Where to start

A conditioning article by Janine Cundy Run, tac, grab the ledge, muscle up. Repeat. Run, dive, kong, land, run, repeat. Run, jump, stick, repeat.     All of these elementary...

A conditioning article

by Janine Cundy

Run, tac, grab the ledge, muscle up. Repeat. Run, dive, kong, land, run, repeat. Run, jump, stick, repeat.


Photo credit Michael Schulz


All of these elementary aspects of parkour require strength to even begin, and a lot of women have to start at the very beginning when it comes to conditioning. Push-ups on your knees, pull-ups on a rubber band. Blank slate.


I know that this is where I started when it came to parkour, but the fight to get where I am was worth every morning I woke up so sore it hurt to breathe. When I started training parkour I was so devoted to the idea of one day flying over obstacles with effortless grace that I stayed up late throwing out as many push ups as I could, sit-ups after. In the years since then, I’ve discovered that there are more efficient ways of training strength. I want to share what I’ve learned with you women out there who are starting on this road. I don’t want you to have to spend the hours I did doing things that weren’t really helpful.


For starters, let’s outline what kinds of muscle groups are utilized in parkour. ALL OF THEM. Now that we’ve got that out of the way… let’s break it down. You have your pushing muscles for vaults and rolls, your pulling muscles for laches, cats, and muscle-ups, your jumping muscles for everything from tic-tacs to wall-passes, to precisions. There are tucking muscles for effective cats, jumps, and vaults. Then the running muscles. So basically, there are five different really important groups, and they all work explosively. What I mean by this is that most of parkour’s movements are quick and dynamic, so we should train our muscles to be that way. Conditioning exercises should be as dynamic as possible to ingrain good habits.


Instead of doing endless plank holds to strengthen abs, really explosive sets of tuck jumps will train your body to furl quickly which is super helpful for vaults and cats. The same goes for pull-ups; try kipping or pulling really quickly and getting air over the bar, this will help your muscle-up transitions become fast. A good scaled version of this is to just hang from the bar and practice kipping. There are hundreds of different exercises you can do for each of the muscle groups mentioned, and I don’t want to waste your time by listing them all here. If you’re interested, please feel free to contact me, or sign up at your local chapter of Crossfit. What I do want to talk about here is conditioning habits.

If you want to see really solid results in your parkour from your conditioning, I suggest at least a 1:1 ratio of conditioning hours to technique training hours. I do a 2:1 ratio, with the 2 being conditioning and the 1 being technique. In a year or so, when I feel better equipped, I’ll probably move it down to a 1:1. I feel that this much time is necessary (especially for women) because building strength is a lengthy process. Technique also takes devotion, but I feel that it’s more brain power than muscles most of the time. This is just my experience, I’m sure that there are others out there who have valid arguments to dispute this case, but this is what I’ve found works for me.

Another good trick is a method called “grease the groove” commonly referred to as GTG. GTG is a method where you don’t just train something once a day and get done with it. It’s an ongoing process throughout the day. For instance, every time you walk through a specific doorway, require yourself to do ten pushups. To my understanding, this disperses your training so that your muscles get a chance to rest and you can pack as much training into a day as you feel like without getting obscenely tired. This one was especially helpful for me when it came to pull-ups/muscle-ups. Every time I passed a specific playground next to my house, I’d hit up the monkey bars.

Being a solid, well-muscled traceuse takes time and real effort. Some days I feel like the kid that stays after to work with a tutor and catch up to the rest of the class. In the end, though, the work pays off. Good luck everyone, and my inbox always has room for you.


You can contact Janine at Janinecundy (at) gmail.com or at janine (at) pnwpa.com
Parkour Visions is a non-profit organization based out of Seattle that teaches, builds community, and spreads safe and respectful training techniques in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska.
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