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How to Do Parkour – Beginner’s Guide and Starter Workout

Beginners Guide - Parkour

Parkour, which originated in France, consists of navigating through complex environments from one point to another using nothing but the capabilities of my own body. It’s all about the efficiency and fluidity of movements like running, jumping, climbing, and vaulting. 

Born out of military obstacle course training, parkour is not just a display of physical skill. It’s also a mental challenge, pushing me to overcome internal obstacles and fears. In contrast to freerunning, which is characterized by its acrobatic flips and tricks aimed at looking good, my focus in parkour is on practical, efficient movement. 

Let me talk about it in greater detail.

Key Takeaways:

  • Having a solid base in strength, flexibility, and endurance is an absolute must.
  • Parkour communities are typically inclusive and supportive.
  • Beginners should focus on mastering basic techniques before moving on to an advanced level.

Baby Steps in Parkour

best parkour steps

Parkour is a discipline that demands a robust foundation in several key physical attributes: 

  • Strength, for the power needed in jumps and climbs
  • Flexibility, to move with fluidity and prevent injuries
  • Endurance, to sustain energy through extended sequences of movement

For those new to parkour, dedicating time to general fitness routines that enhance these attributes is a critical first step. Activities such as running, swimming, yoga, and weight training can provide a well-rounded base from which to build your parkour skills.

Finding a community or class dedicated to parkour can exponentially enhance your learning curve. Parkour communities are known for their inclusive and supportive nature, offering a welcoming environment for newcomers.

Within these groups, more experienced practitioners often mentor beginners, sharing insights and encouragement. Safety is the cornerstone of parkour practice. Unlike the portrayal of parkour in some media as a series of daring stunts, true parkour is about intelligent, controlled movement.

For beginners, this means starting with the basics and progressively challenging yourself within your limits.  A proper warm-up is non-negotiable in parkour.

Dynamic stretches that mimic parkour movements can prepare your muscles and joints for the session ahead, reducing the risk of strains and sprains. Understanding the mechanics of each movement is also vital. This knowledge will help you execute techniques with precision, ensuring efficiency and safety. 

Basic Techniques and Skills

The foundational movements of parkour—jumps, vaults, rolls, and climbs—are essential tools in the traceur’s repertoire, each serving a specific function in navigating the urban landscape.

Jumps

plyometric workout

Jumps are the most visible aspect of parkour, showcasing the traceur’s ability to move between points with precision and power. The precision jump, in particular, is a testament to a traceur’s control and spatial awareness, requiring the practitioner to leap from one spot to another with pinpoint accuracy. 

Training for jumps often begins with small gaps, gradually increasing in distance as confidence and skill improve. Techniques such as the plyometric jump help develop the explosive strength necessary for these movements, emphasizing the importance of landing mechanics to minimize the risk of injury.

Vaults

Vaults

Vaults are dynamic movements that allow a traceur to overcome waist-high obstacles with fluidity and speed. The safety vault, speed vault, and lazy vault are among the first that practitioners learn, each offering a different method for passing over barriers.

The safety vault, for example, is an excellent starting point for beginners, providing a secure way to navigate obstacles while maintaining momentum. As with jumps, mastering vaults requires practice and a progressive approach, starting with lower obstacles and advancing to higher or more complex vaults as skills develop.

Rolls

Forward Roll

The roll is a critical skill for absorbing impact from falls or jumps, allowing the traceur to safely transition from a high-impact movement to a controlled landing. Proper roll technique involves tucking the shoulder and rolling diagonally across the back, distributing the force of impact across a larger area of the body.

This skill is not only about physical execution but also about overcoming the instinctual fear of falling, making it a significant milestone in a traceur’s training.  Regular practice on soft surfaces, such as grass or mats, helps build the muscle memory and confidence needed to execute rolls on harder surfaces.

Climbs

Climbing Techniques

Climbing techniques in parkour focus on efficiency and speed, enabling traceurs to scale walls or pull themselves up onto ledges with minimal effort.  The wall climb, or “climb up,” combines strength and technique, requiring a powerful leap followed by a coordinated movement of the arms and legs to propel the body upwards. 

Training for climbs often incorporates exercises like pull-ups and muscle-ups, which build the upper body strength essential for these movements.

Workout Phases

Designing an effective parkour workout for beginners is essential for building the foundation required for more advanced parkour techniques. A comprehensive workout plan not only enhances physical capabilities but also minimizes the risk of injury, ensuring a smoother progression in the discipline.

1. Warm-Up Phase

warm-up parkour

The warm-up is a critical component of any parkour workout, preparing the body for the physical demands ahead. Begin with mobility exercises that target key areas involved in parkour movements, such as the hips, shoulders, and ankles. 

Dynamic stretches, such as leg swings and arm circles, increase blood flow and flexibility, while light jogging or skipping can elevate the heart rate and warm up the muscles. Movement patterns similar to parkour techniques, like quadrupedal movements or gentle precision jumps, can also help acclimate the body to the types of movements you’ll be practicing.

2. Skill Practice

Skill Training - parkour

Skill practice is at the heart of parkour training, where beginners learn and refine the basic techniques essential for navigating obstacles efficiently. Focus on mastering fundamental movements such as rolls for safe landings, vaults for overcoming barriers, and wall climbs for vertical ascension. 

Quality of movement should be prioritized over quantity. It’s more beneficial to perform a few well-executed techniques than many poorly executed ones. Utilize drills that break down each movement into manageable steps, allowing for focused practice and gradual improvement.

3. Conditioning Exercises

Conditioning exercises are designed to build the physical attributes necessary for parkour, such as strength, agility, and endurance. Bodyweight exercises are particularly effective, as they mimic the natural movements of parkour and can be performed almost anywhere. 

Squats and lunges develop leg strength for powerful jumps and landings, while pull-ups and push-ups enhance upper body strength for climbing and vaulting. Incorporating plyometric exercises, like box jumps and burpees, can improve explosiveness and agility. 

Precision jumps, practiced with an emphasis on landing technique and control, develop coordination and spatial awareness.

4. Cool-Down Phase

Parkour Stretching

The cool-down phase helps the body transition back to a state of rest, promoting recovery and reducing soreness. Gentle stretching of the muscles used during the workout can alleviate tension and improve flexibility.  Focus on stretches that target the legs, back, and arms, holding each stretch for at least 30 seconds to maximize benefits.

Breathing exercises at the end of the session can also aid in relaxation and mental recovery, preparing you for the next workout.

FAQs

Is parkour illegal in America?

No, parkour itself is not illegal in America. However, practicing parkour on private property without permission or in restricted areas could lead to trespassing charges. Always seek appropriate locations or join parkour gyms.

Is parkour useful in life?

Yes, parkour is useful in life. It enhances physical fitness, improves spatial awareness, boosts confidence, and teaches problem-solving skills. The discipline encourages a healthy lifestyle and resilience in facing obstacles.

Can you learn parkour at 40?

Absolutely, you can learn parkour at 40. Age is less of a barrier than mindset and physical condition. Starting with basic movements and focusing on flexibility and strength training is key. It’s advisable to consult with a healthcare provider before beginning.

Is 23 too old to start parkour?

No, 23 is not too old to start parkour. Many practitioners begin at this age or even later. With proper training, dedication, and attention to safety, individuals can make significant progress regardless of their starting age.

Final Reflections

Parkour challenges me to view my environment in new ways, to move with intention and creativity, and to develop an understanding of my physical and mental capabilities.  Staying motivated through the challenges and celebrating each achievement, no matter how small, are key to a rewarding parkour practice. 

I remind myself that parkour is not just about the physical movements but about embracing the philosophy of overcoming obstacles, both literal and metaphorical, with grace, strength, and resilience.

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