Parkour Training

Jane C. Dizon
Jumping over a wall

Parkour rose to modern fame as early as the 90's. Since then, it caught the interest of the public in action films where you can see stuntmen vaulting and running almost effortlessly over, under, and even through any obstacle. While parkour has a lot of different uses in entertainment, from security measures to competitive scenes, you can use it as a great exercise regime as well.

Basics

Traceur is what you call an individual practicing parkour. The term jam, on the other hand, is an event where traceurs gather to do parkour. Budding traceurs must learn to start from scratch since it takes months, if not years, of extensive training to master the moves and jumps before participating in jams.

Parkour not only demands substantial physical capacity, it also requires its practitioner to be mentally disciplined. It's also very crucial to avoid performing beyond one's physical capability and knowledge.

Training

The amount of training required for parkour depends on your experience level.

Before you start flipping and jumping, you must first work on these three fitness components: power, agility, and flexibility. Power is the ability to exert sudden bursts of muscular movements, wherein body strength and speed are essential. Agility requires execution of movements in opposing directions as quickly as you can, while flexibility is achieving an extended range of motion. Train for power, agility, and flexibility for at least six weeks to prepare yourself before starting with actual parkour training. Work on each one to two days per week, for a total of three to six training sessions per week. An example of a schedule would be:

  • Monday - Power
  • Tuesday - Agility
  • Wednesday - Flexibility
  • Thursday - Power
  • Friday - Agility
  • Saturday - Flexibility
  • Sunday - Rest

Power Exercises

For power, complete three sets of eight reps for each exercise below. Take 90-second breaks between sets.

  • Pull-ups - These help improve upper body strength, which will help you with vaulting and climbing.

  • Push-ups - These also improve upper body strength, particularly in the chest and triceps, which can generate power while pushing away from objects, climbing them, or vaulting them.

  • Bicep curls - These curls help develop arm strength, which you will need for your vaults and climbs.

Agility Exercises

To improve agility:

  1. Begin with a 30-minute brisk walk or jog.
  2. Next, alternate 20-second (or 10 meter) sprints with two-minute walks as breaks, repeating a total of five times.
  3. Then, perform high-knee exercises for one minute in place or for a distance of 20 to 30 feet.

Flexibility Exercises

To improve flexibility, do one of the following:

  • Engage in 60 minutes of yoga.

  • Engage in a full-body stretching routine (stretches that are held for more than a few seconds and repeated many times while stationary).

  • Engage in dynamic stretching (stretching while moving) for 30 minutes.

Adding Extra Loads

As you progress with the above workouts, you'll want to make them more difficult so your fitness level improves. To that end, you can add:

  • An extra rep for the power workout

  • An extra 2-second sprint and extra 10 feet or one minute for high-knees in agility training

  • Two extra reps for 60-second stretches in flexibility training

These additions will gradually stack every time you reach a new week of training. For example, after one week you can add extra reps and minutes to your workouts, and then add more the next week, and so on.

Beginners

After undertaking physical preparation, you can engage in three days of parkour training per week:

  • One day for strength and preparation (two to three hours of strength, agility, and flexibility training)

  • One day for technique practice (it depends on the traceur, but typically it takes at least two to four hours)

  • One day for applying the techniques in a stunt test (two to three hours, again, depending on the traceur)

Intermediate

After six to 12 months of training, you may have reached an intermediate level. At this point, you may add an extra day for either improving strength or technique. You can do two days of strength and preparation and one day for technique, or vice versa, depending on the need to practice or prepare. You can also add an extra hour for all three sessions when you reach intermediate level.

  • One to two days of strength and preparation, three to four hours per session

  • One to two days of technique practice, three to five hours per session

  • Still one day of stunt tests, but this time three to four hours per session

Advanced

After another 12 months, you can add an additional day for each training so you are completing at least five sessions per week. You can also add an extra hour further in preparation, technique, and tests.

  • Two to three days of strength and preparation, four to five hours per session

  • Two to three days of technique practice, four to six hours per session

  • One to two days of stunt tests, four to five hours per session

The longer and more intense training can help you reach an advanced level. Perform trickier moves and divide time between strength and technique. You can also mix and match how many days you will dedicate to each routine, again depending on what needs practice or preparation.

Five Basic Moves

As a parkour beginner, you may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of moves you can perform. Learning the moves one at a time takes a lot of practice and hard work. Fortunately, you can try some of the following simple moves as you begin exploring parkour.

Precision Jump

Precision jump involves jumping and landing with coordinated balance atop an area that has only a small space to land on (tops of walls for example). You will need loose movement to execute a precision jump well.

  1. Keep your feet together as your body prepares for the jump.

  2. As you gain momentum, enter a semi-crouch that will enable you to spring forward.

  3. After gaining sufficient momentum, shift your body weight to the balls of the feet, swinging your arms backward just before you jump.

  4. Lean forward as the jump starts. The lean will dictate the length and distance of the jump.

  5. Throw your arms forward and upward as you start to jump, transferring the momentum or power of the jump from the legs upwards to the arms. Stiffening the arms may cause a lack in jumping momentum. Go for an arcing trajectory rather than a straight one.

  6. In mid-jump, as soon as the feet leave the takeoff point, bring your heels up to your backside. Never jump with stiff legs as this will decrease momentum and even cause injury upon landing.

  7. As the jump arcs downward towards the landing point, bring your knees forward and push your feet in the direction of the landing point.

  8. Aiming for a target landing point, land on the balls of your feet. This is to allow you to drop your heels in case the landing is off balance. Landing squarely on your feet can cause injury.

Beginners can safely practice precision jumps on public basketball courts or in vacant parking lots, preferably with painted lines on the concrete that will serve as a landing point.

Safety Vault

In parkour, a vault involves placing your hands atop a high obstacle so you can jump over it. Parkour features a myriad of vaults a traceur can pull off, though some are more advanced and complex. The safety vault, however, is a simple and safe stunt beginners can easily practice.

  1. Run towards the obstacle at a desired speed.

  2. Upon reaching the obstacle, place your left hand on it.

  3. Place your right leg on the obstacle.

  4. Push forward over the obstacle with your left leg.

  5. Release your hand on the obstacle and continue on to the next.

Practice the safety vault on non-elevated railings and banisters. As you practice, start the vault with a slow movement and gradually gain speed until you can execute the vault while you are moving quickly.

Lazy Vault

Beginners can practice the lazy vault without much practice.

  1. Run parallel or diagonally towards the obstacle.

  2. Place your inside hand (the one closest to the obstacle) on top of it.

  3. Pull your inside leg over the obstacle.

  4. Push with your outside leg (the one away from the obstacle) while bringing the inside leg to an arc over the obstacle.

  5. Just as the inside leg touches the ground on the other side, pull your outside leg over the obstacle, mimicking the arc done by the inside leg. As the outside leg goes over the obstacle, let go of your inside hand.

  6. Push off of the obstacle with your outside hand just as the outside leg touches the ground on the other side.

  7. Continue running, making sure to keep your feet together upon landing to prevent tripping.

Practice the vault at varying speeds until you can complete the move while you are running.

Forward Roll

In parkour, forward rolls lessen the impact of a landing. It involves tucking the body into a ball and propelling it forward into a roll as you land on the ground after a big jump or fall. This drives extra, forward momentum so you can get back on your feet efficiently without any unwanted pressure from the impact. Rolls are often initiated upon landing, or when jumping horizontally at great speed or distances.

  1. Stand with one foot forward. That foot will dictate which shoulder to use during the roll.

  2. Crouch and bend downward, placing your right hand forward with the left hand behind it. Place the hands directly in line with the foot that was not put forward in the first stance.

  3. Bend your left arm downward, placing the elbow onto the ground. Keep some space between your hands and feet to prevent your legs from rolling over your arms.

  4. Push forward with your left leg to initiate the roll. The body will roll over your left arm and onto your shoulder.

  5. As the back of your left shoulder makes contact with the ground and the body rolls forward, tuck your right heel to your backside.

  6. Roll diagonally, with the direction going from your left shoulder to your right hip, and back onto your feet.

  7. Your left foot should be the one to touch the ground first. Your right foot should hit the ground still tucked under your backside.

  8. Once both feet are on the ground, balance your body until it is upright and continue running.

Avoid rolling over the back of your neck, the small of your back, or either of your hips to prevent pain or injury. If the ground makes contact with any of these body areas, readjust the roll to avoid hitting them.

Rolling requires even more gradual practicing compared to precision jumping or safety vaulting since you usually perform it after landing from a jump. Practice rolling on flat, softer surfaces like grass before gradually applying it alongside your other parkour moves.

Tic Tac

Often emulated in action and martial arts movies, a tic tac is a move where you run at a horizontal object at an angle and propel yourself off that object into a higher jump.

  1. Approach the wall at a 30- to 60-degree-angle.

  2. Aim and place your inside foot (the one closest to the wall) on a spot on the wall. The higher the placement, the the higher and farther you will travel with your jump.

  3. Push the planted foot explosively and firmly off the wall, propelling your body into a jump moving way from the wall.

  4. Mid-jump, make sure to aim your body and head towards the direction you wish to go.

  5. When going for a wall climb, allow your planted foot to leave the wall entirely before you attempt grab onto the opposite or target wall with your hands, not your arms.

Tic tacs can be practiced by using angled trees as obstacles. This allows you to become familiar with the feel of the move before using it on actual walls. You'll need to engage in trial and error with foot placement to find the perfect spot that will provide good momentum and lift. Don't attempt to move from a tic tac into a wall climb until you've mastered the tic tac.

Attire

Parkour attire is not strictly by the book. There are some specifics on what to wear.

  • Choose clothes that fit the body comfortably and do not restrict your mobility.

  • Wear clothes in light fabric like cotton.

  • Avoid wearing clothes with buttons or strings, which can get caught in obstacles, as well as loose accessories, such as jewelry, watches, and even glasses.

  • Wear lightweight and flexible shoes and avoid ones with heavy, hard soles as these can affect mobility and the way feet react against impacts.

Parkour in Public

When performing parkour, it's important to respect public environments. A 2011 San Jose State University thesis posits the idea of "social deviance" in sports activities. This social deviance to go for that "extra thrill" when doing an activity like parkour is one of the factors as to why parkour has a free-reigning, almost revolutionary, aura of appeal in modern times.

While most parkour practitioners still remember their legal boundaries when doing parkour in public areas, there are still instances when parkour is used to aggravate civilians and even draw the ire of lawmen. One such case involves a minor 2013 incident in Florida. Traceurs must learn how to respect public spaces and comply accordingly with the law when practicing or performing in public.

  • Choose a practice location where there are no civilians or bystanders to avoid public disturbance.

  • Look for another place to perform or train in when asked to move or leave.

  • Refrain from vandalizing or damaging public property when executing moves.

  • Follow standard rules that apply to civilians in public spaces.

Safety

Injuries are common in parkour, regardless of your experience. Hand tears, sprained ankles, and shin impacts are common types of injuries that can occur during training. Warm-ups and constant practice are essential in preventing such injuries from happening. In case of more serious trauma, such as head injuries and broken legs, it will help to learn some standard first aid measures to assist the injured performer as efficiently and safely as possible before emergency medical services arrive.

As with all sports that require physical activity, safety is a primary concern for parkour. This is exceptionally important since parkour does not strictly require any form of gear even for safety, apart from proper clothing and shoes. A research conducted by NZ Parkour depicts varying figures that display the risk of injuries in parkour, with overtraining cited as one of the top causes of injury. The research also notes 66% of the 150 traceurs surveyed believed their injuries could have been avoided. Therefore, aspiring beginners must keep in mind some rules and measures to stay safe while performing.

  • Warm up before every session to prevent strains or injuries.

  • Practice only what you know and what you are capable of. For example, don't try a 10-foot drop off a wall just because you already know how to do a 6-foot drop.

  • If you are unsure about a move or an obstacle, do not continue with it. Only perform techniques and stunts you're familiar with.

  • Know when to take a break and when to call it quits. Overexertion can cause physical problems and even impair your cognition for the next move.

Take the Time

Novices can find and join parkour groups to learn alongside more experienced practitioners and other beginners. Progression is the key, not only to master the moves, but also to execute them safely. Because parkour is a tough discipline to master, don't be discouraged if you fall occasionally. Parkour takes practice and hard work. Enjoy the process and most importantly, train because you want to. After all, parkour is not merely a discipline, sports routine, or even a physical workout. It is also a form of self-expression.

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Parkour Training