vertical jump training

Lessons From Parkour

Written by Jack Woodrup for VerticalJumping.com

Parkour is one of my absolute favourite activities to watch and do. Not only is it immensely fun but due to the many athletic attributes it requires to do it is also incredibly challenging. Some of the many athletic traits you need to be participate include balance, speed, strength, flexibility, endurance, and most relevant to you, excellent jumping power.

What is Parkour?

If you don't know what it is here is the ultra quick rundown from the good folks at Wikipedia

“Parkour (sometimes also abbreviated to PK) or l'art du déplacement (English: the art of movement) is an activity with the aim of moving from one point to another as efficiently and quickly as possible, using principally the abilities of the human body. It is meant to help one overcome obstacles, which can be anything in the surrounding environment—from branches and rocks to rails and concrete walls—and can be practiced in both rural and urban areas. Parkour practitioners are referred to as traceurs, or traceuses for females."

Whilst this introduction is all well and good it doesn't really do justice to the amazing spectacle that it is, so with the permission of the team from Parkour Generations I have attached a short video. I highly recommend you take a few minutes to check it out as quite frankly some of these moves are breath taking.

Upon seeing some of the remarkable things experienced traceurs can do, it should come as no surprise to learn that these guys (and gals) did not just wake up one day with the ability to perform the various jumps, hops, and climbs etc. Just like athletes trying to improve their vertical jump, traceurs had to work at it before they became masters of the various movements.

With this in mind I thought it would be a good idea to have a look at the training regimes of experienced traceurs and see what lessons could be learnt and applied more specifically to improving your vertical jump.

Safety First, Middle and Last

An activity such as parkour would not last long nor be as popular as it is if its members were constantly injuring themselves (or worse!). Whilst undoubtedly there is some risk to it, particularly the more glamorized activities such as rooftop running, the reality is that most of it is done closer to the ground, and the riskier activities are performed only after many, many hours of practice.

Parkour professionals always preach safety as the number one priority. They make sound recommendations about examining surfaces you train on, ensuring structural integrity, and being extra careful when it is wet. They also make sure that you are aware of your own limitations and if you are not 100% certain you can complete the move than you don't try it.

This lessons are also very relevant to vertical jump training. Whilst most drills are fairly straight forward there are a few such as altitude and depth jumps where you should definitely start low before working your way up.

Also many athletes who decide to work on developing their vertical jump are not that familiar with weight training. Whilst a 1.5 – 2.0x bodyweight squat is certainly something that will most likely help you jump high you have to walk before you can run. Any time you start weight training it is important to learn how to correctly perform the lift before you start adding weight.

It is much better (and safer) to learn how to perform a lift correctly early on then try and correct technique later after you have developed bad habits.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The general training approach for traceurs is that first and foremost the best way to get better at parkour is to practice doing parkour. If you have an identifiable weakness, whether that be relative strength, flexibility, balance or whatever, then you might do specific exercises to develop these traits, but mostly getting better is is best achieved by doing it.

This philosophy is something that vertical jump athletes should keep in mind. All the fancy jump programs in the world won't change the fact that the best vertical jumping exercise you can do is going out and trying to jump high. Too many people think they need to be doing some complicated program in order to improve. This is often not the case.

I am amazed at some of the emails I get from people worried about doing certain exercises to develop knee flexion, what is the best way to improve ankle stability, are dumbell lunges better than barbell lunges etc, and when I ask them how much maximum effort jumping they are doing they often are not doing ANY. It is scary.

Most young athletes could save themselves a stack of money and just go out and do some good old fashioned maximum effort jumping. Then you rest. After you are feeling sufficiently recovered go and do some more jumping. When you stop improving then, and only then you might consider a structured weights program to start developing your strength and other particular weaknesses. A lot of athletes start thinking about special programs well before they need them.

Visualization

With so many different moves that can be performed one of the most potent training weapons in a traceurs arsenal is visualization. Visualization is a topic I have written on before but to recap it is essentially the act of mentally imagining yourself successfully performing whatever it is you are trying to do. You would be surprised at how often what your mind can see your body can do.

In parkour visualization might entail imagining a successful scaling of a particularly difficult wall, or just completing a large cat like jump. In vertical jump training it could be finally slam dunking a basketball ring or thumping down a teeth shattering volleyball spike. The more you rehearse it in your mind the easier it will be to actually do when the time comes.

Conclusion

Parkour is tremendous fun and can be done virtually anywhere, and to some degree, by anyone. It is both very physically liberating and challenging. The more advanced traceur's have an amazing mix of physical talents of which some of the more obvious is their reactivity and jumping ability.

Athletes looking to improve their vertical jump could do far worse than watch and learn from this amazing activity and its talented participants. They keep their developmental process simple, progressive, and focused on the ultimate goal of being better at parkour. This is very good advice indeed.

For more information about parkour I highly recommend you visit the Parkour Generations website. It has plenty of excellent articles and links to their very entertaining and informative YouTube channel.





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