If you have read this blog for a while you know how important it is to be in shape. Technique should always be practiced, but everyone’s body has limits. We need to push those limits by being in the best physical shape possible.
Flexibility training is a huge part of any professional traceur’s game. If you want to make sure your body is ready for new techniques, you need to make sure you have the mobility to get them done.
This article will help you get started on the path to becoming a lean and mean Parkour machine.
Why is Flexibility Important?Having a greater range of motion will help you in many ways:
First, you will be able to generate more power with your techniques. More mobility means more movement. More movement means more time to generate momentum. That is huge when you are doing strides, cats, and especially kongs.
The more flexible you are the less you get hurt. It’s that simple. When you are flexible, your joints can move through a full range of motion. This means that your muscles will be able to work more efficiently overall. You will also be able to better compensate for mistakes or bad movement.
Flexibility is crucial for the flashier acrobatic movements. Websters, Kick the Moons, gainers, vaults, and laches are just a few of the movements that benefit from high flexibility.
Tips to Improve Flexibility
1. Warm UpWe have covered warm ups before on this blog. If you haven’t read that article make sure you do. Whether you are preparing for a run or a simple stretch session, you need to warm up. A lot of people think stretching is a warm up, but that’s wrong. If you want to get some proper stretching done you need to prepare your body.
One of the best ways to do this is by rotating your joints. Take a few moments to rotate everything (neck to ankles) in a clockwise and counterclockwise motion. This is going to lubricate your joints. It will also increase your range of motion.
If you are not sure what to do here, look at the previous article we wrote on the topic.
This is the type of stretch you are most familiar with. It is probably what you have done in gym class. These techniques stretch your muscles and prepare them for action at the same time.
2. Active Stretching
Here is a short list of good active stretches for Parkour from the Parkour Wikia:
Forward leg swing With the toes pointed, gently swing your leg up forwards. Do not let your chest go down. Loosens the hamstrings and hip flexors.
Side leg swing Gently swing your leg out to the side. Loosens the groin muscles.
Wrist stretch - Gently pull your hand towards the forearm, both forwards and backwards.
Shoulder stretch - Reach behind the neck for shoulder of the opposite side. Stretches the shoulder and triceps.
Cobra or Seal stretch - Lie on your stomach, and using your arms to support your body, arch your back until you feel a stretch. Stretches the back muscles. It is best to learn this stretch with professional supervision due to the higher risk of injury.
Pike stretch - Sit on the ground with the legs outstretched, and reach for your toes. Make sure the back is not curved. Stretches the hamstrings.
Butterfly stretch - Sit with your knees bent and your heels close to your groin, and let your knees drop towards the floor (the elbows can be used to gently push them down if necessary). Stretches the groin muscles.
Straddle stretch - Sit on the ground with legs spread as wide as possible, and try to touch your nose to the ground in front of you.
Hip flexor stretch - One of the most important stretches as the hip flexors tend to become very tight. While on one knee or in a lunge position, push your hips forward and keep your back upright, and shift your weight forwards.
Runner's stretch or quadriceps stretch - Grab the ankle of one leg and pull the heel to your butt or until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. Keep your chest upright and your knees close together. A wall or sturdy object can be used to lean against.
Calf stretch - Take a long step forward, and lean forward against a wall or sturdy object. Keep the knee of the back leg straight and the heel on the ground.
3. PNF Stretching (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation)Many people consider this to be the “holy grail” of stretching. It is arguably the fastest way to get flexible. It allows you to stretch further than a static stretch. During a static stretch, your muscles will pull back at a certain point. What PNF stretching does is prevent your body from having this reaction. The result is deeper, more effective stretches.
PNF stretching is simple. Take a stretch your normally do. Do that stretch until you get almost as far as you can go. You should feel your muscles tighten at this point. When that happens, contract your muscles. This should feel similar to flexing them. Contract your muscles and hold for about 5 to 8 seconds. Then, relax your muscles and try to move the stretch a little bit deeper.
How do You do it?
This works because you are fatiguing your muscles. This means they will not be able to pull back when you reach the apex of your stretch. This allows you to move deeper into the stretch and get more out of it.
Don’t overdo this one. Take it slow in the beginning. Always learn what your body can do before going 100 percent on any technique. Your muscles have a natural pull back reaction for a reason. They do this to protect you. You need to practice PNF stretching in incremental gains. Don’t go for the whole thing at once.
This should give you a good starting point. Practice these techniques, and you will see results. You will see positive effects in your flexibility and runs.
Put Knowledge Into Practice
Remember, a good traceur respects their body as much as their mind. You need both technique and fitness to excel in this game.