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Photo of Sam Parham from Parkour crew, Team 101

MUSCLES FOR TRACEURS
by
WillWayland

In this article:

Muscles and Size are not dirty words
Bashing on Body Weight
You are not special
The Method
Exercises
Sample Training Day
Conclusion

Muscles or Size is seen as dirty words in the parkour community, many are under the impression that any sort of muscular size on a traceur will kill their performance.

This misconception is born of ignorance, media bias (muscles are out right now in fashion) and long standing myth. I have encountered this myth during my time as a martial artist. As I gained weight I was lectured by various instructors that being bigger would hamper my fighting ability. Some even went as far as to say it would slow me down (giving long winded physics lectures).

In martial arts this comes from marketing gimmicks, the student puts faith in the instructor that what they are learning will help them against bigger stronger opponents. If that bigger stronger opponent happens to be skilled you are going to experience alot of pain.

Bruce Lee also propagated the myth by being quoted as saying 'Sure he's big but can he use that muscle?' oh man now the lord god Bruce has said it surely he cant be wrong. He never says if it is good or bad he merely poses a question. This is my personal experience of the 'size is bad' myth. I keep seeing it popping up in parkour forums all over.

In general bigger muscle is going to be a stronger muscle (you don't see many weak big guys and no I don't mean fat people). While that's not always the case, it is part of the equation. It has to be useable mass or relative mass.

You don't want to send somebody into a weight class heavier if they're just going to be weaker and have bigger muscles. Parkour doesn't have weight classes so this is a non issue but still it's just going to be counterproductive.

So we have "non-functional hypertrophy" (HUH?..Hypertrophy = Increase in muscle size), an increase in muscle mass that's not accompanied by a performance improvement. Now generally this is rare but it can happen. Shortlimbed lifters sometimes get this. But too achieve this a long devotion to eating and imbalanced training must be maintained. Don't let this be you in the gym
.



The main difference in hypertrophy beneficial to parkour and bodybuilding is where the general concern is and what parameters are going to be used. The traceur will be more concerned with the mass he has around the elbow joint, the lower part of the triceps. He'll be concerned with the mass he can develop around the knee, the lower quad area. Also the stabilizing mass, the rotator cuff region, back thickness, things that are going to help him with his parkour. We want these size gains to come with a performance improvement.

So the traceur needs to increase performance with different muscle actions (concentric, isometric and eccentric) Lifting, lowering and static holds. They need to work on high-threshold motor units or fast twitch fibers, explosive movements.

With parkour any sprinting, jumping, sudden stops or change of direction where the athlete must absorb and stop the weight of his body, requires a lot of eccentric and isometric strength. So we are looking to improve the force a contracting muscle produces and encouraging the elastic component of the muscle to improve force production.


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BASHING ON BODYWEIGHT

The point is this... 'bodyweight exercise only' programs will only take you so far, and then some form of resistance training must be applied to see further improvement.

You cannot achieve the same loading especially for movements like deadlifting and squating using bodyweight even with the addition of weight. I'm not aginst bodyweight movements. It's just using only bodyweight limits your potential development because the load ultimatly stays the same, breaking a cardinal rule of resistance training that load must increase to make improvements.

I'm yet to see the body weight equivalent of snatch/clean and jerk/deadlift or any real pulling movements involving the legs.

Photo of Sam Parham from Parkour crew, Team 101

YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL

Sorry you're not. The traceur is a human being and adheres to the same laws of physiology and biomechanics everyone else does, despite impressive feats the traceur doesn't build super special muscles that can do things normal people can't.

In my work you have to see the human body as an organic machine that needs to be primed for optimal performance sure programs are specialized for the individual needs but the body adheres to the same simple laws. One other thing that needs to be addressed is the concept of 'sport specific' training for athletes.

The bottom line is this, there is no such thing as sport specific training!

I repeat 'there is no such thing as sport specific training'!

Loading movements is an even worse idea because it effects mechanics (ie punching while holding weights) and are about as much use as a smith machine. All athletes have similar needs which include improving strength, speed, and flexibility as well as preventing injury. When you think about it, most sports have the same requirements. You hear it in your training from parkour coaches also, many folks specialize too much too soon and end up injuring themselves without building up a decent skill/conditioning base, the same is true here.

THE METHOD


With my athletes I primarily use the Russian Conjugate System of Periodization (thanks to Joe Defranco and the Westside guys), simply put, it entails training various motor qualities simultaneously (max strength, explosive, strength endurance).

Contrasted to the Western model of Linear Periodization defines a procedure wherein different motor qualities are periodically trained in sequence, over time. The deficiency associated with the linear style of periodization is that as one progresses from one motor skill to the next, the skill which was developed in the previous period suffers a detraining effect.

The Max/Dynamic Effort methodology was defined by Vladimir Zatsiorsky, a world renowned strength scientist and author, who determined that there are three distinct methods for developing maximal tension within skeletal muscle fibers.

These are:

1 MAX EFFORT LIFT
Lifting weights at high to maximal (max) percentages of one's one rep max (i.e. Max Effort-strength speed).
2 DYNAMIC MOVEMENTS
Lifting sub-maximal weights explosively (i.e. Dynamic Effort-speed strength).
3 CONCENTRIC FAILURE
Lifting sub-maximal weights until you can't lift that weight again i.e. Repetition Method-strength endurance / lactic acid tolerance training-assistance / supplementary exercises).

The conjugate method takes all 3 of these and throws them together into daily programs.
   
 

So we take a Max Effort Lift (1) for each training session and shoot for 3-5 reps working up from a warm up.

Progression may go on bench press for example 60 x 8, 100 x 6, 115 x 6, 125 x 6, 130 x 3-5. Max effort lifts can be anything. Sometimes I use pull-ups and other pulling variations, Farmer's walks, tire flips or even regular, old-fashioned squats.

Dynamics Movements (2) revolve around taking a submaximal load and moving it as fast as possible, we have the supplementary lift and dynamic days lift to maximise this.

Finally Concentric Failure (3) helps kick hypertrophy and structral changes into gear, here we seek our functional hypertrophy.

You'
ll see many of the movements are simple compound exercises, these give best bang for buck performance return.

Why the Russian conjugate system?? because I have found it works best out of all the modalities I've tried. Traceurs don't have an on or off seasons and the conjugate system reflects this. To keep progressing every 3-4 weeks all the exercises are changed for another from the list.

EXERCISES

Upper Core movements to choose from: Flat Bench Press (different grips to choose from), Dumbbell Bench, Weighted Dips, Weighted Pull ups, Floor Press, Shoulder Press.

Upper Supplementary Movements to choose from: Dumbbell Bench press incline/decline, dumbbell floor press, close grip bench press, weighted pull ups/chin ups, weighted press ups

Upper Assistance Work: Bent over flyes, Bend push downs, tricep extensions, scarecrows, bent over cable flyes, seated rows, lat pull down, pull-ups, bicep curls

Lower Core movements to choose from : Squat Variations, Deadlift Variations

Supplementary movement to choose from : Lunges (overhead, dumbbell, walking, reverse), Bulgarian split Squats, Step ups on to a box(with barbell or holding plate at arms length).

Assistance work to choose from : Glute Ham raise, Good mornings, pull throughs, Straight leg deadlifts, one legged deadlifts, Abdominal work.

So training days look a little something like this over 3 days a week:

Max Effort Upper
1 Core movement (working up to a single set exercise for a max 3-5reps)
2 Supplementary movement, 1 exercise (3-4 sets 6-10 reps)
3 Assistance work (2-4 exercises for 3-4 sets and 8-12 reps)

Max Effort Lower
1 Core movement (working up to a single set for a max 3-5reps)
2 Supplementary movement, 1 exercise (3-4 sets 6-10 reps)
3 Assistance work (2-4 exercises for 3-4 sets and 8-12 reps)

Dynamic Effort Upper
1 Speed movement Bench Day: Bench 8 sets of 3 reps @ approximately 50- 60%. One rep max (1RM) *30-60s rest between sets (lifting as fast as possible)
2 Supplementary movement (same as max day)
3 Assistance work (same as max day)

You may notice two upper and one lower day, this is because the lower body takes such a beating from parkour activities that it would be determental to try train a dynamic lower body session.

SAMPLE TRAINING DAY

Heres a sample program im using for a street performer/traceur. Obviously this may differ from what you may do.

MONDAY MAX EFFORT UPPER
1 CORE Weighted Dips working up to 3-5
2 SUPPLEMENTARY Dumbbell bench press
3 ASSISANCE Lat-pull down 3-4 sets 8-12 reps Bent over flyes 3-4 sets 8-12 reps

WEDNESDAY MAX EFFORT LOWER
1 CORE Tire flipping working up to 3-5
2 SUPPLEMENTARY Steps ups on to a box holding sand bag
3 ASSISANCE Good mornings 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps, Straight leg deadlift 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps, GHR if he has the energy

Friday is Dynamic speed benching day. Sometimes We will throw in Speed muscle ups where he tries to do 5 or so muscle ups sometimes with weight as fast as he can for each concentric (lifting) movement.

Every other day of the week he does parkour training alone. Except Sunday which he takes off, he does all this in the evening because he works through the day. When busy we will sometimes drop the dynamic day or if need be this day can be supplanted for the Parkour Gauntlet that Demon introduced to us.

I won't be going into negatives and isometric training here because the article would turn into a thesis and I'll leave it for a 2nd piece where we can add these advanced modalities in.

CONCLUSION

Be sure to check out The Traceur Diet for eating around your training.

Without proper rest and nutrition you fall flat an make little progress. So make sure your working with maximum energy for parkour and for weight training.

I've given you an insight into how I'd train a traceur for parkour, there are methodologies I may use but most revolves around the conjugate training . The carry over to parkour will be huge and your other capacities will improve.
Train hard so parkour becomes effortless.

Be sure to check out
Benefits of Strength and Conditioning program
by Detric Smith

FOR OTHER WORLDWIDE JAM HEALTH AND FITNESS ARTICLES

ALSO READ
banner and link to Blane's article THE DANGER OF DILUTION by Blane
banner and link to parkour fitness article TRAINING FOR YOUNG ATHLETES
Banner and link to article on diet Click here to enter THE TRACEUR DIET
by WillWayland






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