Welcome to Rising Traceuse A global resource for parkour athletes
Welcome to Rising Traceuse A global resource for parkour athletes

Why Parkour Athletes Should Train Flips

Nothing sparks up debate in the parkour/freerunning community like saying parkour athletes should be flipping. We've all seen the bloody Facebook fights. Let's be honest, people tend to feel pretty strongly about this subject. Whatever your opinion, do me a huge favor, and put it aside for a few minutes to read this post with an open mind. I'll be reasonable, I promise.

First, let me put this out there. I suck at flips. I. Suck. At. Flips... For real. A few years ago, I would try a few flips on the sand once in a while, but I'd always tell people I was more into parkour than freerunning. In fact, I had a whole bucket of reasons not to train flips. But, in the end, it was because I sucked at them, not to mention they scared the sh** out of me.

Then, this past year, I made a change. I decided to stop running away from flips. I started training them regularly. I still suck, but I'm getting a little better every day.

Whatever your stance on the flip/no flip debate, consider these solid reasons why I believe adding flips to your regimen can take your training to the next level.

1. Flips Train Your Mind-Body Coordination Like Nothing Else

Let's get something straight. Flips are hard. (For those of you who trained gymnastics since age 5 and are saying they're easy, shut up.) Getting the tech just right for a high, well-executed flip followed by a light landing takes a lot of mind-body coordination. Plus, during a backflip or frontflip, there's that terrifying moment in the air when you can't see anything and have no idea what is happening. Learning to control that takes a lot of practice, and that control is valuable for every aspect of your training.

2. They Introduce a Whole New Level of Fear to Overcome

I've seen athletes who make huge cat leaps over massive gaps but are afraid to throw a backflip. There's a reason for that. When you start training Parkour, there's a lot of fear to overcome, but once you learn to measure your limits, get over your fear of heights, and train your precision to the point that you know your chances of missing a particular movement are slim, that fear starts to die away.

Sure, the same thing happens with flips eventually (or so I hear). However, in the beginning, flipping your body over your head is terrifying. We know that overcoming fear and pushing our limits makes us stronger, so training both types of movement can only be good for the mind, right?

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3. Flips Broaden Your Training Horizons

Depending on the obstacles and how you use them, your parkour training is ever changing. Still, you're restricted to a limited arsenal of movements. You can tweak them, but once you learn the basics, it's all about perfecting the moves and applying them in different places. Sure. On one hand, many practitioners are too focused on the new and forget about the process of repeating and perfecting. On the other hand, learning new skills keeps you sharp and adds a new element to your training.

Just as with parkour movements, there only a few basic flips that you can then tweak to make new ones (e.g., gainers and cast-backs are both variations of a backflip) but when you combine them with the possible variations you have in parkour, you have endless possibilities.

4. They're Just Plain Fun

Sure, flips still scare me, but if I have a safe place to throw myself, there are few things more fun than working on flips.

You might disagree with me about training flips, and that's okay. I'm not saying that freerunning is better than parkour by any means. I just think it can add something valuable to your life as an athlete. Whether you throw flips onto a mattress or take them to the concrete is up to you. The important thing is that you're challenging your body and mind.

Now, please excuse me while I go to the beach to flip off of things.

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  1. Agreed, but just a thing to know…

    I used to train flips. And flips broke my body like nothing else. In fact, nothing else ever broke my body, but flips did.

    I first dislocate my knee with a sideflip, while I was getting better at it — and under safe conditions. So I had to stop it. So, I started to train backflip. When I got at ease with it, I dislocated my knee a second time with a backflip, still under safe conditions.

    I can stand any regular jump, even with a bit of height. But I can’t ever flip anymore, or just even handflip. My knee will probably never allow it again, and each attempt I made proved me right about this. And now it will be weak probably forever.

    I had to adapt how I do parkour, because I can’t push with this leg anymore, and must be careful if I must land on it. I can’t make a sudden turn if I run, or else my knee would make a big "CLOCK" noise. I can’t land in any position but straight forward. I used to perform lazy vaults with any leg, regarding the side; now I can only push with the other leg. Parkour won’t ever be the same for me, and I probably won’t flip ever again.

    So, people, please be careful when you flip. Because even if it’s nice and a great move to work, for all the good reasons stated in this blog post, it push your body in something that’s it's NOT designed for. Many gymnast will say it: it’s the very top body-breaker move, even for hard trained people. Flips will never be « natural », even when you’ll be very confident about it.

    Train safe, and good flips! :)

    1. Sorry to hear about your injuries and experience! That really sucks.

      Flips definitely can be risky, just as parkour can. I have seen just as many nasty injuries from parkour movements as I have from flips (as well as other sports such as soccer). I don't believe flips in themselves are naturally more dangerous than other movements, but you make a good point that we must be very careful even when we're confident in our skills.

      Thanks for the thoughts!

  2. hi,
    i will join the parkour courses. thank for sharing the more information of parkour freerunning sports and flip technique.

  3. Summer Break is in full swing, but even though we are enjoying the lazier school free days that come with the season, our sports activities have marched on without missing a beat.

  4. A study mentioned in another article supports that conclusion. The research by Christian Vaccaro looked at more than 120 MMA competitors and found that, while male competitors feel a great deal of fear, they are less likely than women to express it openly.


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