The first time you watch footage of some ultra-fit youngsters barreling down alleys, flipping off of handrails, and leaping across rooftops, you may feel the urge to get out there and start vaulting and throwing some kongs and cat leaps of your own. But before you pour all of your energy into learning some basic parkour moves, you may want to invest the time and energy into getting fit enough for your body to handle all of those ninja moves. Here are some essential exercises to help get you into parkour shape:
One thing’s for sure, you don’t see too many traceurs walking or poking along at a slow jog, and if you want to keep up, you’ll need to seriously build up your cardio capabilities. Some of the best ways to do that include wind sprints, stair climbs, hill sprints, burpees and mountain climbers, dynamic jumping – both up and down and for distance – and interval training.
Parkour is all about moving your body through space, no matter the obstacles or route, so you need to be strong enough to huck your own body through the air and pull yourself up and over obstacles. The standard bodyweight exercises include pullups, pushups, dips, situps (or crunches), and squats and lunges, and once you’ve conquered the basic movements, increasing your speed and power through the full range of motion will give you an edge on the streets.
Skilled freerunners don’t just stop and ‘catch their breath’ during a run, and neither should you, so you’ll want to work in some endurance training to your routines. Longer runs (or workouts) will get your body ready to go the distance, as will pushing your limits by doing some of your training while you’re completely gassed and ready to drop. There are a lot of different methods to endurance training, but one way to be sure yours applies to your parkour is to focus on training the moves and sequences you actually use (and not just spend hours on a training bike in your basement).
Many of the powerful moves of skilled traceurs demand extra strength that you’re not likely to develop during most bodyweight workouts, so hitting the barbells for some added resistance can really increase your strength. Most strength training programs focus on big muscle groups and full-body movements, such as the squat, the clean-and-press, the military press, and the deadlift, although there are at least as many different types of strength training exercises and routines as there are personal trainers, so you may have to experiment to find what works best for you.
Not everyone has a gymnastics background, so don’t feel bad if you can’t throw a twisting backflip off a wall right off the bat. But you will want to pick up some tumbling moves and consider attending a course or workshop on some basic gymnastic or acrobatic moves. On top of that, you’ll need to work on your speed and precision, which can be increased through plyometric exercises, dynamic sprinting-jumping combinations with frequent direction and speed changes, or using a method like the agility ladder.