Often neglected in particular by younger practitioners, strength training in parkour is a tool which can unlock untapped potential not just for bigger jumps, faster climb-ups and higher flips, but also for all-round competence and speed. ‘Be strong to be useful’ was a term coined by Georges Herbert in the 1950s regarding efficiency on the battlefield during warfare, and though now considered more recreation than a necessity for survival, it has had a massive imprint on parkour – in the ethics followed by generations of practitioners and even in higher-end establishments in the scene such as etre forte.
So why is training your body outside of usual practice often considered unnecessary by a large portion of the parkour scene, despite its endless benefits?
Though most would say training specific to parkour movements is all your body requires, it just isn’t plausible to reach the body’s full potential in terms of covering every significant muscle and giving growth for strength. As training methods in parkour are seemingly never completed using a methodical sets/reps system as workouts and gym structures follow, it is no guarantee that muscles will be used and strained enough for the significant strength gains required to increase size in jumps/climbs and therefore gains in competence.
For example, if a practitioner trains jumps (precisions, plyometrics, cat grabs, flips) more often than climbs / climb-ups / dynamic plyometrics and vaults, there is going to be a less significant increase in the efficiency of the upper body movements than lower body ones. This is where, for a well-rounded practitioner, it may be a necessity to use a more structured routine in order to increase strength and maintain technique as a result.
An example of such a routine would be to supplement whichever muscle group is deficient in your own regular training routine. For example, if you train climbing – dynos, climb-ups, etc considerably more than jumps, then the perfect subsidiary exercise would be to train legs and the posterior chain. Exercises such as squats (weighted, split, Bulgarian split, front, back, goblet), deadlifts and especially parkour-based training such as plyometrics conducted in a reps/sets method will maximise and maintain gains in strength whilst minimising session time. Essentially, this means you spend more time enjoying your preferred training methods whilst maintaining all other aspects in the least time consuming way possible.
Whatever your own training routine, conditioning sessions can be as easy as completing some quick sets of Bulgarian split-squats at home after a day of training. Always remember that gyms are helpful but not a necessity, just like in parkour.