develop reactive strength which means more explosive jumps. WARNING: This exercise can be extremely high-impact. Be sure to start out with small objects and only do this exercise if you already have strong legs.
Easier Progression: Hard depth drop
Harder Progression: Depth jump for height w/ progressively taller box
Looking for more progressions?
If you’ve already mastered all of these exercises and are looking for more challenge and variation, check out my book, Parkour Strength Training. If you need some easier progressions, check out the Top 10 Exercises for Beginners in Parkour or Too Old, Too Fat, Too Weak for Parkour? NO, You Are NOT! Start With These 5 Basic Exercises. Additionally, here are a few exercise demo playlists categorized by difficulty level: