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I got interested in Parkour and like to start to train for it. I used to do weight lifting and running short distances, but it's more than ten years now and I'm out of shape. So getting in shape again is definitely a good idea. I'm also overweight.

I'm no runner and I definitely will not run long distances but I like the idea of running with gymnastics. I don't expect to become great, some basic moves will be good for me, just for fun.

So how should I start training? I would like to start with the "moves" as soon as possible, as I expect them to be fun, so the positive feedback keeps me in the loop. Probably I need some basic running training in advance, maybe stretching, balancing, I don't know. That's the question. Any clues to get started fast are appreciated.

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3 Answers 3

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Here are some of the things I worked on when I tried to get into parkour in college. These are some foundations that you can start with.

Roll on the ground.

This is a move that will help carry you forward and get you back on your feet. It also helps to absorb and lessen the impact on your body (and risk of injury) when hitting the ground.

  1. Start from a kneeling position with one foot forward.
  2. Push off your legs and feet and tuck your head in.
  3. Turn slightly to the side, and roll on more your shoulder/upper back. Don't land on your head or neck.
  4. Keep your legs tucked in as you roll. Don't stick them out otherwise you'll end up flat on your back.
  5. Keep your momentum going forward and end up back in a crouching/kneeling position. This will prime you for the next move (basically to get and run forward).

As you practice this move, take it slowly. When you reach a comfortable level, try it from a running position and increase your speed over time as you get used to it. You'll end up doing a dive roll which, once you feel comfortable with that, you can try to perform this move from an elevated structure. Start with something low in height, and be careful not to hit your head on anything. You should focus on going forward and learning how to absorb the impact and disperse the shock that would impact your body.

Learn to do a (lazy) vault

A vault is basically a sideways jump over some object (like a wall or fence). This move involves not just your legs to jump over but also relies on your core to maintain your airtime and forward momentum. You don't want to land with your tailbone on whatever it is your jumping.

  1. Start a step away from the object you want to jump.
  2. Move in and turn your body to the side.
  3. Lift one leg up, move it forwards, and jump off your back leg.
  4. Place your hand down on the object for stability as you bring your body/core up.
  5. Bring your other leg up sideways as you carry yourself forward and land on the other side.

You can practice this move going back and forth on each side of the object. Your focus should be moving your entire body and not solely relying on your arms or legs. Don't put a lot of weight on your stabilizing arm as you vault over. You do not need a whole lot of running room to perform this, and as you get better you can try from a running start and then up your speed. Once you become more comfortable, there are variations of the vault you can do.

Underbar

This is a move where people fly under a bar, grab it, and swing themselves forward. Look for some kind of railing of some sort, preferably one with a single bar that has enough room under it to practice.

  1. Start a step away from the bar and move towards it.
  2. Do a small leap forward and lean back. (Yes, it's scary without support. Take this one SLOWLY).
  3. Reach up and out with your hands and grab the bar.
  4. Keep your core and weight moving forward while using the bar to help swing yourself.
  5. Let go of the bar, and move your upper body up and forward.

This is another one you can practice back and forth on one bar. When you go under, your body will arch back when your lower body moves forwards. As you come out and let go, you will have to move your upper body forwards to compensate for the shift in weight and not fall on your back. Do this one slowly too and work your way up to a faster movement once you develop the body strength from it. The important thing here is to work out your core rather than rely purely on arm strength to swing yourself.

Wall Hop

Doing a wall hop is something that is mean to propel you upwards a wall. You don't need a tall wall when beginning. A small height one is enough to learn how to move upwards.

  1. Run towards a wall. You don't need a huge amount of speed at first.
  2. Jump at the wall placing your foot at a 45-degree angle. You want to land with the balls of your feet on the wall.
  3. Push off your foot while bringing your knees in and core upwards as you move forward.

To break it down, do this move slowly and get comfortable with how to place your foot and push off the wall. You can reach up with your arms to give you an idea of what the move will eventually be like. My suggestion is to try that later once you're comfortable otherwise you might just end up running into the wall after you jump (not fun).

Find people who train and do parkour.

While this was my introduction to parkour from someone more experienced than me, trying to learn on your own can result in some bad injuries since the activity is high-risk especially if you do not know what you are doing or where to start. Do not attempt any advanced moves until you are physically capable of doing so. Training other people will provide you with the support and advice you need. Some places or groups may offer classes too.

You can try searching the following sites to connect with people in your local area:

Doing it with other people, especially beginners, can help motivate and provide you the positive feedback when learning.

Stretch and do some strength training

Definitely do some stretching. You don't want to be super stiff when trying parkour again otherwise you might hurt yourself even more. Being more limber and flexible will help in moving your body in ways you haven't before. Developing that will also take time. Strength training will help too, but you needn't focus so much on this since you're a beginner just starting out. I would say do some bodyweight training, but parkour itself will naturally train your body in this regard. Running itself will help you though as that's a large component of parkour.

Online resources

More tutorials are also available at:

Learn how to maintain your momentum as you go forward. Gaining fluidity will come with time and practice. Don't worry so much about doing crazy gymnastics at the moment yet. Some people actually think "tricking" (flips and stuff) doesn't belong in pure free running. You can decide if that's for you or not later on.

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Awesome answer @Matt! –  Ivo Flipse Dec 16 '11 at 18:40
1  
I started some parkour a year ago when I was 30. I am a rock climber and a CrossFitter. I went through the local organisation to get some instruction. I think your answer severely underestimates the basic level of conditioning needed to just get started. –  Megasaur Apr 16 '13 at 22:57

Having started Parkour a year ago at the age of 30, I think Matt's answer is not very helpful for older people interested in getting into it. Most people I see practising parkour are in their early 20s or younger and they all appear to have started in their teens.

My Background

My main activities are rock climbing and CrossFit.

My experience as a 30 yo

The problem with parkour is that you are training in urban areas. If you are interested in 'pure' parkour, this is pretty safe. There are no tricks involved. Just getting from point A to point B efficiently. Landing on concrete is quite unpleasant though. You need a fair amount of conditioning to do it.

The main problem areas are with your lower body since this take the majority of the stress. There is a lot of jumping (and landing), twisting and balancing. You'll want to do various types of squats, lunges, single leg lifts, single leg step ups, calf raises and balance work. I also like agility ladder drills.

Also ankle flexibility and leg flexibility is important. You may do a precision onto a angled surface and range of motion will be important to get your COG in the right place. And some moves like a cat pass or underbar over an obstacle benefit from good flexibility.

Parkour actually exposed a lot of weaknesses in my lower body for me. I did classes first, and then realised what areas I needed to work on.

As a rock climber I didn't find upper body strength and flexibility to be an issue. Other than learning to roll correctly, upper body moves are quite basic. Strength helps of course, but no serious gymnastics work is needed.

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If I were to seriously train for parkour, I'd combine sport-specific strength work, sprinting, gymnastics, full-length parkour course runs, and parkour drill work.

  • For strength and conditioning, check out these "before and after" videos. If you're significantly de-trained, consider doing a general strength program first or in parallel.
  • My running work would involve a warm-up jog and then some sprints.
  • I'd take classes at a gymnastics gym, focusing on parkour-applicable skills instead of, for instance, ring work.
  • I'd lay out a full-length route and make a course to free run. I'd do the full run frequently, but also break it up into individual segments (run across this quad, jump over the ledge, flip over that bench, swing from the tree, rest, repeat).
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