Landings in parkour vs gymnastics: Don’t stick it! Melanie Hunt gives us a short tutorial on how to land and roll safely.
One of the number one rules in gymnastics is to stick every landing. Don’t bobble, don’t move a foot, and make sure you keep as rigidly still as possible. From a balance perspective this can be helpful in parkour. However, that momentum that travels through the thick mats (or spring floor) in gymnastics is NOT absorbed by concrete when training parkour outside. It only takes a few times of bruising the balls of your feet (yes, even through tennis shoes) to see that landing softly (or rolling) is a fundamental skill – and one that is essential for safe training!
A good technique to use when landing from a high jump or trick is the shoulder roll. Rolls help divert momentum, expanding it over a larger area of the body rather than putting all the weight on the soles of the feet. In parkour we use the shoulder roll, NOT the forward roll.
Consider for a moment which parts of your body come in contact with the ground on a forward roll. Now, imagine a forward roll on concrete – the back of the head, vertebra in the neck and spine, and tailbone would take the brunt of the force. Ouch!
Therefore, in parkour we learn to adapt to the surroundings and roll over one shoulder. Just like in gymnastics, the first part that comes into contact with the ground is your hands, which you use to control the initial momentum of the roll, and lower yourself to the ground. However, instead of placing them down parallel on the ground you cross one over the other so that the ground comes in contact with your bottom hand, shoulder, and then the more ‘meaty’ areas of your back. You feel the ground move across your back diagonally instead of vertically. The more power you have going into the roll, the happier you will be that your spine is not taking the brunt of the force as you stand up smoothly, ready for the next skill.