Parkour: A Crash Course

Adopt the training secrets of urban free runners to build a physique that's both dynamic and densely muscled.


Parkour: A Crash Course

By now, legions of gamers have already solved the new challenges in Assassin’s Creed Liberation, the latest offering in the popular action-adventure series. But you don’t have to play the game to appreciate the amazing physicality of the protagonists, who negotiate hostile terrain with ease–whilst fending off and avoiding foes, of course–via a mind-boggling series of jumps, vaults, climbs, rolls and swings. 

Parkour, as the art is known, isn’t part of Assassin’s Creed by accident. The profile of this dynamic discipline has been on a steady rise over the last two decades, thanks in large part to user-based video platforms like YouTube and high-profile films like Casino Royale (2006) where parkour legend Sebastien Foucan leads James Bond on a thrilling free run through the streets of Madagascar. 

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Parkour athletes are as powerful as they are precise, as skillful as they are strong. Physical therapist, parkour practitioner, former America Ninja Warrior contestant and author of Mad Skills: The World’s Largest Illustrated Exercise Encyclopedia, Ben Musholt, knows that those committed to getting from A to B, obstacles be damned, need to be super fit both as a requirement for success and an insurance policy for the inevitable stumbles.

Assasin's Creed Parkour Video:

Casino Royale Parkour Chase:

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“Part gibbon, part mountain goat, elite parkour athletes demonstrate tremendous upper body strength, explosive hops and amazing sure-footedness,” he says.  “Flying up walls and airing over rooftop gaps is no easy feat and to move like they do parkour athletes need to be springy, highly coordinated, and have a supernatural awareness of their bodies in space.”

In other words, don’t discount the athleticism of these fringe physical artists. At least not until you have successfully attempted your own stunt reel. 

And while you may not be keen on racing over low fences or reaching balconies sans ladders, everyone can benefit from the main elements of parkour-inspired training: power, speed, agility and flexibility. Here, Musholt explains what goes into outrunning 007.

Next: What Makes a Parkour Athlete? >>