In this post we will outline key movement components of parkour and provide example exercises, and ways to train and progress each skill. Whether you’re a parkour beginner or have been training for years, the way you get better at parkour is by doing parkour. Repetition is key and consistency is crucial!
It is important to remember, that when it comes to ‘working out for Parkour’, there is NO ‘one size fits all’ training style that is ‘best’ or will produce optimal results for everyone. What works for one person may not necessarily work best for another, so we encourage you to experiment and learn what training protocol is a good fit.
That said, lets get into some fundamental skills you will need to start your beginner Training for Parkour:
- Balance and stabilization
- Strength; master one’s body weight
- Power; ability to generate explosive force
- Flexibility and mobility
Balance is an integral part of parkour and is needed for landings, traversing narrow surfaces, and even for bailing out. Practicing balance and refining your ‘body control and awareness’ will prove extremely valuable, as it will make all other movements much easier.
Listed are some exercises that will help to improve balance – starting with basic movements and progressing to more difficult ones.
- Single leg balance
- Single leg step-up with stabilization
- Single leg balance on a wobble board
- Single leg deadlift; progress to an unstable surface
- Walking on a narrow surface (ex. Curb, balance beam, hand rail, slack line); once you’ve mastered one width, attempt surfaces that are increasingly more narrow and unstable
- Single leg pistol squat; progress to an unstable surface
- Handstand on a narrow surface; progress to an unstable surface
- Be sure to master the single leg movements on both legs – unilateral exercises not only improve balance, they can highlight potential movement imbalances between your right and left sides. Addressing these deficits will prevent injuries due to overcompensation of your ‘stronger side’
Being able to master your own body weight will make most movements significantly easier; from climbing and hanging on walls to swinging on bars, to even safely decelerating when landing, having a high strength to body weight ratio will prove to be in your favor.
A staple movement is the pull-up, which can be progressed to a muscle-up. If you can already do pull-ups, awesome! Continue to train them, increasing the number of repetitions per set (10-15-20) with control and speed. If you’re still working on conquering your first pull-up, here are some exercises you can try either in a gym or anywhere that a bar is accessible:
- Assisted pull-up machine (gym)
- Grab and hang – jump up so your chin is above the bar, and hold until failure.
- Focus on the eccentric (lowering) portion of the movement – jump up so your chin is above the bar and lower yourself as slow as possible until you’re at a dead hang; repeat until failure
- With each variation you can adjust your grip to put a larger emphasis on different muscles:
- Pronated/overhand grip – targets latissimus dorsi more than biceps
- Neutral and underhand grips – target biceps more than the lats
- Push-ups and its variations are also great for increasing upper-body strength. Be able to do 20 reps of each exercise before moving on to the next progression.
- Standard military push-ups
- Medicine ball/staggered/uneven push-ups
- Diamond push-ups
- Clap push-ups
- One-arm push-ups
Next, to condition the lower body for parkour, squat, squat, squat! Squats not only strengthen the legs, but show up when landing many movements in parkour. For the following squat progressions, be able to complete 20 reps of each exercise with proper form before moving on to the next level of difficulty.
- Wall squat
- ¼ squat
- Bodyweight/prisoner squat
- Goblet squat
- Single-leg squat
- Shrimp squat
Last, but certainly not least – actually, probably the most important – strengthening your core. A strong core is paramount for any type of parkour movement. Even when performing upper and lower body exercises like push-ups and squats, maintain a tight core will help maintain proper form while preventing strain or injury to the lower back. Some great core exercises include:
- Plank – progress hold time from 30-60-90-120sec
- Floor crunch – keep chin tucked to chest during the lifting portion of the movement
- Stability ball crunch
- Lying leg raises
- Hanging knee-ups
- Hanging leg raises
As you improve your balance and increase your strength, being able to generate explosive force will come in handy when executing a multitude of parkour movements like jumps and transitions. Here are some progressions to get you flying!
- Power step-up – driving with the knee of the non-stepping leg
- Perform as many reps as possible in 20sec, followed by a 10sec rest, switch legs, and repeat for a total of 5min
- Step-up and jump off, landing with two feet – be sure to land with soft feet and knees bent to absorb any pressure from the knees; progress with increasing height
- Box jump; progress with increasing height
- Single-leg box jump; progress with increasing height
- Alternating static lateral lunges
- Alternating jumping lunges
- Ice skaters/alternating lateral jumps
Stretch! Stretch! Stretch! In order to perform any of the recommended exercises and ultimately parkour movements, a certain degree of flexibility is required. This ensures your body can move through the proper range of motion to execute the desired movements. As with any training program, get in the habit of allotting 5-15min at the beginning AND at the end of your training sessions to flexibility and mobility work – your body will thank you for it! To prevent any unnecessary strains, make sure your muscle’s are lightly warmed-up before stretching. Quick warm-up ideas before your stretch include: 2min jump roping, 30 jumping jacks, 20 high-knees. Once you’re warmed up, it is recommended to perform active and dynamic stretching – moving through a range of motion – at the beginning of your workout; allocate any static stretching or holds for the end of your session.
Parkour Specific Movements
Lets finally take a look at Parkour specific movements with video examples here too. Something we always bare in mind, strength and conditioning exercises are a fantastic way to supplement Parkour developments. But ultimately it is going to be the Parkour specific movements that you must accomplish and develop on your journey becoming a well rounded Traceur.
Here are some videos of basic movements that you can start to practice safely.
Advanced Training Techniques
The Parkour roll is the real life-saver when it comes to any impact landings or even mis-haps.
Falling and rolling when caught off guard or off-balance is key.
Parkour Roll Tutorial:
Here’s more parkour tutorials, with videos covering these foundation parkour movements (listed in approximate order of increasing difficulty and greatest to least utility):
After that, head outside, start practicing your movements and look for other Traceurs in your area. A simple Google search for “parkour” or “free running” plus your town name will generally turn up a group that practices in your area.
Or you can of course check out some of the local WFPF Parkour Academies here