All athletes can benefit from cross training. Whether it is a football player trying to get a longer range throw, an ice-skater trying to perfect that axel or an Olympic swimmer training for a marathon, for all of these people, cross training is extremely valuable, and this remains true across nearly every sport. Cross training is “The action or practice of engaging in two or more sports or types of exercise in order to improve fitness or performance in one's main sport.” Parkour is one of the very few exceptions. There really is no need to cross train for a parkour athlete, and the main reason for that is because of the inherently well-rounded aspect of parkour. Parkour being something that has already learned and taken so much from other sports.
Why is cross training so (potentially) valuable?
One of the reasons parkour is such an intense sport is because it works out nearly every muscle group. We work out our legs with every jump, our forearms with every intense dyno, our back muscles with each lache. Most other sports don't have this aspect, most of them focus on just a few main muscle groups. If you are a cyclist, odds are pretty good your legs are significantly stronger than any muscle group above your waist. If you participate in a sport like Rock climbing you’re likely to have ‘strong’ upper back, shoulders, and arms. Basically, you aren't gonna be a top tier parkour athlete if you aren’t absurdly well rounded, in both your technique and skills, as well as your muscles. The main reason someone would cross train would be because you need to take the imbalances that you gain from your sport, and even your body out with training from a different sport to remain healthy and perform better.
Why is it important to train multiple muscle groups?
Training duration is essential to all athletes who want to improve themselves. Being able to train (effectively) for longer, generally means more training overall, and with that, more improvement. One of the best ways to increase your training duration is varying the type of training, and with that, the types of muscle groups you work out. Being able to shift your training to different muscle groups when you think you may be close to an injury is essential for longevity. Constant use of only a couple muscle groups can very easily lead to stress-based injuries in those groups. Variation is essential to maintaining a healthy training regimen. Another reason cross training is important for many sports is that training muscle groups that aren’t your primary group can help with healing, and injury prevention. For example, Achilles tendonitis, caused by overuse, can be greatly improved by the regular strengthening of the calf muscles. Using varied exercise techniques can not only give your body the chance to heal but can also very often strengthen and stretch parts of your body that were causing you pain.
Can you have too much parkour?
Eh. Not really. Because of the immense variation between movements in parkour, you don’t run into the same roadblocks with only training parkour as you can in other sports. If your version of parkour is only ever strides, plyos, and other jumpy type things, then you can easily run into issues akin to other sports, but as long as you are training many aspects of parkour, then you’ll probably be fine. That being said, there are a few sports which we believe can help maximize your parkour abilities. The first is rock climbing. Absurd grip strength, top-tier mental and physical discipline, and dynamic movements a-plenty. If you’re looking to max out your laches, get that dyno that's just out of your reach, or maybe get a nasty cat leap with very little grip at the end, then maybe you should take up rock climbing to boost your training to a new level. The second (sport?) we recommend is Yoga. With great strength comes great responsibility, included in that responsibility is mobility, something that many parkour athletes tend to ‘forget’ about. Stretching and holding poses is not very fun, but it’s well worth it. In parkour there is a lot of muscle compression, so a natural partner with that is muscle extension, something yoga is king for.
In the vast majority of popular sports/physical activities, there’s a primary focus on just a few types of movement, just a few of our many muscle groups, and there tends to be little to no importance placed on being well rounded. Because of this, cross training cannot just be useful, but completely essential. Parkour is quite the contrary when practiced properly. Being well rounded is praised in healthy communities, being extremely mobile is considered very important among every elite athlete, and the variety of movements leads to (relatively) equal workout distribution across muscle groups. Because of the extreme variety parkour brings in so many ways, cross-training is not essential but can be highly useful in some scenarios, specifically rock climbing for grip strength, upper body focus, and yoga for mobility and muscle elongation. Maybe you’ve been drifting away from your training, you’re injured or just need a break. Check out these two other sports for a healthy dose of extra variance. Also, on a side note, if your main sport is anything other than parkour, then may we suggest parkour as your main go to for cross training?
The PPK Philly Team