Top 10 Bodyweight Exercises for Beginners in Parkour

The world is your exercise apparatus.In Parkour, practitioners learn to turn the world into a playground. But they should also learn to use common objects like trees, rails, benches, and walls as exercise equipment. Even though I recommend some basic weightlifting for intermediate and advanced athletes, at APEX Movement, our level one students perform only bodyweight exercises. After all, you should not be moving around additional weight without a good understanding of how to move your own body. In this article, I have compiled a list of my top 10 exercises for beginners in Parkour.

#10 Plant Plyo

The plant plyo is a great exercise for building strength and power through commonly used movements including punching, squatting, tucking, landing, and blocking. In addition to reinforcing skills needed for vaulting, the plant plyo is a draining, full body conditioning technique.

Easier Progression: Ground Kong
Harder Progression: Pop Plant Plyo

#9 Lunge

The lunge is a common exercise used to develop single leg strength. Despite the countless techniques in athletics that involve jumping or landing off 1 foot at weird angles, most people tend to focus most of their energy on bilateral leg exercises like squats and deadlifts. The strength built from lunges directly applies to movements in Parkour such as doing a 1 footed running jump or a tic tac. Additionally, the lunge is a good exercise to develop the posterior chain, which is the main contributor to jumping and sprinting power.

Easier Progression: Static Lunge
Harder Progression: Bulgarian Split Squat

#8 Wall Handstand

The handstand is an important fundamental of gymnastics, and should be in Parkour as well. Handstands increase upper body strength, spatial awareness, and balance. Also, the handstand is a great way to become familiar with controlling the body in an inverted state, making it a vital introduction to tumbling and acrobatics.

However, it can be dangerous and frustrating to try free standing handstands when first starting out. To develop a handstand in a more efficient manner, begin by practicing against a wall. New practitioners should start out with the stomach against wall version because it promotes better alignment and technique.

Easier Progression: Front Plank
Harder Progression: Freestanding Handstand

#7 Broad Jump

One of the most fundamental movements of parkour, the broad jump is applied during gap jumps, precision jumps, arm jumps, and more. In addition, the broad jump is a great full body exercise for developing power, strength, and overall body coordination.

Easier Progression: Air Squat
Harder Progression: Broad Jump Burpee

#6 Knees to Elbows

Knees to elbows is a great core exercise with perfect application to a fundamental skill needed in Parkour; the ability to lift your knees toward your chest. In order to do many techniques including underbars, pullovers, and laches, you cannot rely on only lifting your body with your arms, you must also learn to lift your body with your core. Additionally, the movement in which you bring your knees to your chest is found in many other movements including back flips, vaults, and jumping.

Easier Progression: Bar Hang (Passive)
Harder Progression: Toes to Bar

#5 Wall Dip

Slightly harder than basic push ups, the wall dip is a more applicable pushing exercise for Parkour practitioners. The wall dip is an upper body exercise related to movements such as vaults and the second half of a muscle up or climb up. The wall dip builds pushing strength needed for generating power in a vault or a climb up.

Easier Progression: Jumping Wall Dip / Negative
Harder Progression: Demon Dip

#4 Dead Hang Pull Up

While kipping pull ups are generally more related to practical parkour skills, dead hang pull ups also have their place. Dead hang pull ups are harder and will develop strength in the back and arms faster. Beginners should build a solid strength base through the safer and simpler dead hang technique and then learn to kip.

Easier Progression: Jumping Pull Up / Negative
Harder Progression: Dead Hang, Chest to Bar Pull Up

#3 Quadrupedal Movement

Quadrupedal movement, moving on four limbs, is widely used in Parkour as both a conditioning exercise and a practical technique for movement. The most basic form of quadrupedal movement is the reciprocating, forward-moving variation. Like all quadrupedal movement, this technique is a great full body exercise and it develops coordination and weight transferring skills needed for other movements. In Parkour, quadrupedal movement is useful as a means to get under or through small spaces, navigate across irregular surfaces, or provide extra security and stabilization when moving at heights.

Easier Progression: N/A
Harder Progression: Cat Balance

#2 Depth Drop

Once the air squat has been mastered, the depth drop is the best way to practice bilateral landings. However, it is paramount that you start out with a low drop (around 12 in.) and slowly move to incrementally higher drops only when you have perfect form and control. Practicing the depth drop will help build the needed strength and coordination for lovely landings that will keep you practicing safely for a very long time.

Easier Progression: Air Squat
Harder Progression: Tuck Jump to Silent Landing

#1 Air Squat

Air squats are a fundamental leg exercise that should be mastered before moving on to more difficult exercises. Similarly, the squat is a fundamental technique that should be mastered before doing any high impact jumps and landings. Doing squats just past 90 degrees helps to build up strength in the posterior chain and also help flexibility in the hips and ankles. If you want to do Parkour for a long time without crippling overuse injuries, you better master this fundamental leg exercise.

Easier Progression: Full Squat
Harder Progression: Rail Squat

If you’ve already mastered all of these exercises and are looking for more challenge and variation, check out these playlists for ideas:

Beginner Parkour Exercises

Intermediate Parkour Exercises

Advanced Parkour Exercises

About Ryan Ford (16 Posts)

Ryan graduated in 2009 from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Ryan is known internationally as a top parkour athlete and coach, having performed around the world for organizations such as the U.S. Embassy, Hewlett-Packard, and K-Swiss. Also, Ryan has been featured by media giants including the New Yorker and ESPN. In addition to founding APEX Movement, Ryan also has a parkour channel on YouTube with over 5 million views. Although Ryan’s specialty is parkour, he has continued his movement education through certifications such as CrossFit, pole fitness, and barefoot running. One of Shape.com’s 50 hottest trainers in 2013, Ryan is an alumni of YouTube's prestigious Next Trainer program and a FitFluential ambassador.