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The Zen of Muscle Memory in Parkour

The brain is a wonderful thing, and no matter what occupation or challenge you have, the adage of try and try until you succeed comes to mind.

If you are going to the gym for the first time or are trying out something new, you will find it hard. It is tough trying to pick up weights for the first time or starting a jogging program. But over time those same exercises get easier. That is because of your body’s natural ability to remember movements or actions and turn them into reflexes.

What is Muscle Memory?

There is a learning process as you grow from a toddler to an adult. Your basic motor skills are refined as you get older. When you repeat an action frequently, your brain records it and that action becomes ingrained in your memory.

It takes around 1500 repetitions for your brain to permanently record a movement in your muscle memory. During this time, your nervous system will myelinate causing signals from the brain, to reach your muscles more efficiently.

This increases speed dramatically, which is exactly what you need in Parkour.

How to Move, Adapt, and React Faster Using Muscle Memory

If you are in the process of Parkour training, this will benefit you in more ways than one. There are many actions we do subconsciously that have become part of our daily habits. In the same way we don’t stop and count each breath we take, small movements in our daily lives have become easy.

Parkour requires agility and includes running, climbing, swinging, jumping, vaulting, and rolling to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. The end goal of this sport is freedom. The freedom to move through the world as you please. The freedom to explore. The more muscle memory you have, the freer your mind will be.  

Here’s How to Develop More Muscle Memory During Your Sessions:

1. Build and condition your body

If you are in Parkour training you need to build up your body and train your muscles. You need to strengthen your core muscles and improve on your agility.

Mind blocks and nerves play a big role in succeeding as a traceur. If you are nervous or are apprehensive of doing a jump, you can possibly think your way into failure. Fear can make you hesitate and this stops you from being agile and reacting quickly. Your confidence in your body and its ability to perform certain feats needs to be taken into account while training.

2. Focus on the right techniques

It is not important to try to learn things quickly. Anything learnt well takes time and practice. The saying goes, ‘practice makes perfect.’ This saying is absolutely true. It takes approximately 10,000 hours for someone to become an expert.

This doesn’t mean that you put in 10,000 hours over 20 years. It means constantly practicing every day until it becomes second nature. You can’t be thinking about which foot to plant and exactly when to extend your arms – not when it counts, at least.

If you haven’t learned a particular action, go slow. Try each step slowly. Break the movement into separate parts to understand the whole action. Practice each section until you are confident that you’ve got it. Then speed up the action slowly until it can be carried out at full speed.

3. Know when to stop

This can be interpreted in many ways. If you are learning a certain technique wrong, any amount of practice can’t help. Have proper guidance so that you get it right.

Second, be aware of your body’s limits. Don’t tax your body unnecessarily. Know what your body can and cannot do. There is no point in trying something complicated when you haven’t mastered the basics. Similarly, you don’t go headlong into the sequence without a good warm up.

Last but not least, know when your body has had enough. After a certain period of time your body will remember even the bad movements. As you progress during the day the efficiency of your moves will be compromised by fatigue.

Even if you managed to complete a set of sequences successfully 10 times, remember that your body won’t react the same when it’s fatigued. Vary your training and stop when you feel tired.

If you remember the above points, you should be able to train your Parkour well and be able to build a physical basis from which you can learn to act, react, and adapt faster than before.


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