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Parkour Strength Training: Overcome Obstacles for Fun and Fitness Paperback – January 2, 2016
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About the Author
Ryan Ford is an athlete, coach, author, and entrepreneur. He is flabbergasted and grateful to have become a scholar in the art of urban obstacle touching. Ryan's parkour journey began in 2004 in his hometown, Golden, Colorado. In 2006, Ryan established the first formal parkour classes in the Western Hemisphere while also becoming one of the first professional parkour athletes in North America. He has performed and coached worldwide for various organizations including the New Yorker, TEDx, ESPN, and the U.S. Embassy. In 2009, Ryan earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder while also opening his first parkour gym, APEX Movement in Denver. Since then, APEX Movement has grown to five locations with more on the way. After establishing APEX, Ryan founded ParkourEDU which is a coaching certification and online platform dedicated to teaching the best parkour methods.
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Top Customer Reviews
The focus is almost entirely on body-weight exercises. For every one, the book gives advice on progressions leading up to it if it's a bit too difficult, plus ways to make it move challenging if you want. And the authors say just enough about the physiological principles behind the movements to help you understand how and why you should do them, without getting too technical.
Of course the exercises and exercise programs that are described are great even if parkour is not your thing. But if you do parkour, you should have this book on your shelf.
What you can expect:
1. The most comprehensive list of parkour-specific strength exercises around.
2. Thorough written descriptions of each exercise accompanied by one or two pictures
3. Well-thought-out discussion on training for strength in parkour.
What you should not expect:
1. Descriptions of specific parkour techniques (some basic vaults are covered, but that's not the focus of the book)
2. Pre-made workout programs (addressed below)
So, I've only had this book for about 24 hours, and I'm already in love with it. I've followed Ryan back since the days of demon drills, and Ben for a couple of years as well, and both of them are really leaders in the parkour scene. I ordered this book the moment it came out, and I've flipped through it a few times while reading it cover to cover.
The first and most important aspect of the book is this: this is a book about strength training, specifically geared towards those interested in parkour. It is not a book about parkour, specifically. While they do cover a few basic vaults, you won't see step-by-step breakdowns of parkour techniques in here. Instead, you find out how to strengthen your body in ways that will directly apply to your parkour practice.
The early focus of the book is on thee primary bodyweight exercises: the pull-up, the dip, and the squat. The reason for this is that they give you an upper body pulling, upper body pushing, and leg workout. Each exercise is given both easy and very challenging variations, so you can work on your strength wherever you currently are.
The book also has extensive sections on quadrupedal movement, mobility, and plyometrics, all of which are important to the parkour practitioner If you are looking to prepare your body for parkour, this is the book for you.
One of the aspects of the book that I really like is the challenges at the end of each chapter. These are just short sections that provide assessments for you to gauge your progress. They feel like really concrete ways to see how you're doing.
The book concludes with a discussion of programming. While the authors provide some very useful, though basic, guidelines, they are intentional in not laying out specific plans for people to follow. Instead, they give readers the tools and ideas to make their own programming. While there is a part of me that likes having someone tell me exactly what to do, the authors are right in saying that they don't feel comfortable providing specifics without actually knowing and working with the individual. In my mind, this is just good coaching. It would have perhaps been nice to see a complete sample workout to model, but all the information you need is there.
There's a lot more in the book that I haven't covered, but I feel like those are the main sections. I was very excited for this book, and I'm not disappointed. These are two of the best parkour coaches in the US, and I'm grateful for their work.
The book's main focus is on providing an encyclopedia of parkour specific strength exercises. One thing I love about this book that differentiates it from other strength books like overcoming gravity or convict conditioning is this idea of obstacle based fitness. It's strange, having trained parkour with hardly any "official" sources of information, practitioners have had to rely entirely on making stuff up or the standard understanding of fitness and strength. The fitness industry is a large and confusing mixed bag of training methods that are not always helpful and can actually take us away from our parkour training. I don't know about you , but the reason I got out there in the first place was to use the environment around me rather than sweat in a room, walking from station to sweaty station in order to complete the minimum amount of exercise possible. Obstacle based fitness throws out the standard fitness rules in favor of specific exercises.
I remember buying rings many years ago so I could work on my muscle ups, I found later that it was the only tool in close range that I could do dips on. I lamented the lack of parallel bars in my immediate surroundings and would often just skip dips altogether just so I didn't have to set up the rings. It took me a while to realize that parallel bar dips and even ring dips are super specific to those apparatus and my focus should be on wall dips because (duh!) that's the most common obstacle that I need a wall dip for. This book is a reminder that such a simple oversight was clearly limiting my thinking. There are always ways to train, thinking in terms of optimal/suboptimal limits one's ability. Thinking, "well, I don't have access to a barbell today so I can't really work on pure leg strength right now" can be a barrier to physical progress. With obstacle based training, there's never an excuse to not train something. It's not that I didn't do this kind of training at all, it's just that, in my mind, I viewed it as suboptimal strength training as I had read so much about the benefits of weight training, or rings, or whatever, which were all outside the range of what I was doing with what I would have considered "skill training."
Opportunities are all around you. While it's clear that the authors here have tried to show as many parkour specific exercises outside, I see this effort as an idea generator for people to work with their own environment, to find progressions using what you've got wherever you are. The general idea I'm getting is that we're not supposed to merely copy what they're doing in the pictures, but to import the general sentiment to our own training. Obstacle based training is endless and infinitely adaptable. My friend does muscle ups on his windowsill all the time. For myself, I will often just hang from my door for a spinal decompression and some hang time. What about door knob pistols? The only structure to impose on this is an understanding of intensity and progression so that you're not just being a random ass.
My favorite part of the book is actually the programming section. I feel like it's a compilation of all the strength training "rules" but in a nice, organized manner instead of the patchwork frankenstein understanding in my head along with the hardly legible scrawlings in my training notebooks. Does that say tempo, or tempeh? Anyway, it's exactly what one would would want. The standard 3x5 approach represented along with all the other pieces, tempo, volume, frequency, deloading.This is seriously the only reason to buy a parkour book in my opinion, to have all the information in one place that you can easily refer back to. This section should scale for anyone as it's broad enough to accomodate all skill levels. One thing that always gets me however, is this idea that strength is purely in the 3-8 range in terms of reps but trainers often recommend having a much higher number for higher strength skills. For example, the prerequisite number of pull-ups in this book for training eccentric one arm chins is 15. If I remember right, the same seemingly random number popped up in Overcoming Gravity as a prereq for bar muscle ups. What this tells me, and there are a few lines on this in the book, is that stamina plays a much larger role in the strength equation than we give it credit. Parkour Strength does not miss out on this concept as AMRAP sessions and guantlets are suggested later in the chapter. It's clear the authors understand the value of endurance but it is, understandably not really the subject of this book, though it has a few mentions.
I admittedly have an endurance bias. In fact, our whole group tends to lean toward the endurance in natural settings side of things with our parkour training so it's really just a local difference that we have. We prioritize running, climbing, and swimming/freediving over some of the more basic parkour staples. I should say that, as is written in this book, our strength and power does take a hit compared to what our more bouncy counterparts can produce (less of a difference than one might think though), but it's also a hit in the other direction when focusing solely on strength. I've found this to be true for myself back when I was able to chin with an extra 90 lbs. I would keep my reps low, no higher than five, but found myself unable to do more than 5 or 6 BW pull-ups before I had to stop, though I could pull up and through more explosively. I'm not saying, "don't focus on strength training." I'm saying , do strength but figure out how to integrate it. This idea is implemented in the parkour skill section. Get stronger, then take that strength to endurance levels, then get stronger seems to get the best of both worlds, I've written about this idea in several other posts, so won't harp on it any further. The programming section is not a cookie cutter approach, is full of nuance, and well worth a thorough reading.
A few things I haven't really seen before: the demon dip and the ankle dorsiflexion test. We have a lot of slippy walls in our area so certain levels of climb ups just aren't going to happen but I see this explosive dip as a solution that I wouldn't have considered before. Again, I'm biased by the traceurs around me who have just incredible pulling strength and can kind of skip the whole dip portion of a climb up, even when it's slippy (I'm not one of these people) so it's interesting to see another portion to work on that can get my climb up speed a little faster which is not just a repetition of the mantra "pull more explosively, pull faster."
The ankle dorsiflexion test is also something I haven't seen. I have used the bottom of a pistol position to check my dorsiflexion as per KStarr's recommendation but have found it's pretty easy to cheat. I'm interested in seeing more of the measurements behind the dorsiflexion test, the actual numbers. We don't have enough studies going on in our discipline. I think it's one of the other reasons that we've had to cannibalize other sporting methods. Self experimentation can clearly take us quite a long way. One really cool part of the book is this tiny section entitled "The Power of Plyometrics" recounting the correlation between merely doing plyometric training and strength in the deadlift without prior weight training. More data like this please! I would definitely read a book on parkour science.
What else can I mention here? There is a massive section in the beginning that encompasses mobility/prehab. Every chapter has a challenge for different skill levels so we're encouraged to actually apply the information we just absorbed.There's the nitty gritty details on climb ups. There are progressions and regressions for all the skills. Almost every skill in the book is done by a woman, which is just cool in my opinion, but I think it also makes it so that a book like this is inclusive to everybody, not just hardcore testosterone laden 15 year old boys. Many sections contain hidden nuggets of information that encourage a thorough reading. For example, there is a mention of building equilibrium in the pulling muscles with an inverted row. It's only one sentence that might just fly by in a more cursory reading but I think I had my ears pricked up for it because Steve Lowe emphasizes it so much in the programming section of Overcoming Gravity (horizontal pulling pushing/vertical pulling/pushing, etc.) It's certainly worth taking notes and dog earing the pages a bit. I know I'll be referring back to it for years to come.
Overall this book is certainly the kind I wish I had when I first started, I would have saved a lot of time and injury. It belongs in my library next to Supple Leopard, Overcoming Gravity, Convict Conditioning, and Stretching & Flexibility. I hope there's a follow up. A whole book could be done on Parkour Science or just Parkour Skill in my opinion.
One final note to other parkour practitioners out there, don't simply pass this up just because you think you might not have anything to learn from it. I've sensed a bit of this pervasive attitude that masquerades as self-reliance but is really just an ego issue. I started my parkour journey 10 years ago and there's still always something new to learn, ways to think differently about what we do, enjoy the process and save some time by picking up a book or two. I know those who actually read through this don't have this issue.