Arguably the most important element of training for any discipline, goal or task is to be able to carry out the requisite movements with as much efficiency and as little stress on the body as possible. This is known as biomechanical fitness and is the ability of your entire system (bones, fascia, ligaments, tendons, muscles) to withstand the demands of increased training load and volume as well as to reduce the amount of stress the body is put through during any given movement.
Any sudden and significant increase to the demands you make of your body every day can and will result in problems if your ability to carry out the movements healthily and effectively isn’t in place. Squatting or landing jumps with your knees collapsing in, doing push-ups with your back arched, slamming your heel into the ground on every stride – these are biomechanical faults that, left unaddressed, will almost certainly lead to overuse injury and chronic pain. It’s absolutely vital to learn, or reteach yourself (because almost all of us moved well when very young), how to move well before you up your workload and go at it hard and fast.
A healthy cardiovascular system rapidly adapts to positive stressors so you’ll see gains in this area very quickly with repeated effort, but you can make life so much easier on your heart, lungs and vascular system if you are moving with as little effort as possible, whatever exercise you are carrying out. Less muscular effort, less demand on the system. Get the biomechanics right and suddenly you’ll find that you can run faster and farther and train harder and longer without necessarily improving your level of cardiorespiratory fitness.
Good biomechanics will also hugely reduce your chance of picking up an injury through gradual tissue breakdown and wear and tear, thereby enabling you to train for long, unbroken periods of time, and that’s the territory in which you begin to approach mastery.
Think of a time in your life when you moved at a fairly constant and high intensity, day in and day out, and likely very rarely encountered any overuse injuries – there’s a good chance that time was your childhood, when you were playing all day long, running, jumping, climbing, fighting, crawling, dropping, and didn’t give a moment’s thought to ‘correct form’ or ‘good alignment’. Now, there’s also a good chance you’ve forgotten how to do that, probably through years of inactivity or even through deconstructing your movement so much in over-programmed gym methodologies that make one aspect of your overall system strong and robust while neglecting other aspects – which typically leads to the weakest part of the chain eventually snapping.
The point is your body knows how to move well with regards to its own unique anatomy. You just have to get out of your own way and allow it to do so: move holistically, avoid too much time on isolated, specialised exercises, and find a way to restore that playful, joyful, childlike mover within you. The human brain and body are supremely good at self-organising for efficiency and effectiveness.
Run, jump, crawl and climb, and it will begin to come back, and you’ll find your natural movement patterns re-establishing themselves. This isn’t to say you should stop utilising supplementary exercises for strength, power, coordination, etc., but do remember these are only supplementary to and supportive of the overriding original function of the human body which is to move through and adapt to variable terrain.
Healthy, efficient biomechanics are the foundation upon which you can make yourself as fast, strong, resilient and effective as you like. Skip the foundation-building and you’re not only making every movement much harder work than it should be, but sooner or later the whole thing will come crashing down.
So move well first, then move fast and well.
Find out more about our parkour and movement training and education at Parkour Generations.