Must-Read Books for Parkour Athletes & Coaches

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If you want to improve at parkour, it’s not always about training harder. For a lot of people, a missing element is training smarter. Fortunately, top coaches and journalists from around the world have discovered and published many secrets to building strength, gaining mobility, mastering your mind, and obtaining new skills. You don’t always have to learn by trial and error; the experts can save you a lot of time and confusion. Check out the books below for some of the best reads out there for parkour coaches and athletes:

Breaking the Jump
by Julie Angel

According to Amazon:
From its humble origins in the backstreets and rooftops of Paris’s urban jungle to the tops of London and New York’s skyscrapers, Parkour has become an adrenaline-fuelled implosion on the urban landscape. But more than a sport that most jaw-dropped onlookers can hardly comprehend, Parkour is an exploration of movement and a return to our body’s natural ability to run, jump, hang and move with fluidity.

For the first time, Julie Angel tells the story of Parkour’s beginnings – the diverse, intriguing and unusual characters who went to the rooftops, hung off the stairwells and drain pipes as they trained through the night, often risking their lives and created something that has become a worldwide phenomenon.

Breaking the Jump tells the unknown story behind Parkour’s rise, and asks what is it that drives those who stand on the edge and think ‘go’.

My Thoughts:
Breaking the Jump is an invaluable contribution to the parkour community. I learned many new things from this book and I found the storytelling to be top notch. Shortly after I finished, I incorporated much of the book’s wisdom into our parkour history education component of training for all parkour coaches at APEX School of Movement and ParkourEDU.

Parkour Strength Training
by Ryan Ford & Ben Musholt

According to Amazon:
In Parkour Strength Training, you will learn how to:

  • Accelerate your athletic development with three fundamental bodyweight exercises
  • Promote the flexibility and mobility necessary for safe obstacle-based fitness
  • Prepare and condition your joints to avoid injuries
  • Train safely outdoors
  • Remedy the common faults and errors that plague parkour newcomers
  • Incorporate ground-based exercises, such as quadrupedal movement, bounding, and jumping into your workouts
  • Use low obstacles such as benches, handrails, and walls for full-body strength training
  • Fly over barriers using three basic vaults
  • Mount, traverse, and overcome head-high walls and bar structures
  • Master proper climb-up technique using many supplemental exercises
  • Design an effective strength training program
  • Combine skill-based drills and games to become a more well-rounded practitioner
  • Dominate obstacle courses

My Thoughts:
If you want to know my thoughts, go read my book!

The Obstacle Is the Way
by Ryan Holiday

According to Amazon:
Its many fans include Arnold Schwarzenegger, LL Cool J, James McGee, Michele Tafoya, and the coaches and players of winning teams like the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, and Chicago Cubs.

The book draws its inspiration from stoicism, the ancient Greek philosophy of enduring pain or adversity with perseverance and resilience. Stoics focus on the things they can control, let go of everything else, and turn every new obstacle into an opportunity to get better, stronger, tougher. As Marcus Aurelius put it nearly 2000 years ago: “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Ryan Holiday shows us how some of the most successful people in history—from John D. Rockefeller to Amelia Earhart to Ulysses S. Grant to Steve Jobs—have applied stoicism to overcome difficult or even impossible situations. Their embrace of these principles ultimately mattered more than their natural intelligence, talents, or luck.

If you’re feeling frustrated, demoralized, or stuck in a rut, this book can help you turn your problems into your biggest advantages. And along the way, it will inspire you with dozens of true stories of the greats from every age and era.

My Thoughts:
Stoicism is a timeless teacher and a natural complement to parkour. Learning to physically overcome obstacles teaches you a lot about how to face fear, problem solve, and be creative. But applying these lessons into other aspects of life is key. The Obstacle Is the Way shows you how many famous figures throughout history conquered their own challenges with courage and resiliency.

The Parkour Roadmap
by Max Henry

According to Amazon:
Max Henry is a professional parkour athlete and coach based out of Long Island, New York. Max’s new book The Parkour Road Map is a detailed guide to parkour history, culture, and technique from the experience of a professional parkour athlete. Gathering information from the world’s best parkour athletes and coaches, The Parkour Roadmap is an indispensable tool for practitioners of all levels. In the spirit of être fort pour être utile; a portion of the proceeds from every hard copy sold goes toward supporting water and sanitation infrastructure projects in South Africa.

My Thoughts:
Max is an incredibly skilled, hard-working, and thoughtful parkour athlete and coach. With this book, he has put together a comprehensive resource to help athletes of all levels discover more about themselves through parkour.

Overcoming Gravity (2nd Edition)
by Steven Low

According to Amazon:
Overcoming Gravity is a comprehensive guide to the most overlooked, yet most powerful elements of strength training. In this book, Steven Low takes the reader on a journey through logically and systematically constructing a strength oriented bodyweight workout routine. With a highly systematic and scientific approach, Steven delves into the exercise physiology behind strength training and how to adequately prepare the body for the rigors of bodyweight training. Using the same rigor and attention to detail, Overcoming Gravity also includes recommendations for all bodyweight athletes concerning health and injury management. Unlike other books on this topic, it provides extremely comprehensive sample programming to assist in the design of a well-balanced routine, including information about the proper execution of the exercises and techniques.

My Thoughts:
This is the best-written resource on gymnastics strength training and has been a go-to reference for me since I first picked it up in 2012.

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances
by The Oatmeal

According to Amazon:
This is not just a book about running. It’s a book about cupcakes. It’s a book about suffering. It’s a book about gluttony, vanity, bliss, electrical storms, ranch dressing, and Godzilla. It’s a book about all the terrible and wonderful reasons we wake up each day and propel our bodies through rain, shine, heaven, and hell.

From #1 New York Times best-selling author, Matthew Inman, AKA The Oatmeal, comes this hilarious, beautiful, poignant collection of comics and stories about running, eating, and one cartoonist’s reasons for jogging across mountains until his toenails fall off.

My Thoughts:
The Oatmeal is one of my favorite authors and comics of all-time. In this masterpiece, he mixes comedy filled musings on the subject of running while also coming to some profound conclusions about fitness, mindset, discomfort, and pushing your limits. Even if you aren’t a regular runner, just about any athlete can appreciate and relate to the beautiful emotions that this book evokes.

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Starting Strength
by Mark Rippetoe

According to Amazon:
Starting Strength has been called the best and most useful of fitness books. Now, after six more years of testing and adjustment with thousands of athletes in seminars all over the country, the updated third edition expands and improves on the previous teaching methods and biomechanical analysis. No other book on barbell training ever written provides the detailed instruction on every aspect of the basic barbell exercises found in SS:BBT3. And while the methods for implementing barbell training detailed in the book are primarily aimed at young athletes, they have been successfully applied to everyone: young and old, male and female, fit and flabby, sick and healthy, weak and already strong. Many people all over the world have used the simple biological principle of stress/recovery/adaptation on which this method is based to improve their performance, their appearance, and their long-term health.

My Thoughts:
Starting Strength is the book I point everyone to when they want to learn the basics of weightlifting, and more specifically, barbell lifting. If you don’t have access to a good coach, this is the resource you need to get started. I am a big proponent of weightlifting as a training supplement for athletes of any sport. Starting Strength will get you up to speed on only the most essential lifts to add to your program such as deadlift, squat, and press.

Bonus: While many athletes have a basic understanding of how to do certain exercises and workouts, most have no clue how to design these workouts and training methods in an organized, effective way over long periods of time. Too many athletes stumble through their training with no real plan and the result is often full of injuries, plateaus, and even regression. Practical Programming, also by Mark Rippetoe, will help you understand the basics of how to keep your training on a big picture path of consistent gains.

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by Carl Paoli

According to Amazon:
Everyone cares about physical performance and the fitness industry offers an infinite number of solutions to improve it. But who has the best solution and how do we know if and how it will work for us? After over 15 years of training as an elite gymnast and over a decade of coaching, Coach Carl Paoli offers a fresh philosophy on training by connecting movement styles to fit your specific purpose, while also giving you a simple framework for mastering the basics of any human movement.

My Thoughts:
Free+style has it’s rooted in CrossFit and gymnastics but Carl Paoli’s resulting mash-up essentially preaches an approach that is strikingly similar to parkour and other natural movement philosophies. Along with the book’s interesting and useful training philosophies and methodologies are a ton of great bodyweight conditioning exercises and progressions. In fact, Carl Paoli’s attention to detailed bodyweight exercise progressions for all levels is one of the best-organized presentations out there.

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The Talent Code
by Daniel Coyle

According to Amazon:
What is the secret of talent? How do we unlock it? In this groundbreaking work, journalist and New York Times bestselling author Daniel Coyle provides parents, teachers, coaches, businesspeople, and everyone else, with tools they can use to maximize potential in themselves and others.

My Thoughts:
While The Talent Code isn’t specifically about parkour, movement, or any particular sport, it brings up an immense amount of thought-provoking points that can be applied to parkour or whatever hobby you love. This book is all about delving into the study of building talent that you can apply to sports, music, writing, art, and more. For me, one of the most interesting premises of The Talent Code is the in-depth looks into talent hotbeds around the world and the master coaches and reasons behind these talent hotbeds’ existence.

Bonus: Read The Sports Gene along with The Talent Code to better understand the relationship of nature vs. nurture in athletic performance.

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Becoming a Supple Leopard
by Kelly Starrett

According to Amazon:
Improve your athletic performance, extend your athletic career, treat body stiffness and achy joints, and rehabilitate injuries—all without having to seek out a coach, doctor, chiropractor, physical therapist, or masseur. In Becoming a Supple Leopard, Kelly Starrett—founder of—shares his revolutionary approach to mobility and maintenance of the human body and teaches you how to hack your own human movement, allowing you to live a healthy, happier, more fulfilling life.

My Thoughts:
While the idea of mobility is nothing new, Starrett helped bring it to the masses in a simple, organized, and inspirational way. Through his blog and Supple Leopard, Starrett has been instrumental in promoting better movement patterns, mobility development, and injury prevention. Starrett’s ideas in Supple Leopard can easily be applied to all types of athletes in all types of sports. If you have any injuries, imbalances, or weaknesses that are holding you back, get this book to better understand how to address your problems.

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Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches
by Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky

According to Amazon:
From the leading scientist and expert in sports training, his last book: a milestone, the point of no return in the Strength Training. The most complete and up to date book in Special Strength Training (SST): Methodological foundations of special strength training, Guidelines for planning SST, SST means and methods – resistance and jump exercises, Complex method, Stimulation method, Contrast method, Circuit method, Strength-aerobic method, Organization of SST in training process and Block Training System, SST means methods and program for acyclic sports, SST means methods and program for cyclic sports, SST means methods and program for sports games and combat sports, traditional SST exercises used by high-level track & field athletes, questions and answers about warm-up, ‘Ultra Mass’ bodybuilding program, the contribution of Yuri Verkhoshansky to the development of sport science.

My Thoughts:
I recently became obsessed with researching the best methods for jump training, plyometrics, and power development in general. Turns out Dr. Verkhoshansky is behind many of the most ground-breaking ideas that these fields have ever seen. And it doesn’t stop there. Dr. Verkhoshansky may be the greatest sports scientist and strength coach that the world has ever known. Although this is a heavy, technical read, the amount of knowledge in this book is enough to fuel the implementation of a world-class training regiment for any athlete.

Bonus: If you like this book, you’ll also dig Supertraining by Mel Siff & Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky.

Ryan Ford is the author of Parkour Strength Training and founder of ParkourEDU & APEX School of Movement.

  • Got Overcoming Gravity Ed 1. Really good reference book for gymnastic strenght training, not sure whether Ed 2 is worth investing in although the first edition contained so many typos it was sometimes very frustrating to read. Technically though, brilliant. Supple Leopard is in my collection but haven’t delved into it yet.

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