Parkour Strength Training: Overcome Obstacles for Fun and Fitness is a book about training to improve the muscles and skills commonly associated with parkour movements. What is a review of a book about parkour doing on a site about obstacle course racing? The outcome of the two endeavors is different, but it turns out there is plenty of overlap in the training. Agility and strength make a huge difference when trying to get through the obstacles at a race, from climbing over walls at a Spartan Race to leaping from “lily pad” to “lily pad” at a Rugged Maniac.
Starting with the basics, let’s answer: what is parkour? While I remember some of the videos that introduced parkour to the US, what I remember most was the inevitable parkour scene in The Office.
More accurately, parkour is “a training discipline meant to help you overcome obstacles with speed and efficiency”, according to the authors of Parkour Strength Training Ryan Ford and Ben Musholt.
A small excerpt from the contents list, 6 pages laid out like this
To be clear, this book is not intended to teach you parkour moves, though it may certainly inspire you to learn some. It is designed to give you the strength you need to perform those moves safely. As it turns out, the strength training you need for parkour, along with its close cousin freerunning, has much in common with the strength you need to conquer your average obstacle course.
The authors break down the physical movements used in parkour and apply their deep knowledge of physiology to develop exercises that work on the muscle groups that are most important. They also emphasize the mobility and flexibility needed to perform the movements; it takes more than just strong biceps to win races (with apologies to Hunter McIntyre ).
Readers are led through the movements and exercises with a series of photographs illustrating each movement. It is to their credit that as I read, I could imagine myself doing each exercise. In this era of visual media, it might have been easier to show rather than tell, and the authors have extensive YouTube channels that can help you: Ryan Ford here and Ben Musholt can be seen here.
Parkour Strength Training provides great structure for someone who wants to build not just strength for obstacle course races but the right kind of strength. It is also provides a good reminder to those who are trying to figure out where OCR fits among a variety of other activities: parkour, CrossFit, trail running, and even acrobatics (think American Ninja Warrior). If I had to draw a Venn diagram that connects them all, it would probably be air squats (see p. 39 of the book). In the meantime, there are plenty of other exercises I need to do before my next race (or the next time I need to escape dangerous villains across a parkour-friendly urban wasteland).
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