So, you wanna learn parkour, huh? We don’t blame you, it looks like fun right? Parkour is a mysterious, exciting, cool looking sport that we’ve all wished we could do.
Whether it’s watching District 13 or thinking back to that opening sequence of Casino Royale, the idea of turning the world into your playground just can’t help but appeal.
But how do you get from sitting on the couch to leaping from buildings? In all seriousness, there’s a process at work. But it’s not one that’s restrictive. Anyone can do it, it just takes time, effort, and a little bit (a lot, actually) of practice.
There are some simple moves to learn, some simple steps to take, but if you want to do it, you can start to do and be in the thick of it by tomorrow. And trust me, once you start, it’s tough to stop.
Though, there’s no real reason to. Parkour is great exercise for both the body and the mind, you’ll end up meeting lots of great people, and it’s lots of fun. And so long as you’re sensible, it’s not actually that dangerous.
So, what do you say? Read to jump right in and find out how to learn parkour? Pun definitely intended.
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Wow, isn’t that a loaded question. For some, it’s the art of transition and fluidity. For others, a way to train your body and mind. And for the fanatical few, basically a religion.
But for the vast majority of us, and for those just starting out, it’s a sport that involves a lot of jumping, vaulting, rolling, and when you get good, flipping…
Where you or I see a staircase with some railing, a free-runner or parkour runner will see an opportunity to leap the top three steps, kong vault the railing, and then gainer down the bank, before running off to find the next location to trick.
Parkour effectively turns an urban (or suburban and even wild) environment, into a playground. Bus shelters become things you can flip off. Alleyways become spaces you can leap across. Walls become obstacles to surmount.
But buried among that seeming randomness, the act of repurposing the mundane into something exciting, there is much, much more.
Parkour is a demanding, physical sport with a high-risk, seemingly little-reward exchange going on. So why do people hurl themselves off things? Probably for the same reason we choose to fly down icy slopes on pieces of laminated wood. The same reason we built jumps in the dirt and then fly off them on bicycles. Because it stirs something within us, and makes us feel alive.
When it comes down to it, they’re not exactly apples and oranges. Parkour is the functional side of things, and free-running emphasises the stylistic side of things.
Parkour evolved from the use of military assault courses, and the techniques employed by those who ran them. Different jumps, rolls, vaults, and other skills allowed them to traverse these obstacles (which are designed to both mimic urban environments and build strength/endurance) with more speed and fluidity.
It seems at some point, a dude looked at a big wall, watched his buddies scrambling over it in their camo pants, and was like, woah, I bet I could do a backflip off that thing. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Well, not really. But this is generally viewed as the way that parkour and freerunning differentiated themselves from one another. And while the terms are used interchangeably, there are probably a few sticklers out there who insist on the difference — as vague as it is — and knowing might just help you out one day.
It’s a difficult line to draw, but generally, you’re never too young, old, big, small, heavy, or light, to enjoy a little bit of parkour!
The sport itself has no official bar-of-entry, so to say. In the same way that the guys running around in the huge stadiums are playing soccer, and those kids in the street are too, parkour is just as accessible.
The pros make it look easy, sure. But when it comes down to it, it’s about fun. And if you’re enjoying vaulting a single railing, or you’re just working on your rolls, then heck, that’s cool too. We all start somewhere. So no matter what age or size you are, you can do it too.
It’s important, though, to listen to your body. Knowing your limits and pushing them go hand in hand. And like with most sports, attempting too much, too soon, is a great way to get yourself injured. But heck, let’s not put a downer on things just yet! How about we focus on starting first?
Starting anything can be tough — especially when it comes to a new hobby, which usually tends to come with an equipment list as long as your arm and enough zeroes to make your wallet ache, right there in your pocket.
But luckily, free-running doesn’t have a laundry list of items to acquire before you start out, and it’s more than likely that you already have suitable equipment and clothing at home. At the very least, to get started.
When it comes to gearing up for free-running, that boils down to where you are in the world, the kind of terrain you’re going to be working with, and ultimately, what you’re going to be doing.
Though for us, the main thing is what’s on the bottom of your shoes! Now, those low slung skate shoes might seem like a good idea because you can feel every bump and ridge under your feet. But that also means less impact protection and padding, and less support.
So what about walking boots? Plenty of ankle support, good padding, lots of grip. Perfect, right? Not really, as you need to be mobile, and having a heavy, chunky boot isn’t going to help with your agility.
Running shoes have a few key components that make them ideal for parkour.
Firstly, they tend to be padded in terms of their insole, have a foam cushioned outsole, and when it comes to road-running shoes, they have grippy, soft-rubber treads that are designed to interact with and hold onto concrete, tarmac, and other urban surfaces.
As they’re designed to take that hard impact of your foot hitting a road or pavement, they will really help to reduce the stress and fatigue put on your heels and ankles, and also reduce the risk of injury, too. But what about other running shoes?
Trail-running shoes will have harder rubber treads designed to grip on looser, or wet surfaces — like trails — so they can be a good choice if you live in a wetter climate, or are doing lots of your freerunning and parkour in extra-urban environments where you’re going from concrete to grass a lot, or are even having fun in the wild.
Gym shoes, tennis shoes, or anything designed to be worn primarily indoors can be a good choice providing you’re using them in dry conditions. These shoes tend to work best with rubber matting or other non-slip surfaces like a gym floor, so when things get damp outside, they can be pretty dangerous, especially on those precision jumps!
As such, we always say that a road-running trainer has the best all-around attributes to tackle most conditions, and will soften the blows to your joints and bones.
Okay, that’s one component of your freerunning gear ticked off. What about the rest of it?
As freerunning and parkour is as much about the aesthetics as it is about the fun, you’re not likely to see anyone running around with kneepads and a helmet on. As well as restricting movement, it can also be uncomfortable, and in the case of helmets, can reduce your field of vision.
So what do you wear instead?
Weather permitting, we’d say that a pair of flexible, breathable trousers is a good choice. Sweat pants or gym pants are always good as they’re designed to move with you. Stay away from jeans or other heavy and stiff items like chinos. You want to move freely, remember. It’s in the name, after all.
What about shorts, though, you ask… Well, they’re a good choice if it’s warm, but you might find yourself stumbling, rolling, falling, snagging, scuffing, and definitely bruising yourself, and when you’re starting out, the less exposed skin, the better…
On top, you’ve got more freedom. A long-sleeve tee is always a good choice, but a short sleeve works too. Avoid heavy jumpers, anything that can fly up and block your view mid-air… There’s never a good way that things end if that happens.
And you know what, that’s sort of it… Anything else is just extra, and not really needed.
While lots of things are changeable in parkour, one thing you can’t escape is the physical toll it will take on your body.
The fitter you are, the better. And I use the term ‘fitter’ in the same way Darwin does. Not just cardio, not just strength, but fit for the sport. But what does that mean then, when we talk about parkour? What’s the right type of fitness?
Most parkour lines tend to be just a few moves long. You find a spot, you session it, you move on. So if you can run a half marathon, it’s not really that useful when you’re talking about ten second bursts.
Sure, you may go for a longer run from time to time, but those usually involve a lot of jogging across open spaces, going from one feature to the other. Not exactly exhilarating. As such, it’s best to focus on the parts of your body that will get used a lot.
We think that the key to good parkour fitness is a mixture of explosive strength and cardio-vascular endurance in about an eighty-twenty mix. The explosive strength is what you need to make that jump, pull yourself up a wall, or really get some distance into that vault, but the cardio side of things comes down not so much to how long you can sustain yourself at a constant pace, but how quickly you can recover from each sequence.
It’s about the efficient reoxygenation of muscles, and a steady blood flow to the brain. These two things are what your cardio level will unlock, and are super important. Cardio is what will ensure that your explosive strength and mental focus don’t drop off quickly. And it’s why we think that working on both is key for really hitting the ground running — excuse the pun…
For us, there are a few basic exercises that we do even now to stay in shape and keep our strength up. And no matter where you are, you can do them too. Even if you’re unable to leave your house.
The Explosive Jump is a basic move that can be done onto anything that’s above knee height, but preferably sort of hip or even waist height once you get the hang of it.
All you need to do is practice standing with your feet together, about fifty centimetres back from the object (arm of the sofa, an armchair, the stairs in your house, your car bonnet if you hate your car… A pile of pallets or an oil drum… A fallen tree… Whatever you have laying around, really!), crouch low, swing your hands back behind you to generate some forward momentum, and then as you swing them forward, spring upwards with as much power as you can, and land both feet on top of the object at the same time.
Start small and work your way up. It might feel easy to start with, but do a hundred in a row, and then come and tell me that.
This is a key exercise to help you build both strength and technique, and will directly translate to nearly every move you’ll do out there. The stronger you are, the higher you can jump, the faster you can run, and the further you can leap.
Building into your leg power a little more, the alternating lunge is a simple and effective technique for building up your leg muscles, and will improve both your top speed, and acceleration, as well as one-footed jumping. All of which you’ll surely need when you’re linking jumps and moves.
To execute this training technique, keep both feet pointing forward, and place your dominant foot in front of you — about fifty centimetres or so. Then, lower yourself down so that your back knee is touching the floor (toes still touching the ground so the sole of your foot is pointing backwards, not up).
Now, shuffle your front foot forward until your front knee forms a right angle. This will create a square of space between the ground, your rear quad, your front hamstring, and your front calf. See it? Good. This is your base position, and this is the shape that you’re aiming for.
Now, clasp your hands together in front of your solar plexus (the depression between your chest muscles, just at the top of your stomach), keep your elbows in, and spring upwards without moving forwards.
In the air, switch your legs, so that your rear leg is now at the front, and your front leg is now at the back. Your feet should have switched positions so that now your front leg is at that ninety degree angle with the square of space under it.
Catch yourself before your back knee hits the ground, lower in a controlled manner until it touches, and then spring upwards again and switch them back.
Your dominant foot should be in front again, and you should be back in your base position.
Doing this on a soft surface like grass, or placing a cushion under your back knee is good to start until you can confidently catch yourself. But then, you can remove it, and start to pick up the pace.
What you’re going for here is height. Jump as high as you can, as many times as you can. Each switch is half, so every time your dominant foot returns to the front, that’s one. Which will help you to build evenly. This is a great exercise that’ll get your muscles working hard, and can be done anywhere, any time.
The burpee is the bane of most people’s existence, but is a great exercise to do for parkour.
From a standing position, lower onto one leg and kick your other out behind you into a pushup position. Think of how a runner looks in the starting blocks. Like that.
Now, kick your other leg out behind you so you’re in that full press-up or plank position. Now, from here, lower yourself so your chest is on the ground, and for the full burpee, throw your hands out to the side and lift your palms from the ground to really engage your back muscles, too.
Now, bring them back in, thumbs next to your armpits, and explode upwards in one movement, getting back to your feet.
This is a burpee. You just did one. Now do a thousand more.
All jokes aside, this is a great strength and cardio exercise and engages lots of muscles, as well as expending a lot of energy. It helps with breathing, too, another key part of parkour.
When you’ve got that nailed, you can improve your burpee by doing both feet together. So, from a standing position, crouch low with your feet together, knees to chest, place your hands at shoulder width on the ground, just in front of your toes, and then kick both feet out together into that plank position. Lower to the ground, hands out, hands in, up into a plank position, jump both feet up to that crouch again, knees to chest, and then stand.
This is a proper burpee.
And you can incorporate a jump in here, too. From that crouch position, explode upwards into a pencil jump, and when you land, you’ve completed one. That’s one of the best exercises you can do for your body when it comes to conditioning for parkour, and we can’t recommend it enough.
The Shoulder Roll is a technique and conditioning exercise that will help you build muscle memory.
From a standing position, place your dominant foot forward so that the heel is just in front of the toes of the rear. Then turn your rear heel in underneath you so that your rear foot is at a forty-five degree angle.
From here, crouch forward and reach your hands out in front of you, aiming at the ground about twenty to thirty centimetres in front of your front foot. Make a rough diamond shape with your thumbs and index fingers and look through it.
Feel your knee come up to your chest and from here, take your leading shoulder (the one on the same side as your dominant leg), and begin to rock forward into it.
Place your chin on your back shoulder, and then when you’re ready spring into a gentle roll with your leading shoulder hitting the ground first.
You obviously need to put a little jump into it so that you get over, and roll through, with the line of contact on the ground running from your leading shoulder to your rear hip.
As it comes into contact with the ground, hook your rear heel towards your leading hamstring, so your knee is bent at a little over ninety degrees, and then allow your leading leg to crook naturally, and your foot to connect with the ground a little ahead of your rear shin, foot forward.
This is your exit position, and with your momentum from the roll, you should be able to stand up, using your rear-knee and shin to lever yourself upwards, without the use of your hands.
This is the basic shoulder roll that you’re going to be using to help dissipate the energy from drops and jumps, so getting good at it now is key and also great for building up muscle memory.
Almost the reverse of the shoulder roll, the Backwards Shoulder roll takes you from a standing position, into a backwards roll, and then back to your feet. It will come in handy when you’re doing things like 180 drops or 180 vaults and can look great when done right.
From a standing position, on a soft surface, lower yourself down to a crouch and then rock backwards onto your butt, with a curved back, and onto your dominant shoulder.
With your legs, reach up over your head.
Your dominant foot should touch down first.
But the key thing is your hand/arm positioning, as well as where your head is.
The outer portion of your dominant upper arm should be flat on the floor, your elbow away from your body.
Your dominant hand should be right above your shoulder and next to your dominant cheek.
Your head should be touching the ground, with the part just above your ear in contact.
Your dominant knee should then be touching or just in front of your dominant hand, so you’re very compact on your dominant side, which you’ll need to unfurl with some power.
Your rear leg should be in the air still until you begin to stand, and your rear hand should be flat on the floor, with your elbow in the air, positioned just above your dominant hand so that the tips of the fingers are directly below the heel of the other hand, with both in line at a perpendicular angle to the roll itself.
From here, it’s a case of levering yourself onto your feet using your rear hand, and your dominant elbow.
As you gain height, push up onto your dominant hand to finish the roll.
Done slowly, this is clumsy, but with speed, it can become fast, and will be a great move to add to your quiver.
When you’re able to finally get out into the city and practice some real moves, you might want to set aside some time every day for some actual training. This will help to develop your skills and muscles, and generally make you a better freerunner.
Whether you’re at the gym or in the city, the muscle up is a great exercise to help you build strength for parkour.
If you find any wall, overhead railing with space above it, or anything else like that, you can practice a muscle up. Once you’re hanging onto it with your arms straight, you’re ready to go.
The simple premise is that you use upward momentum, either from a swing or from a running/jumping start, and lever yourself upwards so that your arms are now pointing straight down, your hands on top of the bar/wall, and the bar/well itself is pressing against your hips/upper thighs.
Finding the right place to practice this is the tricky bit. For the perfect muscle up practice wall, you want to find one that’s flat and smooth (so you don’t scratch or snag yourself), and that’s around the height of your hands when your arms are straight over your head. A little lower is fine, but you want to practice that full movement, from springing up, and taking that wall/bar all the way down to your thighs so you can easily climb over it.
Remember to go symmetrically. So bending your arms in the same way at the same time is key. Keep your elbows wide, and the weight on the heels of your hands for maximum leverage.
The vault hop is a simple and easy exercise that can be done in a lot of places.
Find a railing or wall at around hip height and stand in front of it.
Put both hands on it, and then, spring over it into a standard or dash vault — knees loosely together, to one side of your body.
Now, if you land facing the same way, that’s a good way to practice doing a vault. But as this is an exercise primarily, we want to rotate one hundred and eighty degrees, and keep our hands on the wall or railing.
Let your palms twist lightly on it, and then as soon as you land, start the next one.
Keep repeating, hopping back and forth over the wall/railing until you’ve got it nailed. And then practice the other way. Everyone has a natural way to vault, but learning both directions is crucial.
After you’ve mastered that, find something that’s stomach height. Then chest height.
Increasing the height increases the strength in your chest, back, arms, and legs, and will help you out there on your runs.
Keep going until you’re tired, then challenge your friends to beat your number. Or do as many as you can in a minute. Keep it fresh, you know?
The Wall Hang is a basic move you’ll learn. It’s where you’re hanging on a wall, with your hands over it, and the balls of your feet braced against it.
From here you can spring off or climb up, and you’ll find yourself in this position a lot.
The Hang-to-Hang as you might have guessed involves finding two walls facing each other — like a walkway or something — and then going from one wall hang, to the other, by springing across the gap and rotating one hundred and eighty degrees in the air.
Do this somewhere low down to start, and practice, practice, practice.
It can be rough on your hands and forearms, but this is a great exercise for building both confidence and strength. And is a lot harder than it looks.
Again, you’ll want to spin one way, but practising both rotational directions is key for progression.
The balance bar is pretty much what you’d expect. It’s about finding a railing or narrow wall, and practising your balance.
A standard height railing is ideal for this.
Stand in front of it and then spring upwards using your explosive jump (the first exercise on our list), landing both feet on at the same time.
Practice until you can land on it without immediately falling off.
Then keep practising until you can jump onto it and stay there.
Then, practice jumping up, turning around, and then jumping down.
The practice jumping up, walking along it, and jumping down.
Then practice jumping up from further away. From a running start. From another railing.
Landing on something narrow and keeping your balance is one of the best tools you can have in your arsenal, and should definitely be something you focus on getting nailed down before attempting any sort of jumping from anything high enough to injure yourself on.
Like with most things these days, you can learn from some super talented people by watching videos online.
But as with all online courses, you lack one-to-one attention, and plateauing or hitting a wall with your training can often be the result of a lack of outside perspective. In these cases, a coach, be they professional or otherwise, might be a good idea. But of course, it’s not necessary and there are lots of ways to self-teach if you don’t have the means to get your hands on professional tutelage.
The very reason you’re here, right? How do you teach yourself?
Well, providing you haven’t skipped all the sections above, you’ll be well on your way.
Using online resources is the best way to do this. YouTube has lots of great tutorials and how-tos, but putting them into practice will come down to you.
But as we said above, go slow, work on the basics, don’t attempt anything too dangerous, too fast, and get yourself both mentally and physically prepared before hitting up anything daring.
Oh, and film yourself. That’s super important. Set up your phone, an action camera, or anything you can, and film your jumps, rolls, climbs, and everything else. Film from all angles, then watch them, study them, and compare them to other people’s videos to see what can be improved.
If you’re serious about self-tutelage, this is the best way to progress.
Going online and searching for ‘Parkour [Your City/Town]’ is the simplest way to find a group. You can also search on Facebook.
More often than not there’ll be a forum, or a group that you can join online to find out what the local situation is, and then you can decide from there if you want to join up in a meaningful way. It all comes down to what exactly you want to get out of this.
When it comes to private lessons and coaching, you need to be careful. Firstly, who are you learning from? Just because someone is a good freerunner doesn’t mean they’ll be a good teacher. As such, generally, if you find someone better than you, tread carefully in asking ‘Will you teach me?’
If they’ll do it for free, they may not be that focused or invested and it could lead to injury. If you’re paying them, there’s an expectation of service and if they’re not properly trained or adequately qualified, again, it could lead to injury.
Though, if you find someone who is very experienced, teaches classes, owns a gym, or something like that, usually they’ll have a private or group lesson structure already in place and it will just be a matter of enrolling or booking.
And when it comes down to it, if you can find a situation like this, it will definitely allow you to progress much, much faster providing you’re willing to put the work in.
If you’re serious about the sport, then this could be a good option. Especially if you want to pick it up quickly and get good, fast.
These are becoming more and more popular, and are an excellent way to progress.
Most of them have soft obstacles, foam pits, and other great learning apparatus that can help you learn new skills and tricks while mitigating the risk of injury.
Learning to gainer into a foam pit will allow you to master this trick quickly and safely.
Similarly, when doing long, sprinting jumps into walls, or onto ledges, or even into vaults, doing this with obstacles that won’t break bones is ideal.
If you have a gym or centre at your disposal, definitely go there if you can. Don’t worry about being intimidated. People go to these places to learn, and they’ll be a welcoming and encouraging atmosphere.
It’s why they exist!
So when it comes right down to it, you really want to just get out there and start freerunning, don’t you.
Well, to do that, you’ll need a basic moveset. But don’t worry, because we’re about to lay out some basic moves, and you’ll be glad to know that you’ve learned a few of them already.
Jumping forms a major part of freerunning and parkour, and there are a few you’ll need to master to get proficient at this weird and wonderful sport. Four, in fact.
The standing precision is a core jump and the first one to learn. From any position, pick your landing spot, and with both feet together, crouch, preload, swing your arms back, and then spring forward while swinging your hands forward.
To complete this jump, both feet must leave the ground together, and land together. By doing this, you’re making a precise jump — something you’ll do a lot of when transitioning to railings, walls, posts, and anything else with a small landing area — hence, ‘the precision’.
Landing both feet together will dissipate that weight and energy, and help to reduce the risk of injury, as well as help you to regain balance more quickly.
The running precision is a variation of this and involves leaping from one leg instead of two, using your arms as before, and once again, landing with both feet forward.
The trickiest thing with this is measuring the distance to your jump point and taking full, concerted strides. If you totter or slow down you’ll ruin your pace. So practice approaching your jump point on the flat, and get your footwork right before taking this jump elsewhere.
You’ve already done most of the legwork on this one. Remember the Hang-to-Hang we went over? Well, this is jumping into that.
From a standing or moving position, leap into a wall with your hands on top and the balls of your feet braced against the surface.
Try to land with your hands just before your feet so you don’t spring yourself backwards before you find a good grip, and then use your legs to cushion the impact.
Your knees should be about level with the bottom of your ribs, and definitely no lower than your naval. For all intents and purposes, you should be crouched against the wall.
Doing this over short distances isn’t hugely demanding. But when you’re doing longer jumps with a running start, it takes some mastering!
The Tic Tac is when you spring off a vertical, or angled surface while running, in order to gain height.
Run parallel with a wall or bank, then step off your outside foot, spring up and into it, plant your inside foot on the surface, and then spring towards your desired landing place.
It’s a simple move, but highly useful for linking other moves or for transitioning quickly without having to turn or climb.
The drop jump isn’t really a jump as it’s more of a getting-down movement.
Approaching a ledge, you need to soften your knees, go into a crouching position and then hop off onto whatever is below.
It’s a mixture of a precision jump and descending, and to master it you’ll need to learn to be able to judge both distance and speed, managing your downward and forward momentum in order to help continue forward, rather than just going… splat.
Need to get up onto something that’s taller than you? The wall run or climb is an essential technique, and super easy, too. Remember the cat leap? This is the position you want to end in, for the sake of visualisation.
Choose a wall that’s taller than you, and run at it head on.
For this, you should be taking off from your subordinate foot. So if you’re right-footed, jump from your left foot.
Your dominant foot should then hit the wall around hip height, and spring you upwards.
It’s important to time this right and balance your upwards spring with your impact absorption in order to move in a sort of smooth L shape. You need to get your dominant foot on the wall with your leg fairly outstretched, roll over your foot so that your knee closes in on the wall, and then push upwards using your own momentum to spring towards the top of the wall.
Grab it and you’re in that cat position. From here, your muscle-up training should be kicking in, and you can keep moving either over the wall or by doing a hang-to-hang to your next obstacle.
Vaulting is another key means of transition in parkour, and is the movement over an obstacle. There are a few basics to master, but luckily, they come fairly naturally!
The safety vault is a safe and easy vault to learn first.
Approach an obstacle slowly and decide which way you vault naturally — with your feet to the left, or right.
If you vault with your feet to the right, then you’ll need to use your left hand. If you go with your feet on the left, use your right hand.
Let’s imagine using your left hand, and going feet to the right.
You want to jump and place your left hand on the wall or rail, and then with your right foot, put it on top of the wall or rail so that you’re almost in a side plank sort of shape.
Then, allow your other leg to pass underneath the one that’s on the wall, and step off the other side naturally.
The speed vault is a good natural progression from the safety vault, and helps to keep more speed than the former.
Approach an obstacle at speed, and with the same hand that you used above, reach forward, and place it on the obstacle.
Then, jump forwards and over the obstacle with your feet to the side, knees bent so your body is compact.
Your other hand should be above you, your body nearly horizontal as you pass over the obstacle.
Then, land, and keep going.
The lazy vault is a good one to learn and is easy to master.
Take what you learned with the speed vault, and keep it in mind here.
When you’re approaching the wall, turn so that the hand you’ll be vaulting with is closest to it, and then adjust your angle of approach so that you come in diagonally.
Reach out with your hand while taking off one leg at a time.
Place your hand on the wall and swing your legs in front of you now so that your hamstrings pass over the wall.
Land first with the leg on the same side as your vaulting hand, and then keep running.
This is especially useful for step-down vaulting, where your landing is lower than your takeoff, as you can better control your body and speed for less risk of injury.
Blending together the speed vault and the wall run, the pop vault is useful for any obstacle or wall that’s taller than you are.
Approach to do a wall run, spring upwards, and with both hands, throw yourself over the obstacle.
With the hand on the side you’re vaulting with (so if you vault to the right, your right hand), lift it, and allow your knees to pass under.
Then, get over the wall and keep going.
If you start out doing this like a safety vault, that’s perfectly cool! It’s all about practice.
Landing properly is the key to not getting injured. But once again, you’ve already learned this if you’ve been practising the training and exercise techniques we outlined.
The shoulder-roll is your best friend here.
You should always try to land on two feet if you’re hitting the ground or something flat, and carry as much momentum forward as you can.
Changing downward momentum into forward momentum through shoulder or safety roll is key for progressing to bigger jumps and drops.
Practice running and then executing a roll without jumping first until you’re comfortable with that initial pop and head-tuck, and then build from there.
Rolling onto your side is okay, but that shoulder roll is really what’s going to help you get better as you can get up and keep moving, and also absorb a lot of downward force, too, without blowing out your knees. Which is the major risk landing without knowing how to roll properly!
How long is a piece of string? This old adage is pretty much the most obnoxious answer to a question you really want to know the answer to, but unfortunately, it’s true.
When it comes down to it, you have to ask yourself, what are you trying to achieve? When will you be done? When in your mind do you reach a point where you’re doing Parkour?
Firstly, there’s got to be a period of time for both physical and mental preparation. And I’d be inclined to leave at least a few weeks for you to get the basics down. Get your strength up a little, learn to land — make sure you’re confident to catch yourself if you’re jumping into a cat leap. Make sure that you can roll without bumping your head.
If you’re doing one burpee and you’re out of breath, or can’t jump onto a chair with both feet at the same time, I’d say you probably need to work on the fundamentals a little more.
Perhaps the best thing I can do at this point is say that if you put a timer on this — I have to be doing ‘X’ moves by ‘X’ date, you’re going to hurt yourself. Let it come naturally. Some things will be harder than others. Some will come easily. But at the end of the day, the best thing you can do is listen to your body, and take the time both you and it needs to adjust to what will certainly prove to be a highly taxing sport.
If you truly want to get good, though, this needs to be approached as you would skill. Think of it as a precision sport, like golf, or tennis, or even something like boxing. It requires time, focus, dedication, and a lot of hours. Let me say that again — a lot of hours.
Pro golfers can sink a putt from ten feet because they practice that same move over and over. Tennis players can put a ball on the baseline at a hundred miles an hour because they practice it. Boxers can bob, weave, and then slot an uppercut in between the elbows before you can blink because they practice.
Why would jumping a ten-foot gap and landing on a railing be any different? If you are truly interested in this undertaking, in becoming a real free-runner. In genuinely improving and progressing in this sport, then the question you should be asking isn’t ‘How long will this take?’ but instead, ‘When can I start?’
So, I think the question we have to ask first is, like in all interviews — how did you get into the sport? What was your first experience of Parkour?
Many years back, my mom got me a movie on VHS called Yamakasi. It blew my mind. They did breathtaking things, things that I felt I needed to replicate.
At that point, I didn’t know that it was parkour and that it would eventually become a big thing.
I showed the movie to two of my friends, and we went out every day doing “Yamakasi”.
It wasn’t until two years later that we found a forum online for parkour practitioners in Sweden that we found out that this thing we were doing had a name — and that more people were doing it.
This was pre-youtube as well, in the early days of online video. So all this was on that forum, and in terms of learning moves, there were six GIF pictures showing some basics. Which for us was a revolution.
I got more involved with the community via this forum, and met some of the friends I now, almost 13 years later, still practice parkour with.
Community. That’s an interesting word. An important one, too, I think, when it comes to Parkour. In all these videos you see people doing it in groups — in pairs. There are always people watching in the background as people do stunts. It seems like a really social sport. Do you think it’s good to immerse yourself in this communal aspect of it? Is that a good way to get started?
I think it is important to get involved in the community of parkour in order to start down a lasting and progressive parkour path. There are a lot of classes teaching parkour nowadays, and just attending classes will only get you as far as they teach you in that class.
Becoming a part of the community and starting to train, and meeting new people outside the classes will have a huge impact on your training and progression.
It might seem hard and overwhelming at first maybe to meet up with new people, especially if they’re already involved and established in the community you want to become part of. But parkour communities are super friendly, just show up and start training.
They’ll quickly come to accept you if you put in what you want to get out. Good vibes and passion for training and learning from each other will go a long way.
That’s something that a lot of people want, I suppose. I mean, the sport is amazing, but to be able to share it with like minded people? To be supported and pushed, and to forge lasting friendships. That’s the dream. And for me, that’s where progression really comes into play. Do you think that community is vital in order to keep improving, or can someone do it alone?
Progression is made as a community. Not one of the top athletes we see today would be anywhere near that level if it was not for the community aspect of parkour.
One person comes up with something new, a move or a vault, or a tweak on something already existing, posts that, and then another person sees it, gets inspired and builds on it.
Like when I started, we had six GIF pictures showing the moves we could do. That was it. Many of the things we see as standard now were not even a thing that we could have imagined anyone doing.
From that point people have been pushing out content, showing their unique styles and tweaks. On which new people have started to build their own styles and so on.
Inspiration is an interesting word. You know, that Parkour is in the mind, that it’s about thinking of new things before trying them. And the sport is a lot about that, right? The mentality of it all. It can be scary — doing a new move for the first time. Doing a big gap. How do you approach something like that?
My mental preparation before a big or scary jump is walking through in my head all of the thousands of jumps similar to this one I have done before. And the outcome of that mental process convinces me that this is a jump I am able to perform. Then I start walking through the factors that scare me about the jump, trying to deconstruct and befriend every one. Once I’ve done that, there’s no longer anything that scares me. And that means there’s nothing to impact how I perform the jump.
For example, I am about to do a jump between two ledges, with a 20 meter drop between. The jump itself is easy and a length I have done thousands of times before, succeeding every time.
The height is what scares me, that is the factor I need to befriend. But thinking about all of the scenarios I’ve been in over my career of parkour, all the similar jumps I’ve made assures me that I will make the jump a hundred times out of a hundred.
When I am totally sure about this, and I have played out the jump in my head over and over again, I see only the scenario of me succeeding with the jump.
At this point, the height is no longer a factor — because it’s only scary if I don’t make it. Which I know I can. So now I can go ahead and do the jump.
The mental reward after that is huge. To overcome something that scares you, put your trust in your abilities and let all your years of experience come into play.
That is an extreme case of mental preparation, and everyday training doesn’t not include jumping over deadly heights. But it indicates how much of a mental game parkour is.
But if you should adopt one mindset early on in your training, I think you should think of your training in the long run, doing a lot of repetition of moves in different scenarios. This will make you versatile and comfortable to perform your moves in new situations.
Wow. Twenty metres is huge. But I completely get what you mean. If you make the jump, the height doesn’t even matter. So by separating the jump and the height, you can get into that place of confidence, almost, that you know you can make the jump for sure. But of course, you build up to that sort of thing, because the danger is always there with something like that — you can never get away from it. So for those just starting out, what advice would you give to yourself if you could go back to those Yamakasi days now?
Well, if I could send some advices to myself as a young parkour practitioner, It would probably be something like… “It ain’t all about the height drops! Tone it down and start looking into more techniques instead.”
My first years was pretty much all about height drops. Because that was a big part of the movie I saw.
Ouch. I think anyone who’s been doing parkour for a while knows the pain of dropping something that was just that little bit too big… And that’s of course a big part of learning, right? That you try something and learn from it. But when it comes to some movies, they can be pretty scary. I know my first gainer was terrifying and it took me ages to even get close. How do you approach learning a new move? For all the beginners out there — what’s your process?
The first thing I do if I want to learn a new trick, is to watch tons of footage of people doing that trick. Preferably in slow motion. That will give me a fundamental understanding of the trick.
Then I will start imagining myself doing that trick, over and over again in my head.
I will also ask myself the question, which of the tricks that I already know could help me with this one. Usually, no new trick is 100% different from a trick you already know. Maybe I can use some techniques I already know to get me started.
Then depending on the trick, I will find a safe environment to practice. That’s key. Somewhere I can fail without consequences. This might be onto a mattress, pile of sand, into water or pretty much any place with soft landing.
This will do two important things. It will remove a big part of the fear of failing, and it will give you a lot of time for repetition.
When I am trying to learn a trick, I also film it. Preferably in slow motion as well. This will tell me exactly what I am doing right, and what is wrong. Being able to watch yourself doing something, especially if you’re doing it wrong. That can be really valuable in the learning process.
After this point it is only about repetition and reflection really. Keep trying until you get it.
It sounds like there’s a balance of internalisation and externalisation going on in parkour, then. That progressing as part of a community is important, but that when it comes down to specific instances, or tricks, it’s a case of internalising that, reflecting, learning at your own pace. Taking the time to master it in your own head, and then teaching your body. I know that sometimes a group, even if their friends, will pressure you into trying something you’re not quite comfortable with. Do you think that’s dangerous? To have that peer pressure element at work?
Peer pressure can be both good and bad, I think that as soon as you reach a certain level in parkour, there is mostly good peer pressure. And I would probably call it motivation rather than peer pressure at that point.
I for example really push my friends when we are out training, but only the friends I train a lot with and whose abilities I know. It is not uncommon to see your friend doubting a jump that you know is within his or her reach.
Then I always approach and tell them why it is within their reach, ask what makes them scared and together talk about why the scary parts aren’t a factor that should have a impact on the jump.
In that sense, I see peer pressure as a good thing.
But on the other side of things, if you’re just starting off and not even you know what you can do, listening to someone else when they tell you to do something can be an easy way to get hurt. So it’s always good to run with people you know, or at least take a step back when you’re being pushed, and ask if it’s the right call this early in the learning process.
I think that’s super valuable advice. It was a culture shock for me when I started running with people and I really had to change up the way I approached everything. It’s probably because I grew up on a farm, out of the city. So my parkour training when I was young was climbing trees, mostly. Is that even parkour, though? When you’re not in the city and you don’t have access to specialised training areas or urban environments, how do you build those techniques?
You don’t need a good gym or great urban spots to practice parkour. There are many examples of great athletes coming from literally nothing, who have been training in the forest or in some cases even inside their houses.
Just try to find some kind of obstacles, and play around with them.
I think that that is also one of the reasons why there are so many different styles of parkour. Pretty much every practitioner has had different scenarios for training and have all learned and built their styles differently.
That’s a really interesting take. Sort of like the nurture versus nature debate. And speaking of dichotomies… Settle a bet. For parkour, cardio or strength training?
Short answer, both, haha!
Explosive strength is used more frequently in parkour. But it is important to have good cardio to allow you to perform at your peak for ten to fifteen seconds.
It may seem easy, but if you combine a run with three moves that all require every ounce of your power, that gets extremely exhausting really fast.
Preach. Training is such an important factor here. Mind, body. Preparation is key. But it’s not foolproof. Everyone’s going to come up short or overshoot a jump at some point. They’ll land wrong. Hurt themselves in some form. So when it comes to injury, what’s your approach? Step back, take some time out to recover. Or push through and keep training?
No injury is the same, so that really depends. I think rest is very important. And also to listen to your body and rest for as much time as feels necessary.
But with that said, you can still do training, but maybe skip the moves that put strain on your injury.
These days, if it is not obvious what the injury is and how I should cope with it, I always go to see a specialist. And you should never be afraid to see a doctor either, if you think something is wrong. Healing right means you can keep going. And that’s the most important thing with injuries.
That’s great advice. It can be tantalising to push through at times, but it’s all about the long term. And taking a week now will mean years of fun in the future. Okay, so I think that about wraps things up. This has been really great and I think it’ll be helpful for a lot of aspiring runners out there. Take it easy!
You too. Thanks. ????
There are some great resources you can find online to help you learn more about the specific moves and other techniques that will round you out as a free runner, as well as meet other like-minded people. For local groups, Facebook is a solid bet for linking up with some great people!