Impact can and should be a positive stressor for the body, promoting bone growth and improved density and creating healthy levels of athletic tension and responsiveness in the nervous system. Parkour practitioners develop joints that can manage significant loading forces across multiple planes and directions.
How do we do this?
Through good landing biomechanics, the rapid firing of nerves leading to instant and adequate tension in the body, and high levels of functional strength.
Knees have to deal with stress all day long. This can either be a positive stress cycle or a negative one – which is largely decided by your overall movement quality. Absorbing impact through the heels of flat-footed compromises the natural suspension mechanics of the foot and leg. Further, the inability to properly anticipate the exact timing of the impact – something only really gained through experience – means the force will be absorbed by the joints / skeleton before the muscles have time to react.
Progressive approaches work best. How far you can jump does not equate to what impact forces your body can handle. Muscles grow stronger quicker than tendons do, and it’s tendons that will suffer most if you overload the muscles.
Just because you CAN make the distance doesn’t mean you should. Yet.
IMPROVE YOUR PROPRIOCEPTION
Improving your proprioception will also help protect your knees and prevent injuries and joint damage.
When the nerves in your leg muscles, tendons, and joint capsules immediately send accurate feedback to your brain as to any given movement situation, you are much more likely to be able to control and manage that situation.
This is your body’s positional intelligence, and all complex-dynamic movement relies on it.
Balancing on stable surfaces is the best way to improve general stability and proprioceptive response in the ankle-knee-hip complex. Doing it barefoot is even better. Get those hyper-fast small nerves firing.
So whether you are rehabbing an injury or want to deflect future problems, work on your proprioceptive response whenever you can. Proprioception very much serves a protective role.
(Photo by Andy Day at Parkour Generations Winterval 2018)