I promised I would return with some reactions and results to my recent changes in training methodology and I can happily confirm the outcome of using more technically relevant exercises to improve my Parkour has been nothing but positive.
In five weeks I've added 4 inches to my horizontal standing jump distance, which may not sound like a lot but I feel it is considering I also 'felt' this progression bit by bit in my mind. My legs feel stronger than they have ever been, not only in their ability to propel my body forwards and upwards, but in their ability to resist impacts and landings.
My upper body feels so much more coordinated and less like a series of individually functioning parts. My grip strength and endurance have improved and although it's hard to measure these I feel a lot more comfortable traversing with just my arms.
Perhaps the most important development has been in my mental state. Not that physical training and conditioning has ever been considered a burden but it is so much more rewarding to know I'm not only building strength and endurance, but I'm fine tuning technical aspects and keeping the work rate high to also benefit my cardiovascular system. The other refreshing aspect is being able to vary my surroundings a lot more and work with a different set of obstacles each time I train.
There are some important issues that I need to highlight with this method of training.
1) I feel you must have a very solid foundation level of fitness before you consider trying this. I know if I had not devoted so much time to gradual leg development in the past then these past five weeks could have given me a severe case of shin splints and other overtraining symptoms. The same can be said for the upper body training. It has been so much more intense and demanding that I feel I would have done some damage to my shoulders or elbows if I had jumped in to this training before I was ready. Some people might disagree but I would not recommend this method of training to anyone with less than a year or two of experience in more traditional strength training methods.
2) You need to learn how to rest. I recommend you work really hard during your training sessions, give 100% effort then rest sufficiently to allow the muscles, joints and tendons to repair and recover. This might take two days, it might even take three. This is fine. Your old routine might demand you train legs Monday and Wednesday but your body does not understand 'days', it sometimes takes longer to heal from a very intense session. Drink plenty of water and stretch regularly.
3) Be disciplined and well-rounded. Don't let this type of training break your overall focus and don't give in to temptation. It would be easy to fall in to the trap of only training the traditional muscle groups and in the same way each time because you enjoy a certain exercise. But you must remember that Parkour is simultaneously all-inclusive and all-exclusive in its demands for fitness. In principal it's a perfect method of training the body. There are no limits or constraints to the possible dimensions of an obstacle so we need to train every muscle and fibre in our bodies equally and in proportion to avoid muscular imbalances, neurological weaknesses and general weak-links in the overall chain.
We are not training our bodies for arm jumps, precisions and passes - we are training our bodies for every conceivable obstacle and those techniques are merely potential solutions, not the solutions, so remember to vary your training for every eventuality.
I am aware that some people have criticised both myself and this method recently, stating it is dangerous and non-complete and will lead to weaknesses and overtraining symptoms. I urge these people to be even more scientific in their responses and judge this method by the results, not by the theories. Look at the long-term results of this method not by studying me or by comparing it to other activities, but by studying the guys who have been using it for over 10 years and are the best in the world at what they do. It is unfair to begin to judge this method if you do not first understand what Parkour is - to understand it takes a considerable amount of time practicing it.
It is obvious that the most effective way to build raw strength is by putting the muscle under gradually greater tension and this is more easily achievable and manageable by lifting weights... but this is irrelevant in a discipline that requires at least as much mental development and strengthening as it does physical. Most competitive sports focus entirely on physical performance but Parkour is easily and often misunderstood as just an activity where being able to jump the furthest and run the fastest is the goal.