Parkour relies as much on physical conditioning as it does on technique, which makes it incredibly important that you put time into basic strength training. There’s no part of the body which gets a pass in parkour. You depend upon a strong upper body to pull and push you along, a powerful core to maintain balance, powerful legs to leap.
To help you develop the strength you need, we’ve put together a list of the twelve best strength training exercises for the avid parkour practitioners. Start with the easy body-weight exercises first, then add the advanced moves as necessary.
10 Best Strength Training Exercises for Parkour
A good lift for general strength building, with the bonus of improving your balance. You have quite a few options for developing the squat as you advance, start with the simple body weight squat.
For a basic body weight squat, you’ll want to start with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips. Tighten your core and lower your body as if to sit, keeping your weight on your heels and your knees behind your toes. Once you’ve gone as low as you can, straight your legs back out, standing up smoothly and forcefully. Repeat the motion.
A great strength training exercise for any goal, the deadlift’s simplicity belies its quality as a lift.
Form for a deadlift is very simple, but there are a few details it’s crucial to get right. You start in a neutral standing stance, with the bar against your shins on the floor. Lower yourself by flexing your hips and knees while maintaining a neutral back, get a good grip on the bar, and straighten up without rounding your back. The bar should rest on your thighs, with your arms at full extension. Return the bar to the floor with the same form.
#3. Inverse Rows
A great weighted exercise for beginners and advanced parkour athletes. Use inverse rows to develop pulling power if you lack the strength for pull-ups or if you need to push yourself harder than pull ups allow.
Inverse rows are performed by leaning over the weight, taking care to maintain a neutral back. Simply grab the bar and pull it up to your chest.
#4. Pull Ups
Practical and effective strength training for parkour. If you struggle with pull-ups, consider starting with inverse rows instead.
To get the most out of your pull-up, try to keep your body as uninvolved as possible. You want this to work your arms, not test your ability to generate momentum.
A good body weight exercise to work your muscles and build your coordination. Often considered the gold standard of all-in-one bodyweight exercises, and for a good reason.
Burpees start from a standing neutral pose. Lower yourself, so your hands touch the ground to either side, then kick your legs back, so you’re in a push-up pose. Hold or do a pushup, then pull your legs back in and jump, landing and returning to a neutral position.
#6. Monkey Plants
A simple, practical parkour maneuver for developing the strength you’ll need in more complex moves.
A monkey plant’s quite simple if you have any level of basic fitness and familiarity with parkour. Simply place your hand on a waist-high flat surface, then jump up, using your arms for extra force and control to land smoothly. Stand up, then crouch, brace your hands on the surface, and hop down.
Start against a wall, simply holding yourself steady, and work up from there. With the many, many variants of the handstand available, it should always be part of your repertoire—even after it loses value as strength training, it’s a useful tool for developing and maintaining your balance.
To perform a wall handstand, start in a crouch or racer’s pose with your hands firmly planted a few inches from the wall. Kick off the ground, moving your legs quickly to brace against the wall. Your goal is to establish a firm foundation from ground to toes, then gently nudge yourself from the wall to practice free handstands. Pay attention to core tension!
Vertical jumps and broad jumps both have a place in your parkour strength training.
The goal with a vertical jump or broad jump is to make an explosive standing jump for height or distance. Jumping isn’t difficult, but landing safely can be. Land relaxed but with enough tension that your body is ‘springy,’ and make sure you have plenty of room to flex your knees to soften the landing. If you land with your legs at full extension or full retraction, you’ll hurt yourself.
#9. Knees to Elbows
A great exercise for building your core, with the added bonus that the movement translates well to parkour.
The exercise is quite straightforward so long as you have a bar to hang from. Simply tense your core and bring your knees up to your chest. Try to avoid violent, jerky motions—it’s less effective to use momentum to ‘cheat,’ and also greatly increases the risk of injuring yourself. It’s okay if you can’t manage the full motion early on—just do what you can.
#10. Wall Dip
Think of it as a parkour pushup. The wall dip is a practical movement you’ll use a lot in parkour, and it has the added benefit of working as a more intense pushup alternative.
Simply find an appropriately tall surface you can lean over and brace your hands flat on, and push your body up. Careful not to hurt yourself or ruin your clothes by dragging yourself across a rough edge in the process. If you struggle with the motion, start with normal pushups first.
Parkour athletes need to appreciate the importance of strength training from day one. Improving your basic fitness increases your capabilities, versatility, and options in any given situation. It also makes everything you do far safer, as strong muscles withstand the forces involved in parkour far easier. Keep up with your strength training, even as you advance to parkour mastery.