Entries by Chad Zwadlo

Functional Wrist Strength Warm Up Exercises

build functional wrist strength

The human wrist is kind of a pathetic, weak joint naturally.  For us athletes to be able to do the things we want (like handstands, vaults, quadrupedal movement, etc.) it’s very important for us to build good functional strength in the wrists so we don’t injure them.  But before any of that, a good warm up for the wrists will get you ready for any strength training or just regular use of the wrists.  I’ve been focusing a ton on my wrist conditioning over the last couple years, and here’s a great little wrist warm up for you to use!

wrist exercises

Start off in a Table Top position with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips.  Your fingers should be pointed straight forward, keep your elbows nice and straight, then lean forward until you feel the stretch in your wrists.  While doing this, push into the floor with your fingers to help build functional strength in this position.  If you look down at your fingers, you should see your fingertips turning white as you push into them.  Do this for 10 to 15 repetitions holding each one in front for a second or so.

wrist exercises

In the same position as the last exercise, push into your fingers to lift your palms up off the ground while keeping your first knuckle on the ground.  When you first start doing this you probably won’t get very high with the hands and that’s ok!  The farther you have your shoulders forward, the harder this exercise will be.  So play with the distance and find where you can do it but it’s still a challenge.  Hit 10-15 repetitions keeping the elbows nice and straight.

wrist warm up

Next, point your fingers to the outside and circle your shoulders around while keeping your elbows straight.  As you’re doing this, be sure to push into the ground against the directions your moving to once again build that functional wrist strength.  We do this with the thumbs forward and fingers out to strengthen the more stable side of the wrist (the thumb side).  You don’t really need to do this with your fingers pointed in and pinky forward because that will focus on the weaker side of the wrist joint (the pinky side) which you really shouldn’t be using much anyway.  Make 5-10 circles in each direction before moving on.

wrist warm up

Now point the fingers backward, keep your elbows straight and push slightly through the shoulders.  Lean back away from your hands until your palms lift off the floor.  This will likely feel like a pretty intense stretch when you first start working on this, so take it slow.  Do 5-10 moving repetitions before holding the back position for 30 seconds.  This will not only build that wrist strength we’re looking for, but also build up some flexibility in this extremely important direction.

functional wrist strength exersice

This one is a bit strange and may take some practice.  Keep in mind this isn’t actually a “stretch” and is just used to move the joint around and increase some fluid inside the joint.  Put your hands together and the back of one hand on the ground.  From that position you’ll spiral your elbow down to the floor and back up to straight again.  You can certainly add some stretching to this movement as well by leaning toward your fingers.  I typically will do 10 spirals, then stretch 30 seconds with my elbow rolled one direction, then 5 more spirals and stretch another 30 seconds with my elbow rolled the other way.

functional wrist strength exercise

Finally, one last back of the hand stretch and conditioning movement.  Any time your working on the back side of your wrists, be sure to take things very slowly.  It will probably be years of training before you can put any real weight on the back of your wrists and that’s fine, we’re mostly doing it just to stay balanced on both sides of the forearm.  Start this one on your knuckles, control the drop down to the back of your wrists with your elbows straight (this is where you’ll feel the stretch), then bend your elbows down to the ground before going back up, stopping for a moment with your elbows straight before lifting back up to the knuckles just to get a little stretch in.  Repeat for 10-15 reps.

Building quality functional wrist strength will take a lot of time and commitment.  I recommend spending at least 10 to 15 minutes doing these wrist warm up exercises before any workout.  You can certainly do these 4 or more times a week.  When you first start out be very aware of how your wrists feel throughout the day.  You shouldn’t have any consistent wrist pain, even when working on strengthening them.  Take it slow, trust the process, and have fun with it!

                            – Chad Zwadlo

The Basic Parkour Landing

Parkour and Freerunning tend to be rather high impact sports.  Especially considering the surfaces we usually train on (concrete).  If you’re looking to learn Parkour, a great place to start is working on your landings.  Good form in our landings is probably the single most important aspect of keeping us healthy through years of training in our fields.  Here, we will talk about how to perform the basic Parkour landings.

The most basic landing we call a “slap out” landing.

As we are hitting the ground, the goal is to reduce the impact absorbed by our joints as much as possible.  To do this, we try to use the maximum amount of muscle to slow ourselves down to the ground instead of just hitting the floor.  The first aspect of this is landing on the balls of our feet (the knuckles just behind our toes).  This allows us to use our calf muscles and ankles to absorb the initial shock of impact.  Then we engage your glutes, hamstrings, and quads to resist against to pressure until we hit the position of basically sitting on top of our heals.  We should use a constant resistance to slow down throughout this range of motion so we don’t absorb too much at the beginning or hit the final position with too much force sill moving downward.  Finally, we should be pushing with your palms against the ground with your arms in between our knees.  We want to keep our knees aligned over our toes so we don’t put sideways pressure on our knee joints.  Also, we are sure to use the palm of our hand and not our fingertips as our thumb joint is not strong enough to take impact pressure.

The best way to tell if we are landing properly is by listening to it.  A proper landing should be extremely quiet!  This will take a ton of practice, but it should be something we are working on constantly.  There is no such thing as a landing that is too quiet.  Any noise at all is impact that is being absorbed by our joints and possibly doing damage.  Some will argue that different shoes will cause variations in sounds, but no matter what we are wearing we should be trying to be as quiet as possible.  If we really want realistic training, we work on our landings on concrete while barefoot (be careful!  This can hurt a lot!).

For more forceful landings (higher drops), a basic slap out is not usually the best choice.  Instead of absorbing the energy, we want to redirect it forward.

The best technique for this is obviously the parkour roll.  We are planning on making an entirely different post about the roll, so watch for that one in the future 🙂  Until then, check out these:

Roll Tutorial by Levi M.

Roll Tutorial by Amos R.

We can also push our downward force forward on smaller drops if that feels better than absorbing it all.  There are a variety of techniques for this, explore the movement for yourself and see what you can come up with!

Coaching Qualifications in Parkour

So there’s been some interesting things come up lately that have made me think a bit about the community of parkour coaches in the US.  Now, I’ve made the controversial blog topic before and I know what the fallout can be like, so I’m going to start this with a big disclaimer.  I do not in any way mean to insult or slander any of the other parkour coaches or gyms or communities or anything out there!  I have the utmost respect for anyone who even attempts to make a living teaching this thing that we all love, and I wish you all great success with your classes and your gyms.  Now on to the serious stuff.


Best Parkour class in Minnesota

It’s fairly easy to tell a great parkour athlete.  They have all the crazy pictures and videos, everyone knows their names, they can do all the big tricks, they have millions of hits on their youtube videos.  But does any of that make them a good coach?  When it comes to teaching other people, none of that matters at all.  In my experience (and most other people that I’ve talked to) most of the time it tends to mean the opposite.  Some athletes have insane talent that lets them learn things super fast and their bodies can do amazing things with very little effort.  These people tend to not understand that the normal person doesn’t learn that fast and needs progressions and techniques.  So when they try to teach, they don’t seem to do as well with any student who needs extra attention.  Obviously this isn’t always true, it’s just been my experience.


Chad Coaching the best parkour class in Minnesota

So how do we tell if someone is a great parkour instructor?  It’s not like they are going to get a million hits on youtube for their amazing instruction (unless they are making great tutorials, but even then it seems to be more about popularity than actual teaching skills). No one is winning any prestigiuos awards for teaching the best Parkour class in Minnesota. Nor will they get very well known at all except in their own communities.  Is how famous someone is in any way related to their teaching ability at all?  And should a good coach be concerned with getting famous for it?


I recently had a conversation with another high level coach from another state about the possibility of him coming out to Fight or Flight to run a seminar (or if you look at it conversely, me going out there to run a similar seminar).  We realized that it wouldn’t be very beneficial for either of these things to happen.  Partially because we are already both great instructors so our students don’t need us to fly anyone else in to teach things that they are already learning, and partially because we are not at all well known in each others communities.  What’s the point of having an unknown person come in to teach something that you’re already teaching?  (This wasn’t the actual full topic of conversation, but the gist was close enough)

My personal take on this is that I’ve always loved learning from as many people as possible.  As a martial arts student, I took classes from every instructor at the school I was learning at, as they all taught things a little differently.  Now as an instructor I feel like I can learn a lot from seeing other people teach, and I also believe that they can learn things from me as well.  That was the reason that I tried to do the professional parkour instructors conference here at Fight or Flight last summer.  But in the end only a very small handful of coaches showed up.  I felt like it could have been a fantastic way for us all to get together and learn from each other, but apparently not many other people saw it that way.


Best Parkour classes in Minnesota

The problem(?) I see in all this is that the parkour teaching community is divided right now.  It’s pretty easy to see the divide by the certifications that have been popping up.  There are the APK certified crew that is mostly East Coast, the APEX certified crew that is West Coast, and the WFPF certified crew that kind of takes up everything that falls through the cracks of the other two.  And even in the last couple years I’ve seen things that I thought could have been better if people were more willing to work together, but the events have not reached their full potential because of this split.  I’ve also seen plenty of not-so-friendly debates happen simply because people are on opposite sides.


This whole divide (and the entire topic of this blog post) might even be kind of silly simply because it seems to be based on who “teaches the best.”  And Alissa brought up a wonderful point about this on facebook that teaching itself isn’t exactly a new idea that can be revolutionized in any way.  Teaching is teaching, no matter what the subject, and people have been doing it since Socrates. So no matter who you learn to teach from (assuming you learn properly), we’re probably all amazing teachers.  That’s why I’m not really sure if this is so much of a problem because maybe the competition will simply make us work harder and in the end things will turn out better.  As long as we all just trying to always teach the best Parkour classes possible, I think it might work out.

Response to “The Split”

There is a classic old post by Stephane Vigroux that you should definitely check out here 

As well as Kurt Gowan’s response here

And honestly I think they are overreacting a little bit.  In our community in Minnesota where I have been teaching Parkour and Freerunning classes for over a decade, I don’t see this problem very much at all.  And where I do see it, I see a very easy way we can counter it.  By TEACHING…you know, like we’re supposed to.

Of course I’m going to get a lot of crap from this.  People will say things like “Of course you don’t see it, your one of them that just goes out and does huge flips all day and films it all and puts it up on youtubes.  And you’re one of the guys that owns a parkour gym and you host parkour competitions.”  Yes, that’s somewhat accurate.  But I’ve also been training parkour for 20 years.  And I spent about 10 of those years without filming anything because I hated cameras and I hated the way it was all about doing big tricks and putting yourself out on youtube and I hated indoor training because it wasn’t “real”.  But you know what?  I got over all that.

I have also been all over the country (sadly I can’t say I’ve been all over the world, but I’ve certainly met and trained with people who came from all over the world).  And I have met a ton of people who completely understand what parkour is and train it exactly as the original founders would have wanted it.  Of course these people are usually the ones who have been training the longest.  I think what these two articles are focusing too much on is the younger crowd and how they don’t “understand” the sport.  You know why the younger crowd doesn’t understand?  BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT TEACHING THEM TO UNDERSTAND!  I would say if anything, the younger crowd isn’t understanding because the older crowd is neglecting them. 

I encourage everyone who thinks this is a huge problem with the world (Including Stephane and Kurt) to come hang out with us and train with us in Minnesota and see how we do things up here.  Train at our gym and take some of our Parkour and Freerunning classes to see how we teach.  Come to our jams and meet our community.  Maybe it will restore a little of your faith in the future of parkour.  Just make sure you come with an open mind and don’t judge based on what you think you’ve seen on youtube and the fact that we have a gym, and yes…we hold competitions

Parkour and freerunning classes in Minnesota