Category Archives: Parkour

Kip-up Tutorial

The kip-up is a bodyweight skill that comes up in many disciplines including calisthenics, martial arts and parkour. It’s a great way to work on explosive power, hip drive and total body coordination. Plus if you ever fall on your butt during your training, returning to your feet via kip-up is the best way to redeem yourself.

On the other hand, you’ll probably look pretty dumb while trying to learn to kip-up, so if you’re shy about flailing around in public, better to practice this one at home. I also recommend using a soft surface for training this technique.

Kipping It Real
As the kip-up is a fairly advanced technique, I don’t recommend working on it unless you are already fairly lean and strong (and have healthy joints). I also suggest getting comfortable with back bridges first to make sure your spine is ready.

To perform a kip-up, begin by lying on your back with your palms flat on the ground on either side of your head. From there, roll your thighs up toward your shoulders and get ready to explode from your hips. To land a successful kip-up, you’ll have to kick your legs up and out as hard as you can and push off with your hands a split second later.

Kipping Point
Think about whipping your legs around in a circle so you land toward your toes. You want to try to get your feet under your center of gravity so you don’t fall backwards. Timing is crucial to landing this move and it takes a lot of trial and error. As always, be patient and keep at it. I’m still practicing toward putting more pop in my kip-up; fitness training is always a work in progress.

Watch the video below for more:

Human Flags Everywhere!

The first time I ever tried to do a human flag was on the support beam of a cable machine at my old gym. I jumped up and squeezed as hard as I could but didn’t come close to staying up for even a second. I was pretty strong at the time too. After all, I was almost 30 years old and had been working out for most of my life by that point. Not one to be easily discouraged, I immediately made it my mission to master this feat of strength.

Self Flag-ellation

In spite of my early difficulties with the human flag, I pushed onward with my training. I began practicing flag variations with my arms and/or legs bent and eventually managed to get a little air. I stared using an actual pole, and was able to add a second or two every few weeks to my bent flag holds. Progress came slowly and after several months, I finally began building up to full holds. During this time I also trained pull-ups, handstand push-ups and planks, all of which help build strength for the human flag.

Raise Your Flag
I’ve now been consistently practicing for a few years and my flag skills have come a long way. Whereas I could only hold a straight-leg flag on an angle when starting out, I can now hold a full human flag with my body level to the ground for several seconds.

Be patient when beginning with this feat – part of what makes the human flag so impressive is that it is hard! If any guy who felt strong could master this move in three days, it wouldn’t really be much of a feat at all.

Odd Objects
Ever since I began human flagging, I’ve gotten a kick out of trying to pull off this feat in unexpected places. Any tall, sturdy object is a potential place to let it fly. I love a good outdoor workout and in a city like New York, there are so many fun places to practice human flags!

My brother Danny and I recently ventured around the city looking for new places to attempt the human flag. We flagged on phone booths, mail boxes and other everyday urban objects.

Check out the video below for more:

Epic Calisthenics Meet-up

This past Saturday, the best of the best from the NYC calisthenics scene got together to train at my favorite outdoor gym, Tompkins Square Park – and I was fortunate enough to be a part of the action!

Members of the world-famous Bar-barians, as well as Team Beastmode, Calisthenics Kingz and many others all united to train together, share their knowledge and feed off each others’ good energy.

Also on hand to represent NYC’s parkour community was Keith Horan, who dazzled the crowd with his blend of calisthenics and freerunning.

Throughout the afternoon there was no shortage of advanced moves like muscle-ups, L-sits, levers, handstand push-ups, planches and human flags. I also saw innovative variations and combinations of moves unlike anything I’d ever witnessed before. In spite of the intensity of the exercises, the vibe was casual and welcoming. In the end, we all had a good time and a great workout – my arms are still sore as I type this!

Watch the video below to see some of the action from this epic meet-up:

Freerunning and Parkour

While freerunning and parkour both involve traversing urban obstacles with quickness, skill and grace, there are subtle differences between the two styles of movement.

It may be common to see a back flip or a human flag in freerunning, but you won’t see those moves in parkour unless they are needed in order to get from point A to point B.

Parkour is chiefly concerned with efficiency, while freerunning is more about fun and personal style. Whatever your preference, movement offers each individual a chance for self-expression and personal growth. The workouts are about overcoming obstacles, both literal and figurative. Parkour and freerunning can build strength, agility and stamina, but perhaps more importantly, confidence and character.

Last spring, when I was beginning parkour, I started by practicing some basic moves like underbars and precision jumping at Tompkins Square Park. As I got more comfortable, I progressed to trying things out in other places. After all, parkour is about adapting to your environment and not feeling restricted by circumstance.

Since I love both styles, I’ve been combining different elements from each in my fitness training. We had a beautiful day here in NYC on Monday so I did some freerunning and parkour around the neighborhood, making my way to TSP where I worked on kip-ups, vaults and of course, muscle-ups.

Watch the video below to see how it went:

Bodyweight Training in NYC

Last week I got the chance to meet up with Mike Fitch and Rebecca Evans from GlobalBodyweightTraining.com while they were in town visiting New York City.

I took them to Tompkins Square Park, where we played around with some parkour moves, including animal crawls and vaults. We also had fun with other bodyweight exercises like muscle-ups and hand balancing.

It’s a pleasure to get to train with such skilled bodyweight technicians. We had a good time and a great workout!

Go to GlobalBodyweightTraining.com to see additional photos from our session and watch the video below for more. Special thanks to Karen Mahar for shooting and editing this video.

Sets In The City

Always on the hunt for fun and creative ways to exercise, my brother Danny and I recently ventured out to practice some of our moves throughout the streets of Manhattan.

In addition to the usual array of scaffold pull-ups, muscle-ups and dips, we also practiced human flags, shrimp squats and hand balancing. It was chilly out, but after working out in the snow, this was a breeze.

For those of you who have a hard time fitting exercise into your day, remember that fitness and life are one in the same. You don’t need a gym to work out when the whole world is a playground!

Watch the video below for more:

Snow Workout!

NYC just got hit with the biggest snowstorm we’ve had in over a decade, but that didn’t stop me from working out at Tompkins Square Park yesterday morning.

In fact, the snow made my workout a lot more fun!

In addition to my usual regimen of pull-ups, muscle-ups and dips, I also did some parkour training. After all, parkour is about overcoming obstacles and a blizzard is just another obstacle to work around!

Snow Excuses

If you’re serious about getting in shape or improving your fitness, there is no reason that you can’t make time for a workout no matter what else is going on. Even if you have to fit in a quick at-home workout with no equipment, you can always dedicate at least a few minutes a day to improving your body.

I’m not saying you have to go out in a blizzard in order to get some exercise, but if you do, make sure to dress warm and layer your clothing. Once you get moving out there, you might be surprised how fun and invigorating cold weather workouts can actually be!

Watch the video below for more:

The Elusive Freestanding Handstand

If you aim to master your bodyweight, the freestanding handstand is an essential skill. More than developing any one area, the freestanding handstand will help you learn to use your muscles together, allowing your entire body to function as a single unit. Developing this ability is important as you progress towards more difficult bodyweight exercises like levers and the human flag.

Before attempting a freestanding handstand, I recommend getting comfortable with simpler inversions like headstands and handstands against a wall. From there, move on to practicing basic hand balances like the crow pose.

Off The Wall

The freestanding handstand can be intimidating because there is nothing to catch you if you fall. You must take a leap of faith and go in with confidence that your body will know what to do if you tip over. If you’re having a hard time getting over your nerves, it can help to have a spotter. I also recommend practicing on a soft surface like grass or rubber.

While a freestanding handstand can be a challenging shoulder and arm workout when held for long enough, the balance is typically the most difficult part to learn. It takes a lot of time to find the “sweet spot” between over-balancing (tipping over) or under-balancing (falling back to your feet).

Unlike your foot, which was made for standing, your hand doesn’t have a true heel, so it’s best to put slightly more weight in your fingers than in your palms when balancing on them. If you are a tiny bit over-balanced, you can stay up by pressing your fingers into the ground. When you’re under-balanced, there is less you can do to keep from coming down.

A Tale of Two Handstands
In modern gymnastics, handstands are performed with a perfectly straight line from top to bottom. For this reason, a lot of people will tell you that arching your back during a handstand is bad form. In my experience, however, it is helpful to allow your back to arch while you are learning to find the balance. In time, you can work on reaching your legs upward, pressing into the floor and tightening your abs, lower back and glutes to achieve an aesthetically pleasing straight line from head to toe (or hands to toe as the case may be).

Practice, Practice, Practice
Transitioning from a handstand against a wall to a freestanding handstand is a challenging and potentially discouraging process. I was terrible at hand balancing when I started out, but I’ve been practicing for a while now. For me, the key has been consistency; I rarely miss a day of practice, even if it’s just a couple of minutes at the end of a workout. Some days it comes harder than others, but when I fall, I just get up and try again.


For more information, check out my book, Pushing The Limits! – Total Body Strength With No Equipment.

Nothing to Fear

While running down a flight of stairs trying to catch a train, I was recently made aware of a phenomenon that prevents many of us from reaching our potential. At the top of the stairs I could not run quickly, not because it was crowded, but because my body was afraid of mis-stepping.

When your body senses the risk of danger to be higher, skills that would normally be performed with no hesitation will suddenly cause nervousness. This is essentially why a fear of heights can be paralyzing for some.

If you’ve ever stood on the balcony of a tall building with a relatively low railing, you might have felt tentative approaching the edge. While you would never worry about falling over a low fence that was on level ground, as soon as that same scenario is 20 or 50 feet in the air, your perspective can change.

Nature or Nurture?
This fear of heights is likely an evolutionary defense mechanism built into humans to prevent us from falling, but since childhood, most of us have also been told by parents and teachers not to jump, climb or hang from things that are high up, so it’s hard to determine where to draw the line between intuition and conditioned behavior.

Whatever the reason for it, our fear holds us back more than it helps us. I’m not saying to disregard what your intuition is telling you, but rather to gradually push the limits back.

Face Your Fear
To reprogram yourself to move beyond this performance inhibiting behavior, you must start slowly. Go to a park and try doing a precision jump on ground level. Just a long jump with both feet taking off together and landing together. No running start. Now count how many feet you jumped.

The next step is to find two sturdy, elevated objects several feet from the ground that are closer together than the distance you just jumped. Since you know that you can cover this distance (you just did a longer jump on the ground!), you should be able to quiet that fear enough to give it a shot. Once you get comfortable with that, find a place to practice jumping a slightly longer distance. In time, you’ll be able to jump just as far while up high as you can on the ground, maybe even farther!

I also suggest experimenting with other parkour moves, like vaults to help you overcome your fears. Climbing a tree is another great way to build confidence.

Continue to push back your perceived limitations with consistent practice and in time, you’ll eventually be able to shut out fear and replace it with courage. You might even find that confidence sneaking into other aspects of your life.

Advanced Pistol Squatting

The pistol squat is a challenging exercise, but with consistent practice, it can become relatively easy. Once you can do 10 repetitions on each leg, you should try adding a new challenge.

My two favorite ways to do this are by bringing weights into the picture or adding a balance component. If you want to use weights, I recommend kettlebells, but dumbbells or barbells can also be effective. Start by holding the weight in front of you in the rack position. Once you get that down, you can try holding a weight overhead during a pistol squat.

If you choose to add a balance element to your pistol training, start by standing on a bosu ball or a half foam roller. For an extra challenge, you can try a pistol while standing on a bar.

Once you are ready to try a one legged squat on a bar, you’ll need to practice catching yourself so you can land safely if you lose your balance. For this reason, it is best to begin practicing with a low bar. Knowing how to bail out of a botched attempt without getting hurt is essential before trying a pistol squat on a high bar.

Attempting an exercise like a pistol squat on top of an 8 foot high bar might sound crazy, but with gradual progression it doesn’t have to be risky. Build your confidence little by little and you might find that the ability to overcome your fears on the bars will carry over into the rest of your life. When you find yourself doing things you once thought impossible, remember that our only limits are the ones we impose on ourselves.

Watch the video below for more: