Disclosure: This post contains links throughout the article. Blue links are references to other websites that prove what I’m saying is a fact. Red links are links that connect to other articles I’ve done. Product review articles have a buy now red button at the bottom of the article’s end. I receive compensation from the companies whose products I review by providing a link to you. I will only recommend products I have used and know will work for you. To show good faith, I took photos of myself holding and using the product in my product article reviews.
Running, jumping, climbing, crawling, balancing, vaulting, and rolling are the fundamentals of movement in parkour. But without proper body strength, your body will lack the physical strength to perform demanding actions. Calisthenics benefits parkour training by training your body in free space with both disciplines. On the one hand, calisthenics is about strengthening muscles, tendons, and ligaments to be mobile relative to your body weight. On the other hand, parkour is about being explosive while performing the fundamental movements using only your body weight. I see both of these disciplines as yin and yang; both complement well to each other. Parkour is the yang side because you’re moving your body in a quick burst of acceleration in free space. Calisthenics is the yin side because you exercise slower in free space. I’ll be demonstrating various movements both disciplines have to offer.
What is parkour?
As I said in my intro, the basics are the fundamentals of performing unique actions in free open space. Parkour is a form of running that focuses on getting from one area to another in the fastest way possible. To do this, you must overcome obstacles quickly and safely without equipment except for your own body. The activity is an adrenaline form of movement that requires every body region to work in unison. You can combine different body motions for different situations. You learn to tap into your natural body movements by practicing the fundamentals. When you gain the confidence you need to perform in an open space, you’ll feel a sense of liberation. The point of doing this isn’t just to get a good cardio workout but to enjoy the freedom of expression the human body can do in an open space.
David Belle is the one man responsible for the rise of parkour in France and globally. He’s an actor, choreographer, and stunt coordinator who performed in french action films. His parkour performance in these films garnered attention for how amazing it is to maneuver oneself in an urban environment. He also starred in a parkour action film called Brick Mansions, a remake of the french film District 13. Watching these films inspired me to try performing parkour, but I greatly fear high altitudes. One false move, and you are stuck in rehabilitation with a mass bill from the hospital. Or worst, you can die flat on a hard surface. So I practice on ground level instead of high altitudes for safety purposes.
We used to perform parkour as little kids at the children’s playground during recess and after school. We were innocent little beings who loved to explore the environment by tabbing into our ape side. Every park has everything children need to perform every fundamental movement the body can do. But then we stopped because we got older as we progressed toward different areas in life. We slowly forget to maneuver ourselves in free space and focus more on intelligence development. The only physical movements we retain are walking and running, and many of the basics must be understood again. The best part is that it’s not too late to relearn to be whole again as a human being. Exploring our inner ape side to maneuver ourselves around our environment is a revitalization to feel human. The activity is one of the best ways to handle that adrenaline rush of excitement.
As an adult, I find time and effort to practice parkour. I love that my local park is next door to me where I can practice being mobile. I practice for the adrenaline rush and for functionality to keep my body strong. As the body ages, you lose mobility; if you don’t move constantly. I make sure that doesn’t happen as I get older because I’m in my mid 30s. I don’t want to become a couch potato and regret never using my body to its fullest potential. The reality is most people settle down as they get older and wither away from what mother nature gave us. We’re meant to walk, run, jump, roll, and climb since our species evolved to walk upright on two limbs. No matter how civilized we’ve become, we are still animals that crave physical excitement to navigate our bodies throughout our environment.
Yes, you’ll feel physical discomfort in the beginning. The difficulty of relearning to perform the fundamentals is getting over the fear of getting hurt. The body roll is a perfect example of when I wanted to learn my first move and failed. I made a mistake by rolling on my vertebras on a hard surface. That was painful, and I learned my lesson well by rolling correctly on a softer plain field. Another benefit of moving correctly was diagonally rolling from my right shoulder to the left side of my hip. Thanks to the existence of the internet, I was able to find a bunch of tutorials on the fundamentals. It’s beneficial when you don’t have an instructor or a group of friends to help you spot mistakes. It’s also wise to record yourself to see any errors you might make and correct them.
There’s a list of moves to learn. These are the fundamentals of learning parkour:
- safety roll
- kip up
- precision jump
- wall run
As you can see, most of these are just basic movements to explore how you can move around. The basics are the bread and butter of parkour. I like to get around pragmatically because I don’t want to be flashy but practical. Being flamboyant is performing acrobatic flips and spins. Just think, if someone is chasing you, you’re not going to think, “I’m going to look awesome doing a flip.” No, you’re going to run your ass off, and if there’s an obstacle, you’re going to vault. Or, you can just change direction and continue to run away from danger. Of course, I think it looks cool to do flips and spins, but my practice revolves around practicality and directness.
Calisthenics benefits parkour training
Why would calisthenics benefit your parkour training? Because you need a sufficient amount of body strength to perform. Much of parkour involves quick bursts of speed to have momentum. Fast twitch muscles are secondary fibers that help quickly exert a quick burst of energy. That means your fast twitch muscles activate the most in parkour. Resistance training helps develop solid fast-twitch fibers by constantly contracting the muscles and strengthening them. Your body will have the capability to withstand strenuous activities like rolling on the floor, landing, and jumping. Besides running, rolling, landing, and jumping, you need to strengthen your grip, pushups, and pullups to maneuver. After long consistent rigorous training, the muscles will grow and strengthen throughout with the 3 basic fundamentals I recommend.
Exercises that develop a muscular physique for parkour are compound exercises, which involve gripping, pushing, pulling, and leg exercises. Why are these essential? Because you’re performing all of these movements throughout parkour. Think about it: you’re running, and you see a branch; you’re going to grip it for a split second and swing forward for momentum. Next, the following movements are pushing and pulling. Many times, you’re going to be climbing by pulling yourself up and then pushing your body up over a ledge. Then, the final movement is jumping. Jumping frequently occurs in parkour because you must quickly get from point A to point B.
Here’s a list of compound movements to perform as they relate to real-life movements in parkour. These exercises also help build strength and power in fast twitch muscles to achieve a quick burst of energy.
- back extensions
Only these exercises will be efficient in developing the required amount of strength needed to perform parkour. Nothing complicated, just simplicity by performing only basic movements from calisthenics that helps your parkour training. The best part is they’re compound exercises that target multiple muscle groups. You don’t need to waste your time doing isolation exercises because this isn’t a bodybuilding competition. Aesthetics aren’t important, but functionality is. The purpose here is to strengthen and prepare the body through minimal calisthenics exercises that will enhance your parkour training.
Calisthenics parkour training
The movements in parkour are exercises and not just “moves” to learn so you can maneuver around. These movements help develop coordination, balance, a quick burst of energy, and a great cardio workout. When you consistently perform, your heart rate increases, which is an excellent indicator of health and fitness. Most of these movements are similar to military obstacle courses where recruits serve to test their physical skills. I never participated in serving, but that doesn’t mean I can’t perform the same as a recruit. So, where can you perform? At a local park, at a parkour gym, or at home. I don’t have a local parkour gym, but I have a local park to practice all the fundamentals.
The best part is no special equipment is needed to carry to perform parkour. A good pair of CrossFit shoes for bodyweight exercises like parkour is necessary because you need to be light on your feet. It would be best if you had comfortable shoes that are well rounded for running and calisthenics so you won’t develop foot soreness. Another added value to the practice is wearing comfortable athletic clothes that will not constrain your body from being mobile. Wearing jeans for training isn’t pragmatic for practice unless the fabric is stretchable and not dense.
How to perform the fundamentals
The movements are intimating in the beginning, but after several tries, it gets easier. I highly recommend that you practice on a soft surface, don’t try on a hard surface. If you live close to a local park, go and practice because there’s plenty of space. Before doing any of these movements, you should always warm up. Start by loosening the joints, and stretch every muscle on your body. This will loosen up your body, and excellent blood circulation will make you feel awake and ready. If you don’t do this, you will injure yourself. I’ve never injured myself in my parkour practice because I always loosen up before any physical activity. But I have hurt myself trying to learn some of these movements because I was learning the technique. Look at an article on static stretching before engaging in any physical activity.
Doing a safety roll is an imperative move to learn. Many times you’re going to be jumping off a ledge, and you need to land safely. The safety roll is a move that does just what the action name does. How do you do that? You land on the balls of your feet, then quickly roll diagonally to the hip from the shoulder. I like to roll from my right shoulder diagonally to my left hip. It’s just a natural way I want to do it. Performing the movement correctly ensures that you won’t get hurt because you learn to disperse the impact of the fall. After rolling forward, you’ll quickly get back on your feet, ready to run. Never roll forward on your vertebras because that causes pain, especially on a hard surface. Remember to do this on a soft surface when practicing this movement.
Once you’re able to perform the safety roll on a soft surface with the correct form, you can start rolling on a hard surface. Remember to take it slow and never rush when starting out, which will lead to an injury. I don’t recommend doing this on a hard surface where there’s broken glass or gravel.
I’m ambivalent about the kip-up being part of my list as a parkour move to learn. On the one hand, the kip-up is an incredible move because of the athleticism it requires to perform. On the other hand, you never land on your back when practicing. But I decided to include it because it helps develop athleticism, power and it looks fantastic. Now, you execute this action in a supine position by putting both hands close to the ears. At the same time, you flex your hip and spine, bringing the legs past your face. Then you push against the ground with your hands by extending the elbows. Simultaneously, the momentum of the legs will drive the body up in a forward motion bringing you back up standing.
One of the critical areas of improvement is practicing jumping as high and far as possible. Jumping toward the desired landing takes a lot of practice when running at high velocity. To do this, you must remain in one spot and jump high in developing power jumps. Second, stay in one place and jump forward to the desired spot to land on. As a beginner, you don’t do this at high altitudes because one false landing is a trip to the ER. Practice on the ground level. Another of my recommendations is to do jumping squats, both high and forward jumps. Doing this will help develop power in your glutes, quads, and calves. Once you’ve practiced over and over, begin jumping at an altitude. Then jump towards the landing with the balls of your feet as you land.
The movement can be intimidating to perform. The way to do this is to find a bench close to the hip height of your body. You jump from one leg to raise the lower body over the bench. At the same time, you put one hand on top as your support while you leap forward with the rest of your body. You jump from the right leg if you’re supporting with the right arm. The same goes for the left side. It is accelerating to do after you’ve repeated the steps in leaping over an object. After comfort, you begin running towards the bench and act. Learning this move enables you to get threw an obstacle quickly.
It’s incredible to run on the walls horizontally, like the Prince of Persia, and the same goes for running vertically. Doing this requires speed and power. The reason why speed and power are necessary is that gravity is pulling. You only have 3 seconds before gravity wins you over. Sprinting is the best exercise to develop speed and power because it helps develop the legs’ velocity. Another recommended exercise to apply is the squat because you exercise the quads and glutes. The exercise helps to develop power and strength in the lower body.
After learning how to wall run vertically, you’ll eventually want to know how to climb. Climbing requires body strength to perform a climb. I suggest you strengthen your upper body first and then achieve a climb. Both actions have the same motion, a pull-up, and a pushup. The muscle up transfers well from calisthenics into climbing because of the similarities. This excellent calisthenics movement transfers well in parkour for your training regimen.
Besides performing incredible movements, most of the process requires speed. You won’t generate any rate through walking because there isn’t any quick-forward momentum. You gain that momentum through running. Running gets you from point A to point B much faster, but it can tire you quickly. To increase endurance, sprinting and jumping rope are excellent cardio exercises. Cardio exercises are necessary to help the heart supply more oxygen when the body requires it. Whenever we move quickly, our muscles produce ATP to contract; over time, the body needs more oxygen. The more oxygen goes into the bloodstream, the more energy the muscles have to move.
A great recommendation before running, try out drinking beet juice. Beet juice is a red vegetable that aids in expanding the blood vessels. Why? Beets are rich in natural chemicals called nitrates that convert into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps your body dilate and constrict your blood vessels which allow more oxygen and blood flow. This is perfect for exerting more energy and lasting a bit longer during any physical activity.
Crawling can get you out in a different direction if running isn’t an option. The crawl is the most basic exercise a soldier must perform to reach their destination when attacked. What makes crawling a great exercise is this enables the full use of the body to move on four limbs. Throughout crawling, you engage in tightening your core, which results in strengthening your core. You also include the tension buildup of exerting a lot of energy by using your limbs by moving forward. An example when the crawl is needed is when you have to crawl over a fence or anything that has a gap.
Development of equilibrium is essential not just in parkour but also in a calisthenics training regimen. Balance can improve stability and help prevent falls. As I continue to practice equilibrium, a great way to start practicing is on the pavement with a line shown. Practicing on pavement ensures your safety by preventing nasty falls that can injure you if you are a novice. As you progress, you’ll want to practice equilibrium on a rail or on top of a bench. This provides more of a sense of instability that helps the body and eye coordination progress.
Calisthenics and parkour go well together for a training regimen. You’re getting the best of both because it springs athletism when you perform both art forms of fitness. The overall package is moving the body in an open space without going to a gym. Sure, a facility where you can go to practice is a very helpful way of progressing faster, especially if there are good instructors to help you out. But if you don’t have a nearby place to go and don’t know anyone who’s into parkour, practice on your own. Just find a nearby park or practice at home including a soft mattress to prevent serious injuries. Parkour training with the basics of calisthenics will enable you to apply correct form and strength.
Please comment below.