Tag Archives: parkour

A Primer on Plyometrics

Introduction
Plyometric Basics
Lower Extremity Plyometrics
Upper Extremity Plyometrics
Programming
Conclusion

Introduction

To the top
Plyometric exercises are an extremely effective method of training the body for explosive power.  Many trainees will use plyometrics to increase jumping efficacy, but these techniques can be applied to increase explosiveness in upper body movements, as well.  The benefits of incorporating plyometric exercise are touted for most sports, particularly skiing, jumping sports (e.g. basketball, volleyball), and track and field.  The application of increased power and explosiveness in my discipline of choice, parkour, should be very apparent as jumping and explosive pushing dominate most of parkour’s dynamic movements.

There is a need for clarification, however, on how to properly incorporate plyometrics into one’s workout routine.  This need exists because, in my experience, when plyometrics are recommended to most trainees there are usually a lot of questions that follow.  What are plyometrics?  How do they work?  How do I effectively make them part of my exercise routine?

None of the information in this article is new but the content has been laid out to make understanding and applying this information much easier.  By the end of this article, you should be very familiar with the concepts of plyometric training and how they can be applied to a variety of movements in a comprehensive training program.

Before reading further, do understand that some of the recommendations I make may not be consistent with information found elsewhere.  Some sources claim that lower extremity plyometrics should be avoided until the trainee can squat 150% of their bodyweight.  I think that is a bit excessive since most people can still get a major benefit of low-impact plyometrics while having no experience with the squat.  More specifically, the NSCA recommends that one be able to perform a 60% bodyweight squat before starting a program involving lower extremity plyometrics (1).  This is a modest recommendation with which I would be in agreement.

It is quite common that most trainees cannot or will not train weighted squats due to lack of proper instruction or equipment.  I would suggest that if one has little or no experience with the squat and/or cannot squat at least 60% of their body weight then all plyometrics should be kept low impact, at most.  In addition, use your head and validate your sources (i.e., this article) with other sources that are available.

Plyometric Basics

To the top
Plyometric exercises take advantage of a muscle’s natural tendency to want to shorten after being stretched.  This is a powerful phenomenon known as the stretch-shorten cycle or the stretch-shorten reflex. There are a couple of important properties of skeletal muscles that make this possible.

Firstly, muscles have elastic properties that make them like springs.  If you take a muscle (such as a piece of chicken, for example) and pull on it gently, it will return back to its original shape.  The more forceful the pull, the more quickly the muscle will snap back to its original shape.  Muscles in the human body act in the same way. Plyometrics look to harness the lengthening of the muscle and synchronize the resulting “snap-back” with actual muscle contractions that make the shortening of the muscle faster and more forceful.  This results in a stronger push and a higher jump.

Secondly, the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) is constantly receiving information from the muscles regarding how much they are stretched.  When muscles lengthen too quickly, the nervous system senses the sudden change in length and sends a signal back to the muscle initiating a violent overcompensating contraction.  This is seen when you go to the doctor’s office and the doctor tests your reflexes.  When he hits your patellar tendon with a mallet it causes the quadriceps (collection of thigh muscles)  to stretch.  The spinal cord detects this rapid stretch and causes the quadriceps to react with a forceful contraction that causes your knee to shoot out in front of you involuntarily.  You can reproduce this effect in several other locations on the body where a large tendon is exposed, such as the Achilles’  tendon on the back of the ankle.  Here, the mallet causes the gastrocnemius (calf muscle) to stretch and the spinal cord sends a signal back telling the gastrocnemius to contract forcefully.  This causes your toes to point quickly.

Pair these forceful contractions from your reflexes with the fact that your muscles naturally “snap back” after lengthening and you can train for some pretty impressive feats of power.  Since plyometrics train muscles to harness the stretch-shorten reflex from the nervous system, even someone with a high level of strength can see massive gains from a simple plyometrics program.

There is one small side note that is worth mentioning as it confuses many trainees that are new to plyometrics.  Most people think it is necessary to go down into a full range of motion, for example a deep squat, in order to fully take advantage of plyometric training.  This is not the case.

Full range of motion training can be beneficial, even in a program that is focusing on explosiveness.  The highest degree of power output, however, is harnessed from a partial range of motion.  This is because there is a limit to how much the muscle can stretch before losing the ability to contract more forcefully.  For example, if you were to go into a deep, full range of motion squat before your jump then your hamstrings would be very stretched.  Based on the statements above, this would seem great – more stretch turns into more “snap-back.”  While this is true, the elasticity of the muscle is not as important as the stretch-shorten reflex.

Firstly, in this example, a deep squat is very slow in comparison to a quick dip down and drive upwards.  The speed of the stretch is a main reason why the stretch-shorten reflexes occur.  Since the stretch is much slower, the reflex reaction doesn’t even occur.  Also, going into a deep squat causes the muscle to stretch a lot, which, in turn, forces the muscle to leave a state known as optimal length. The further you deviate from optimal length the harder it is to cause a contraction.  When the length of a muscle gets too long or short it becomes very difficult for the muscle to generate more force.

In short, explosive performance increases most easily by using an abbreviated range of motion in plyometrics training.  Using an abbreviated range of motion allows the trainee to generate the most power and increase performance effectively.  If the goal is a comprehensive general preparedness and strengthening through the whole range of motion, then a full range of motion explosive movement would be better but targeted performance (i.e., jumping capacity) will not come nearly as quickly.

Lower Extremity Plyometrics

To the top
Plyometric exercises are most commonly utilized as a lower extremity workout to increase jumping performance.  A trainee that undertakes a lower extremity plyometric program will need to focus on proper form for each plyometric movement.  Form is pretty basic and intuitive, yet it requires attentiveness to agility, coordination and strength.  Since most trainees are new to plyometrics altogether, there is a lot of benefit that can be seen by paying special attention to the following aspects of jumping.

1. Knees over toes

If your knees are caving inwards on your landings then focus on consciously shoving your knees out as soon as you touch down.  This will help to avoid unnecessary stress on the knee joints.  Excess stress in awkward positions can and will result in overuse injuries.

2.  Throw your arms

The arms are a useful tool in generating forward and/or upward momentum on your jumps. Make sure you throw your arms out or up to gain the extra bit of height/distance on each jump.  Throwing the arms is a skill that takes time to hone.  The throwing of the arms should be synchronized properly with the jump, that is, the extension of the hip.  This takes time and practice.

3.  Soft landing surface

The landings of exercises that are labeled below with an asterisk are high impact and generally put a lot of stress on the knees.  This can lead to overuse injuries quite easily.  If possible, find something to ease your landings such as sand, soft dirt, or soft rubber matting.

4.  Fully extend

All jumps should go to full extension.  This means that your hips, knees and ankles should be extended (i.e. “straight.”)

Before we can address specific exercises is probably best to get some definitions of the terminology out of the way.

Nomenclature
Bilateral – Jumping with both legs.
Unilateral – Jumping with one leg.
Pistol – Jumping with one leg and going down into a complete range of motion.
Singles – Performing each rep with a pause between reps.
Series – Performing each rep in succession rapidly without any pause between reps.  This takes advantage of the stretch-shorten reflex to gain some height on each jump.
One Step – Jumping after rebounding off of a single step.  The momentum from the step loads the muscle with a quick, forceful stretch resulting in both a transfer of momentum and a more powerful stretch-shorten reflex.
Two Step – Jumping after rebounding off of two steps.   Provides more momentum than one step.
Running – Going into the jump with a run before hand.  Provides much more momentum than two steps.

NOTE: Before reading the list it is usually useful to look at some examples for reference.  Anything that is an essential or lesser known technique has been added to a short compilation produced by myself found below or here.

Exercises

  • Vertical Jumps – Jump straight up for height.
    • Singles or Series
    • Bilateral
    • Unilateral
    • Pistol
    • Running
      • One Step
        • Bilateral
        • Unilateral
      • Two Step
        • Bilateral
        • Unilateral
      • Full Run*
        • Bilateral
        • Unilateral
  • Broad Jumps* – Jump straight out for distance.
    • Singles or Series
    • Bilateral
    • Unilateral
      • Pistol
  • Box Jumps – Jump from the ground onto a box going for maximum height.
    • Bilateral
    • Unilateral
    • Pistol
    • Running
      • One Step
        • Bilateral
        • Unilateral
      • Two Step
        • Bilateral
        • Unilateral
      • Full Run*
        • Bilateral
        • Unilateral
  • Stair Jumps – Jump from the ground onto a stair/box going for maximum height and distance.
    • Bilateral
    • Unilateral
    • Pistol
    • Running
      • One Step
        • Bilateral
        • Unilateral
      • Two Step
        • Bilateral
        • Unilateral
      • Full Run*
        • Bilateral
        • Unilateral
  • Depth Jumps* – Start on a small object and jump down.  Rebound out of the landing with a jump of choice.
    • Vertical Depth Jumps
      • Bilateral
      • Unilateral
    • Broad Depth Jumps
      • Bilateral
      • Unilateral
    • Box Depth Jumps
      • Bilateral
        • Singles
        • Series
      • Unilateral
        • Singles
        • Series

* High Impact Exercises – avoid if you are unconditioned for plyometrics.

Upper Extremity Plyometrics

To the top
Plyometric exercises can also be used to greatly enhance upper body explosiveness.  Both pulling and pushing movements can be greatly enhanced through plyometric upper body training.  In my opinion, training the upper body with a higher strength foundation through gymnastics techniques such as the planche, front lever, weighted pullups, weighted dips, etc. goes hand-in-hand with upper body plyometric training.  Strength training will build the foundation for the power that plyometrics aim to express.  Consequently, a combination of the two produces tremendous results.

Nomenclature
Hopping – Use the force of the push/pull to hop off the ground/bar.  The rebound back onto the ground or bar induces the stretch-shorten reflex to create more force for the next rep.
Clapping – After the hop perform a quick, audible clap.  The clap does nothing but ensure a higher, more forceful hop and acts as a useful metric.
Depth Drop – Similar to depth jumps, a depth drop starts your hands at a higher level and drops them down to a lower lever to induce a more forceful stretch-shorten reflex.
Drop Down [pushups] – A more extreme form of the depth drop.  Starting from standing, throw yourself at the ground forcefully to have more momentum behind the drop and thus a more powerful stretch-shorten reflex.
Burpees – Utilizing the drop down, the burpee allows for the goal of pushing back up explosively into the standing position with a forceful jump upwards.

Please note that, similar to jumping techniques, all techniques that make you go airborne require full extension. This means that your elbows should be straight and locked at the end of each rep.

NOTE: As stated above for the lower extremity, some examples for reference are likely to be useful to the new trainee.  Anything that is an essential or lesser known technique has been added to a short compilation produced by myself found below or here.

Exercises

  • Pushups – Start in a plank.  Lower the chest to the ground and back up to full extension.
    • Hopping
    • Clapping
    • Depth Drop
    • Drop Down
    • Burpees
  • Handstand Pushups – Start in a handstand against a wall or freestanding.  Lower the head to the ground and back up.  (Doing these elevated increases range-of-motion and difficulty.)
    • Hopping
    • Clapping
  • Dips – Start in a support position on bars.  Lower the chest to the hands and back up.
    • Hopping
    • Clapping
  • Kipping Pullups – Swing forward to stretch the muscles and pull back and up quickly utilizing stretch-shorten reflex.  Note that this move can take a bit of practice and requires some hip extension.
    • Standard
    • Hopping
    • Clap in front of chest
    • Clap on theighs
    • Clap behind the back

Programming

To the top

Lower Extremity

Plyometric exercises for the lower extremity will be invaluable to any athlete looking to improve jumping performance.  In my experience, trainees will see a significant increase in jumping performance by implementing just a single plyometric exercise into their routine one or two times a week.  This should be no surprise given that the gains in a novice routine are mostly neurological and there is a the heavy neurological component of plyometric exercises.

Those trainees who get the most benefit are typically those who already have a very high level of strength.  Rather than require a 150% bodyweight squat, I would suggest a 150% bodyweight squat coupled with a 200% bodyweight deadlift.  Due to the explosive and plyometric nature of the power clean, it would be even better to have the ability to perform a 100% bodyweight power clean.  Do keep in mind that experience with these lifts, in my opinion, is not necessary but highly recommended.  If you have no experience with these lifts and want to enhance jumping performance then it may be a good time to start gaining some exposure to them.  You can most certainly work towards the strength goals (i.e. squat, deadlift, clean) I laid out above while also performing a high intensity plyometrics routine.  If you or your trainee, however, has a noticeably weak squat or deadlift and are particularly out of shape, then I would avoid most plyometrics until more basic goals are achieved.  Those that are not labeled “high impact” would likely be better candidates for these trainess but, please, use your head and best judgment.  For example, an obese 40 year old man likely has no business training box jumps and should probably focus on his weight loss goals and performing regular pushups before shifting focus to jumping performance.

As an aside, any of the programming tips below already assume that the trainee already has an existing strength program consisting of a warmup and strength work.  Generally speaking, plyometrics fall into programming order as laid out below:

A)    Warmup
B)    Skill Training
C)    Plyometrics
D)    Strength Work
E)     Metabolic Conditioning
F)     Stretching

Novice Programming
Simply put, the novice is anyone who has not attempted any plyometric training before.  This approach can also work very well for someone who has tried plyometrics but never trained for maximal gains.

  • Select 1-3 plyometric exercises per workout cycle (typically 4-6 week cycles work best.)
  • Vertical jump and broad jump are recommended as a great starting point for the novice.
  • Maximal effort of any plyometric exercise
    • For exercises that do not require progressive increases in equipment (such as vertical jumps or broad jumps) the trainee must simply jump as far as they can each rep.
    • Measuring each jump is useful to gauge progress even if it is just with some sort of landmark like a a basketball hoop or lines on the sidewalk.
    • Series jumps should be in sets of no more than 3 consecutive jumps.
    • Exercises that do require progressive increases in equipment (such as box jumps) should start moderately with something like an 18” box depending on the level of the trainee.
      • Increase the height of the box incrementally for every session that the plyometric training is performed.
      • Continue progress even if the increments are as small as ¼ inch every session.
    • Sets of 3 reps.
      • Trainees want to keep reps per set low since there is such a heavy neurological component.  Performing plyometrics while fatigued will be counterproductive and hamper progress.
    • Sets somewhere in the range of 3-7 sets.  If you are doing 3 reps per set then you will likely stick to 3 sets total.  If you are using a low amount of reps, such as single maximal attempts then you will likely use closer to 7 sets.
    • When going for maximal height on box jumps it is highly recommended that one use a spotter in the likely event of a failure that results in falling backwards.  Shin guards are also commonly used to protect the shins on maximal box jumps where a failure can cause the shins to scrape or smash on the box.

Intermediate Programming
The intermediate is anyone who has started to “fail” jumps at even the very smallest of increments to their max.  Even a lack of confidence in making jumps may warrant an intermediates’ approach to plyometrics training.

  • Select 1-3 plyometric exercises per workout cycle (typically 4-6 week cycles work best.)
  • Continued maximal effort in plyometric exercises that don’t require equipment
    • Exercises such as the vertical jump, broad jump and series jumps should be continued for maximal height or distance.
  • Begin submaximal intensity training n plyometric exercises that require equipment.
    • Exercises such as the box jump should be scaled down so that the target box on which you are jumping is not at a maximal height.  In example, scale a 30” maximal box jump down to 26” but perform 5 reps each set instead of 3.
      • This approach fosters an environment to better hone the skill of the movement rather than increasing an expression of force.

Upper Extremity

Plyometric and explosive training of the upperbody will certainly have high translation into slower strength movements.  Plyometric training for the upper body is much simpler than for the lower body.  Any of the movements can be done as a supplement or replacement for the bench press, overhead press, weighted pullup or weighted dip.  Simply replace any given weighted, slow workout with a more explosive version scaled down to a lighter weight or bodyweight.  Typically, for strength and explosiveness, one usually trains a plyometric or explosive upper body movement in tandem with a more strength-oriented similar movement.  For example, one trainee may work on clapping dips in tandem with weighted dips.  The former is for strength while the latter is for power.

Conclusion

To the top
While this guide is not totally comprehensive (nothing is), this should give a edge to any trainee looking to enhance jumping or explosive performance.  In as little as a single cycle with novice programming there is much improvement that can be made.  If there is any apprehension about adding these movements to your routine then I would highly recommend starting with a single movement with novice programming to get a feel for plyometrics.

References
1.  Ebben, W. P., McNeely, E., Haff, G.G.., Warpeha, J.M., Brumitt, J., Wein, D., and Riewald, S. T. (2007). NCSA’s Performance Training Journal: Plyometrics. Volume 6, Number 5. www.nsca-lift.org/perform

Skill Guidelines for Building Strong, Useful, Adaptable Athletes

Introduction by Chris Salvato

For reference and convenience, this document can be downloaded in PDF format here.  For a brief primer into this article, check out Ryan Ford’s YouTube introduction.

In order to succeed in a sport, fitness program, or physical activity, it is necessary to establish a diverse and intelligent strength and conditioning program. To maximize your gains in fitness and apply them to highly sport-specific skills, it helps to track your progress, set goals, and achieve balance in your physical capabilities. The goal of this document is to provide guidelines based on useful goals that allow new trainees to gauge milestones and monitor progress over time.

This list of goals was chosen because working these skills will simultaneously improve many of the components of physical fitness. First defined and organized by Dynamax, these components are relevant in all kinds of sports, combat, and physical activities. They are:

  1. Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance – The ability of body systems to gather, process, and deliver oxygen.
  2. Stamina – The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.
  3. Strength – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force.
  4. Flexibility – The ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.
  5. Speed – The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
  6. Power – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.
  7. Coordination – The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into one distinct movement.
  8. Agility – The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.
  9. Balance – The ability to control the placement of the body’s center of gravity in relation to its support base.
  10. Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a certain intensity.

While many resources go over setting goals and even provide a list of goals that may be worthwhile, many people are unfamiliar with what sort of progress to expect. With potential benchmarks and milestones unknown, this leaves the trainee feeling out of control. Lack of knowledge and lack of control often times results in lowered motivation. To address this problem, the following guidelines have been established so that a dedicated trainee will know the sort of progress they can expect with focused, dedicated training.

These guidelines were originally created as a collaborative effort between Eat. Move. Improve., a fitness resource co-founded by Steven Low and Chris Salvato, and APEX Movement, a Denver, CO based parkour facility.

Using the Skill Guidelines

The time frames listed for each level are based on progress that the authors have seen directly through personal experience, coaching experience, and through their involvement with their respective communities. Keep in mind that younger populations tend to progress faster than older populations; those with less stress tend to progress faster than those with more stress; and those with better sleep cycles tend to progress faster than those with poor sleep cycles. The goals listed below are for young males in the age range of 15-35 at a starting body composition of under 20% body fat. In future editions of this article, we will include more demographics.

The milestones in this article can be reached within their respective time frames by training 3-4 days per week for the first couple of years. It is advised to keep training diverse, but simple. Focus on only a few feats of strength, skill, and endurance at once. Eat. Move. Improve.’s Steven Low recommends that trainees start with and focus on no more than 2 pushing, 2 pulling, and 2 posterior chain strength goals at once. Any endurance training or skill training can easily fit into the preceding strength program.

Level One – Healthy Beginner (0-12 months)

  • Level one guidelines are milestones that can be attained by an untrained, sedentary individual within their first 12 months of training (assuming they are free of any serious injuries or health conditions). This level is the minimum standard for a healthy lifestyle and lays the foundation for basic strength gains in the following years. This basic strength will translate over into more rapid increases in capabilities.

Level Two – Intermediate Athlete (1-2 years)

  • Level two guidelines can be attained within 1-2 years after level one has been reached. These skills should be considered normal for a healthy athlete that is pursuing increased performance. The translation from one skill to another is still very high here, so working towards a few goals will also help other goals advance towards level three.

Level Three – Advanced Athlete (2-4 years)

  • Level three guidelines can be reached within 2-4 years after level one has been reached. This is an appropriate level of general fitness for those who would like to perform for long periods of time and possess a high level of strength. Taking part in high intensity sports such as parkour, combat, or highly competitive sports while possessing the abilities of level three allows for a higher degree of participation while mitigating the risk of injury. Athletes that posses many level three skills will get the most out of their training as they are able to train continuously with few injuries and work on technique consistently and without interruption.  Most individuals can obtain most, if not all, of level three skills with proper programming and dedication.

Level Four – Specialized Athlete

  • After reaching level three, some trainees may choose to take certain skills to the next level. Most level four guidelines entail specialized training that will not allow for other goals to be included in the athletes program. For example, pursuing a straddle planche will require consistent, hard training that may make another goal, such as a competitive 5k run, unrealistic to simultaneously pursue. An athlete can work toward level four without sacrificing level three accomplishments, but usually only a small number of level four skills can be attained for each individual.

Level Five – Highly Specialized Athlete

  • To reach level five in many of these skills takes a combination of superior genetics, dedication, and intellect. While level five is not necessarily a world class athlete, most people will not be able to perform many level five skills without sacrificing performance in other domains. By the time the athlete is at level five, thousands of reps/runs/holds will have been performed; years of experience will have been established towards this goal; and the athlete may progress beyond level five towards a world class level. By even striving for a level five skill shows remarkable determination and drive.

Nomenclature

AW                 Against Wall
B                      Bar
BW                  Bodyweight
DH                  Dead hang
DPU                Deadhang Pull Ups
FS                    Free Standing
G                      On Ground
HSPU             Handstand Push Ups
KPU                Kipping Pull Ups
OAH               One Arm Handstand
PB                    Parallel Bars or Parallettes
R                      Rings
ROM               Range of Motion
RTO                 Rings Turned Out
SL                    Straight Legs
SA                   Straight Arms

______________________________________________________________________________

  • Metabolic conditioning
    • Locomotive tests
      • Run (100m)
        • Level one – 20 sec.
        • Level two –  16 sec.
        • Level three – 13 sec.
        • Level four – 11.5 sec.
        • Level five – 10.5 sec.
        • World Record – 9.58 sec. (Usain Bolt, Jamaica)
      • Run (400m)
        • Level one – 120 sec.
        • Level two – 85 sec.
        • Level three – 60 sec.
        • Level four – 54 sec.
        • Level five – 48 sec.
        • World Record – 43.18 sec. (Michael Johnson, USA)
      • Run (5000m)
        • Level one – 36:00
        • Level two – 24:00
        • Level three – 18:00
        • Level four – 15:40
        • Level five – 14:00
        • World Record – 12:37 (Kenenisa Bekele, Ethiopia)
      • Rowing (500m)1
        • Level one – 150 sec.
        • Level two – 110 sec.
        • Level three – 90 sec.
        • Level four – 83 sec.
        • Level five – 80 sec.
        • World Record – 75 sec.
      • Rowing (2000m)1
        • Level one – 12:00
        • Level two – 9:00
        • Level three – 7:45
        • Level four – 6:50
        • Level five – 6:20
        • World Record – 5:36.6
  • Bodyweight skills and Gymnastics
    • Pushing
      • Push ups:
        • Level one – 5 push up
        • Level two – 20 push ups (R)
        • Level three – 5 tuck planche push ups (PB)
        • Level four – 5 straddle planche push ups (G)
        • Level five – 1 planche push up (G)
      • Dips (begin some weighted dip work at level two)
        • Level one – 3 (PB)
        • Level two – 10 (PB)
        • Level three – 30 (R, full ROM)
        • Level four – 15 (RTO and held at 45 degrees past parallel)
        • Level five – 15 (RTO and held at 45 degrees past parallel, straight body, leaning forward at 45 degrees)
      • Planche progressions:
        • Level one – 15 sec. (Frog)
        • Level two –  15 sec. (Tuck)
        • Level three – 10 sec. (Advanced Tuck)
        • Level four – 5 sec. (Straddle)
        • Level five – 3 sec. (Lay)
    • Pulling
      • Pull ups (begin some weighted pull up work at level two)
        • Level one – 3 KPU (chin over bar)
        • Level two – 20 KPU, 12 DPU (chin over bar)
        • Level three –  40 KPU, 20 DPU (chest to bar, move on to weighted pull ups)
        • Level four – 25 DPU to lower sternum (move on to weighted pull ups)
        • Level five – 25 DPU to belly button (move on to weighted pull ups)
      • One arm pull up/chin up:
        • Level one –  n/a
        • Level two –  n/a
        • Level three –  10 sec. one arm pull up/chin up negative
        • Level four – 1 (each arm)
        • Level five –  5 (each arm)
      • Back lever:
        • Level one – 1 skin the cat (piked with straight legs)
        • Level two –  10 sec. (advanced tuck)
        • Level three –  12 sec. (half lay)
        • Level four –  10 sec. (lay)
        • Level five –  20 sec. (lay)
      • Front lever:
        • Level one – 1 skin the cat (piked with straight legs)
        • Level two –  10 sec. (advanced tuck)
        • Level three –  8 sec. (half lay)
        • Level four –  5 sec. (lay)
        • Level five – 12 sec. (lay)
    • Handstands
      • Handstand hold
        • Level one – 60 sec. (AW)
        • Level two – 120 sec. (AW), 15 sec. (FS)
        • Level three – 45 sec. (FS)
        • Level four – 10 sec. (OAH, fingertip assist)
        • Level five – 5 sec. (OAH)
      • HSPU:
        • Level one – n/a
        • Level two – 5 (AW, G)
        • Level three – 2 (full ROM, AW, PB), 15 HSPU (AW, G)
        • Level four – 15 (full ROM, AW, PB), 2 (FS, PB)
        • Level five – 15 (FS, PB)
      • Handstand press
        • Level one – Headstand press (elephant press)
        • Level two – 2 press to handstand (G, any method)
        • Level three – 2 straddle presses to handstand (G, SA, SL)
        • Level four – 5 pike presses to handstand (G, SA, SL), 1 press to handstand (R, any method)
        • Level five – 3 pikes presses to handstand (R, SL)
    • Seats
      • L-sit:
        • Level one – 5 sec. tucked L-sit
        • Level two – 25 sec. L-sit
        • Level three – 60 sec. L-sit (G), 10 ft. L-sit walk
        • Level four – 30 ft. L-sit walk
        • Level five – 75 ft. L-sit walk
    • Legs
      • Broad Jumps:
        • Level one – 6 ft.
        • Level two – 8 ft.
        • Level three – 9 ft. ­­­
        • Level four – 10 ft.
        • Level five – 10.5 ft.
        • World Record – 12 ft. 2 in. (Arne Tvervaag, Norway)
      • Standing Vertical Jump:
        • Level one – 10 in.
        • Level two – 18 in.
        • Level three – 24 in.
        • Level four – 28 in.
        • Level five – 34 in.
        • World Record – 48-52 in.  (Unverified and Speculative)
      • Standing Box Jump:
        • Level one – 18 in.
        • Level two – 30 in.
        • Level three – 40 in.
        • Level four – 50 in.
        • Level five – 60 in.
        • World Record – 58-68+ in. (Unverified and Speculative)
      • Pistols (each leg):
        • Level one – 5 step ups on 24 in. box
        • Level two –  5 pistols
        • Level three – 5 pistols +25% BW
        • Level four –  5 pistols +50% BW
        • Level five – 5 pistols +75% BW
      • Natural leg curls:
        • Level one – n/a
        • Level two – 1 negative – 3-5 sec.
        • Level three – 1 negative – 8-10 sec.
        • Level four – 3 concentric
        • Level five – 10 concentrics with eccentric
    • Combined push/pull
      • Muscle up:
        • Level one – n/a (work on dips and pull ups)
        • Level two – 1 (DH, R, RTO at top and bottom; symmetrical), 1 (bar; symmetrical)
        • Level three – 10 (strict, DH, B)
        • Level four – 5 +25% BW (R)
        • Level five – 30 in 2.5 min. (R, kipping allowed), 2 with 50% BW (R)
    • Parkour Specific Movements
      • Climb up (climb up from a hanging position on the wall)
        • Level one – Beginner climb up (by any means necessary)
        • Level two – Intermediate climb up (symmetrical arms, distinct pull up and dip motions)
        • Level three – Advanced climb up (symmetrical and straight arms, appears to be one fluid motion)
        • Level four – 5 climb-up test, <15 sec
        • Level four – 5 climb-up test, <10 sec
      • Wall run vertical (subtract standing reach from wall run reach)
        • Level one – 22 in.
        • Level two – 40 in.
        • Level three – 52 in.
        • Level four – 62 in.
        • Level five – 70 in.
      • Vault exit distance (max exit distance over a 3 ft. wall; any type of vault)
        • Level one – 4 ft.
        • Level two – 8 ft.
        • Level three – 10.5 ft.
        • Level four – 12.5 ft.
        • Level five – 14 ft.
  • Weight training
    • Strength
      • Weighted dip (PB)
        • Level one – 3 reps at BW
        • Level two – 1.4x BW
        • Level three – 1.7x BW
        • Level four – 1.9x BW
        • Level five – 2x BW
      • Weighted pull up
        • Level one – BW
        • Level two – 1.4x BW
        • Level three – 1.7x BW
        • Level four – 1.9x BW
        • Level five – 2x BW
      • Bench press
        • Level one – .85x BW
        • Level two – 1.2x BW
        • Level three – 1.5x BW
        • Level four – 1.75x BW
        • Level five – 1.9x BW
      • Press
        • Level one – .5x BW
        • Level two – .75x BW
        • Level three – .95x BW
        • Level four – 1.1x BW
        • Level five – 1.2x BW
      • Deadlift
        • Level one – 1.5x BW
        • Level two – 2x BW
        • Level three – 2.4x BW
        • Level four – 2.75x BW
        • Level five – 3x BW
      • Back squat
        • Level one – 1.25x BW
        • Level two – 1.75x BW
        • Level three – 2.15x BW
        • Level four – 2.4x BW
        • Level five – 2.6x BW
      • Overhead squat
        • Level one – .65x BW
        • Level two – 1x BW
        • Level three – 1.3x BW
        • Level four – 1.45x BW
        • Level five – 1.65x BW
    • Power
      • Clean and Jerk
        • Level one – .75 x BW
        • Level two – 1.25 x BW
        • Level three – 1.6 x BW
        • Level four – 1.85 x BW
        • Level five – 2x BW
      • Snatch
        • Level one – .6x BW
        • Level two – 1x BW
        • Level three – 1.3x BW
        • Level four – 1.45x BW
        • Level five – 1.65x BW

1 Based on C2 rankings for all weight classes and genders.
2 The idea was originally inspired by a set of standards put forward by CrossFit North several years ago. Many of the ideas in the introduction are influenced as such. A copy of their skill standards can be found here.

For the change log, see Page 2.

Setting and Achieving Goals

I. Setting Goals
II. Commitment to Achievement
III.Goals List


Setting Goals

A problem that we often see with beginners is that they do not know how to set goals. Goals are an integral, yet often overlooked, component of an effective training program.   Sure, one can make progress without goals — but performance increases skyrocket when high quality goals are set.

Firstly, what is a goal?  According to Merriam Webster, goals are “the end toward which effort is directed.” In terms of training, high quality goals are tangible feats, measured by metrics, that you wish to accomplish.  Below are some examples of high quality goals:

  1. Perform 10 dips on parallel bars with good form.
  2. Run 400 meters in 60 seconds.
  3. Reduce body fat to 15%.
  4. Put on 10 pounds of muscle.
  5. Lose 10 pounds of fat.

Now, when most people set their goals for the first time it is common to see very low quality goals.  Low quality goals are typically not well defined and not based in a metric.  That is, they don’t include any numbers.  For example, some low quality goals are listed below:

  1. Improve on dips.
  2. Run without getting winded.
  3. Lose weight.
  4. Gain muscle mass.
  5. Get fit.

We want to establish high quality goals, based on numbers, because we can construct a routine around these goals.  In other words, routines are based on progressions towards high quality goals.  If you have a goal to perform 10 dips then it is logical that you need to first build up the capacity to perform a single dip, then 2 dips, then 3 dips, etc.

If you are still having a hard time understanding how to set high quality goals then you should keep the SMART model in mind:

Specific
Measureable
Action-Oriented
Realistic
Time and Resource Constrained

With that said, make sure that your goals are in line with your overarching objective.  Let’s use Bob and Alice as examples.  Bob wants to “get stronger” but has set a goal of 150 pushups in a single set.  This is somewhat lackluster since 150 pushups in a row is a feat of endurance, not a feat of strength.  In another example, Alice wants to “have great handstands” so a goal of performing 30 pullups will not move her closer to her goal.

An easy way to make sure that your SMART goals are in line with your ultimate aim, you should break down your desired movements into separate, distinct components.  Going back to Bob, he may want to consider pursuing high strength gymnastics techniques like the planche or perhaps set a goal of performing a squat with two times his body weight on his back.   Alice, by contrast, may want to break down the handstand into two separate SMART goals of holding a handstand for 2 minutes against the wall and perform a 30 second freestanding  handstand.

One caveat is that many trainees feel that they can improve their performance by sticking to low intensity body weight exercises.  An example of this is Bob; he wants to “get strong” by doing 150 pushups in a single set.  Speaking more generally, I understand that many people want to stick to bodyweight exercises because it is cheaper and more convenient than weightlifting. Bodyweight exercises are great because you don’t need to go into a gym where people are screaming and grunting while doing leg extensions – a definite plus. Let us be clear, though, doing 150 push-ups in a row does not mean you are strong – it means you have good endurance doing push-ups. If you wish to gain strength through bodyweight training then you must get creative and broaden your horizons. If you really have an interest in increasing endurance then you will find that it is much easier to see endurance gains when you are already very strong and powerful.

A lack of strength will always limit you in all other domains – technique, endurance, skill, balance, flexibility (active and passive), agility, coordination, etc. You must be strong in order to excel in all of these other domains. The converse is typically not true.  It is important to keep this in mind as you set your goals.

To understand how goals drive for progress then continue on to Page 2.