If parkour reinvents the world into a playground, parkour strength training reimagines benches, tree trunks, and scaffolding into novel yet useful training tools to maintain and upgrade your physical performance. Improving at deceptively basic skills such as crawling, jumping, vaulting, and climbing will greatly improve your potential to face and overcome future challenges of the physical, technical, and mental variety. Before you focus on thrusting around heavy metal objects and/or friendly Homo sapiens for sport, first consider a safer, bodyweight approach to improved athleticism. Building a better movement foundation with parkour strength exercises is both an engaging and proven method to optimize your physical abilities. Here are nine of the best #ParkourStrength movements for beginners.
Slightly harder than basic push-ups, the wall dip is a more transferrable pushing exercise for parkour athletes. The wall dip is an upper body exercise that is closely related to parkour skills like vaults and the second half of a muscle-up or climb-up. If you want to quickly get up and/or over obstacles of all types, make sure you can bang out at least 5–10 wall dips in a row.
- Easier progressions: 1) wall support, 2) scapular wall dip 3) jumping wall dip + negative
- Harder: 1) corner bar dip 2) demon dip 3) top-out tuck planche
Air squats are a key basic lower body movement to master before moving on to skills of greater intensity or complexity. As a prerequisite to the landing (soft or hard), a critical aspect of almost all parkour movements, air squats are underrated and often overlooked. Quality form on squats and landings are key to longevity in the discipline of parkour. Similarly, the air squat is an important fundamental to practice before doing any high impact jumps and landings. Air squats past 90-degrees helps build strength in your posterior chain as well as mobility in your hips and ankles. If you want to do parkour for a long time without crippling overuse injuries, master this basic movement.
- Easier: 1) full squat 2) box squat 3) seiza squat bow
- Harder: 1) rail squat 2) squat jump 3) pistol squat
The monkey plant is a practical, challenging movement that is extra useful for building leg and upper body pushing strength. Think of the monkey plant like a box jump on steroids or an obstacle-based burpee. By using the object to cover more vertical space than during a box jump, you are doing more work (force x distance) via a more complete full-body workout. A monkey plant will bring you to a squatting/standing position on top of an obstacle — useful as you transition into a jump or run. With practice, you can progress your monkey plant toward more difficult progressions like top-outs and double kongs.
- Easier: 1) ground kong 2) box jump 3) wall dip
- Harder: 1) top-out 2) running climb-up 3) jumping climb-up
Knees-to-elbows (dead hang)
Knees-to-elbows from dead hang is a solid core exercise with an application to many parkour skills that require the ability to explosively move your knees toward your chest. To learn techniques like underbars, pullovers, and laches, you must learn to lift your body from your core (abs, lower back, & hip flexors). Additionally, the movement in which you bring your knees to your chest is identifiable in many other dynamic movements including backflips, vaults, and jumps.
- Easier: 1) passive bar hang 2) hanging tuck-up 3) tuck hang
- Harder: 1) knees-to-elbows (kipping) 2) toes-to-bar 3) windshield wiper
The handstand is an important fundamental of gymnastics as well as parkour strength training. Handstands increase upper body strength, full-body tension, spatial awareness, and balance. Plus it’s a great way to practice controlling your body while upside down, making it a vital introduction to flips & spins. But it can be scary and frustrating to try freestanding handstands when first starting out. To safely develop a handstand, begin by making friends with a wall; practicing with your stomach to the wall promotes better habits and positioning than back to wall.
- Easier: 1) straight arm front plank 2) scapular push-up 3) handstand wall walk
- Harder: 1) handstand walk 2) handstand push-up 3) freestanding handstand
One of the fundamental power movements of parkour strength training is the broad jump. In parkour, this basic move is applied to gap jumps, precision landings, plyos, and cat leaps. The broad jump is a beauty-full-body exercise for developing power, strength, mobility, and coordination. Additionally, coaches and athletes from parkour to the NFL use the broad jump as an important and elegantly simple athlete assessment.
- Easier: 1) air squat 2) squat jump 3) vertical jump to soft landing
- Harder: 1) consecutive broad jumps 2) broad jump stride 3) quad jump
Quadrupedal movement (forwards, basic)
Quadrupedal movement (QM) is widely used in parkour as both a strength training exercise and a practical skill. The most simple form of QM is the reciprocating (basic), forward-moving variation. This parkour strength training movement is a killer full-body exercise that also develops the coordination and balance skills needed for vaults. In general, QM is useful as a means to get over, under, and through small spaces, navigate across irregular surfaces, and provide extra security when moving at heights.
- Easier: 1) front plank 2) straight arm front plank 3) scapular push-up
- Harder: 1) QM (basic, backwards) 2) QM (basic, backwards, up stairs) 3) cat balance
Vertical jump to soft landing
The vertical jump to soft landing is a parkour strength training spin-off of an already well-known and useful exercise, the vertical jump. Vertical jumps build explosive jumping power while the soft landing develops the eccentric leg strength and skill needed for lovely landings. Landing with the intent of general softness or silence can be effective ways to fortify your technique and increase your ability to safely absorb impact.
- Easier: 1) full squat 2) air squat 3) squat jump
- Harder: 1) tuck jump to soft landing 2) box jump 3) depth jump for height
Dead hang pull-up
While kipping pull-ups are generally more similar to practical parkour movements, you should first develop your dead hang pull-up. The relatively simple and safe dead hang pull-up is one of the best exercises for building the upper body pulling strength needed for better brachiating, swinging, traversing, and general climbing skills. Once you can do at least 5–10 dead hang pull-ups with perfect form, start practicing more complex pulling movements like the kipping pull-up, kipping muscle-up, and gymnastics kip.
- Easier: 1) passive bar hang 2) scapular pull-up 3) jumping pull-up + negative
- Harder: 1) cat hang pull-up 2) high pull-up (dead hang, chest to bar) 3) muscle-up
“Hmm…looks interesting but I’m not even close to doing any of those.”
“Yo, way too easy man.”
Lastly, here are a few of my YouTube playlists with hundreds of other parkour strength training video demos, categorized by fitness level: