After 12 years of research and many months of hard work Ryan Ford along with Ben Musholt and other parkour coaches and practitioners managed to collect their knowledge into the book ‘Parkour Strength Training: Overcome Obstacles for Fun and Fitness’. Published in January 2016, the result is a tremendous resource for training parkour.
Firstly, it should be mentioned that the book is not about parkour practice as such. But rather, as the book points out, it’s titled ‘Parkour Strength Training’ rather than ‘Parkour Skill Training’ and so it purposely doesn’t explore too much of how to perform the more technical skills featured in jaw-dropping parkour YouTube videos. Instead the book sticks to the meat and potatoes of developing strength and mobility through parkour strength training. There’s a large amount of overlap though with the exercises, as the book also acknowledges, in that they could be used for either strength development or skill practice depending on the situation and the person’s ability. What the book does present is a parkour-based style of training: what you need to know to design a training program centered around parkour strength training – from biomechanics and exercises to safety tips and programming.
It identifies six main groups of readers who will benefit the most from the content:
- Parkour beginners – those wanting to learn to establish a solid base of conditioning for their parkour journey.
- Fitness enthusiasts – those looking to increase their movement vocabulary by understanding how parkour is trained safely.
- Obstacle course racers – those wanting to dominate out on the obstacle course by overcoming obstacles as fast as possible.
- Field-based service professionals – those seeking to do their job better by being capable of moving through a difficult environment with ease.
- Competitive non-parkour athletes – those searching to increase their general athleticism and chance of victory.
- Advanced and competitive parkour athletes – those confident with their parkour skills, but hungry to supercharge their performance and excel at time trials, the Red Bull Art of Motion, or American Ninja Warrior.
‘Parkour Strength Training’ begins by covering fundamental body mechanics, then basic bodyweight strength exercises, followed by flexibility, mobility and joint preparation. The core exercises of parkour strength training follow and are split into three categories: ground-based movement, low obstacle skills, and high obstacle skills. Each chapter concludes with challenges, which give you something to test against and gain an understanding of where your current ability is. The final section guides you through how to tie it all together by covering the training principles of SAID and progressive overload, volume, tempo, frequency, and intensity.
The progression between exercises and variations of exercises is well thought-out and makes a good guide for coaching. I know from experience that one of the trickiest parts of coaching group parkour classes is prescribing an exercise to the group… and then finding that the group has a wide variety of different ability levels. This results in some clients being challenged by the exercise and finding it at just the right level for them, while some are unchallenged and lose focus, while others are in over their heads and risk becoming injured or alienated. Being able to scale exercises and come up with variations involving what you have around you on the fly is a developed skill, but having a reference of exercises and variations sorted in a logical order would be a godsend for parkour coaching – and this book provides just that.
The book could also be used as a guide to structure your own training in parkour, as the order of exercises gives you a safe progression route through training and the challenges give you measures to aim for. Especially if you’re training mostly on your own, a guide such as this can give you an element of structure of how to progress faster and more safely. Included in the appendixes are other conditioning methods which aren’t critical as part of parkour strength training but which will make you a better well-rounded athlete: such as weight lifting, running, gymnastics rings, etc.
The book draws on experience from parkour coaches at APEX Movement and links to further online resources at parkourEDU. So rather than being a stand-alone source, the book is a collection of great knowledge and tips but is written to follow into further training available through a gym or by learning online. The book even suggests tagging your social media posts relating to your parkour training with the hashtag #ParkourStrength so you can join the online conversation and allow the authors to collect data for future resources.
As a shortcoming, it does cover some subjects too quickly and in not enough detail to be of much use. For example body mechanics and training principles are mentioned but are briefed over. However going in-depth into these subjects would fill volumes. And there are numerous volumes and courses in these subjects, so ‘Parkour Strength Training’ doesn’t need to fill this gap. I feel that ‘Parkour Strength Training ‘ is instead intended as an on-the-go reference to flick through for the appropriate section to get exercises from for planning a parkour class or planning your training session.
Overall, I have to say that it’s the best book written on parkour exercise to date! Ryan and Ben have done a tremendous job, which will progress the parkour community by having a resource to share and learn from. The book is going to be mandatory reading for all parkour Instructors teaching parkour classes through Movement Unleashed.