A modern use of the word gauntlet is to describe a long and trying
course involving a series of difficult tasks that are both mentally and
physically taxing. Sounds a little bit like parkour, right? One of the
greatest things about parkour is the unique perspective of which a
traceur views the environment. By using this same concept, any traceur
can develop a circuit of exercises that utilize every day obstacles and
apparatuses found in our natural and man made environments.
The Need for More Conditioning in Parkour
Most traceurs do not condition their bodies properly to withstand the great impacts and forces in parkour. While Gauntlets are not a solution on its own to solving this problem, they are a good supplemental training method that can be done anywhere and any time. I have found Gauntlet training to be highly beneficial and enriching to my own personal parkour training. Not only is it empowering to design your own course to condition your body using walls, rails, trees, and more, but the exercises performed in Gauntlets improve parkour skills and fitness levels. In my own Gauntlets, I have increased strength, endurance, creativity, technique, flexibility, problem solving, and more. Because of these reasons, I believe that every serious traceur should design and engage in a 2-4 hour Parkour Conditioning Gauntlet once a week.
Parkour Conditioning Gauntlet Q&A
Q: So what exactly is a Parkour Conditioning Gauntlet anyway?
A: A Parkour Conditioning Gauntlet, or Gauntlet for short is a conditioning method to improve your parkour fitness. Gauntlets are planned courses through the environment that convert walls, parking lots, rails, trees, and other obstacles into exercise apparatuses. Gauntlets involve many different challenges and exercises done in a sequential and continuous manner until the predefined course is complete. Gauntlets should be done with others so that you can push each other through the course. The typical Gauntlet is a mentally and physically grueling course that lasts around two hours. During this time, there should be no screwing around, no lagging, and no distractions in general. Gauntlets are for mental and physical training and should be done with great focus and motivation. Gauntlets should be done at least once a week to supplement other strength and conditioning training. Each week, the Gauntlet should be tweaked and the difficulty increased. This will prevent boredom and promote continual improvement.
Q: Why should I do a Gauntlet?
A: Gauntlets should be done for many reasons. You must get in good shape for parkour! This is an excellent way to do it because it is fun, unique, dynamic, creative, and challenging. It is a great way to improve your physical fitness and mental toughness. It builds a sense of teamwork when you push through the Gauntlet with others. Gauntlets are a lot like parkour, they adapt exercises and conditioning methods to the environment at hand. As a result, parkour skills such as balance, power, coordination, creativity, and problem solving will be increased.
Q: What does a Gauntlet consist of?
A: Beginning with a warm up, Gauntlets go on to utilize bodyweight exercises such as push ups, dips, sit-ups, pull-ups, muscle ups, static holds, and pistols. Gauntlets also include difficult parkour like movements such as shimmying, jumping, stemming, traversing, swinging, climbing, and quadrupedal movement. These movements are not only physically challenging, they also develop balance, strength, endurance, and coordination specific to parkour. In addition, Gauntlets may include other short challenges and transitions designed to practice aspects of parkour such as problem solving, creativity, and stealth.
Q: Where should I do my Gauntlet?
A: First of all, you want to find a location with a variety of obstacles. To fully maximize a diverse and well rounded Gauntlet, the location will also need to be large. Some of the best Gauntlet material to look for includes handicap ramps, trees, a variety of walls and ledges, and stair cases. Good places to start looking are parks, universities, schools, and parking garages. Once you have found a location, your Gauntlet is only limited by your ambition and creativity to use your surroundings.
Q: What conditioning exercises should be included in my Gauntlet?
A: Be sure to start with an easy Gauntlet so that you can increase its difficulty over time. Address the weaknesses of yourself and your group by designing your Gauntlet accordingly. Legs are generally the most neglected body part in parkour so be sure to include a lot of leg exercises! The best Gauntlets are designed to have no wasted time. Design your Gauntlet so that you are always doing something. If you are doing a Gauntlet with a group, design it so that people must do an exercise while waiting for everyone to finish. This increases the teamwork aspect as everyone has further motivation not to lag behind or let others lag behind. See the bottom of this article for ideas on exercises to include in your Gauntlet.
See the exercise lists following the Q&A to view some of the potential exercises to include in your Gauntlet. However, do not be limited by what you see on the list. Strive to be creative and adaptive to the environment you are in.
Q: What else should be included in my Gauntlet?
A: Anything you want! Be creative and make your Gauntlet unique to the environment you are in. Throw in a couple unique challenges like traversing a particularly tricky area of obstacles, climbing to the top of a lamp post, moving through an area as quietly as possible, or getting through a small but unique set up as fast as possible. The possibilities to devise challenges like these are endless and they will help develop problem solving and creativity, important skills to have in parkour. Challenges are important parts of Gauntlets because they can provide a moment of rest to relieve fatigue and lighten the mood after a particularly physically demanding section of the Gauntlet.
Q: Awesome…um, so what now?
A: Go out and design a Gauntlet at your local university, park, or somewhere else. Gather some traceurs together to go through and refine it. Once you have a good Gauntlet, set up a weekly day and time so that everyone can get together to do the Gauntlet. No excuses, just get out there and be productive!
Potential Gauntlet Exercises
For ideas on what to include in your Gauntlet, check out the Exercises section of APK Training. However, there are infinite possibilities when designing a Gauntlet, so do not limit yourself to what is listed on this website.
The Gauntlet at the University of Colorado at Boulder
Gauntlets should be thought of as works in progress. There is always room to improve your Gauntlet. Gauntlets are shaped and formed by the environment they are in and the imagination and experiences of the people who design them. Always strive to increase the difficulty of your Gauntlet over time and refresh its format to keep it interesting.
The following example is a sample Gauntlet at the University of Colorado at Boulder. This Gauntlet takes approximately two hours to complete.
We meet at stage one of the Gauntlet and proceed to warm up with jogging, dynamic stretching, broad jump burpees, and QM.
Once we are warmed up, we begin stage one of the Gauntlet. We begin by
getting on top of the wall and duck walking (1) to the corner where we
stop to do ten dips (2). We then waist shimmy the next portion of the
wall (3). Next, we do a pistol walk (4). For the last portion of the
wall, we do a hang shimmy (5).
Once we get to the end of the hang shimmy portion (6), we step down and
cat balance along the wall (7). Upon reaching the end of the wall, we
hop down and horizontally stem between the rail and wall (8).
At the end of the rail, we hop down and jog over to the nearby
handicap ramp. We do broad jump burpees up the incline (9) followed by
basic quadrupedal movement along the top part of the ramp and down the
stairs (10). Near the base of the stairs, we do twenty push ups (11)
and twenty sit ups (12). We then go back to the previously used walls
and do five climb ups (13) and a thirty second wall hang (14).
This completes one round of stage one. We do three rounds at stage one.
From stage one, we jog over to a little puzzle (15). One by one, each
person must start in a hang position on the wall, get through the black
metal hoop, and end up hanging on the other side of the hoop. Then, you
must do the same thing in reverse, ending up where you started. This
must be completed without touching the ground.
Next, we sprint 100 meters (16) to the second challenge (17) in between
stages. Here, everyone must climb up and down the lamp post.
After the lamp post climb, we make the short walk over to the start of
stage two. Stage two begins with a long traverse (18). You must
traverse three portions of the wall and the three pillars that separate
them. If your feet touch the ground, you need to rest, or you fall off,
you must start again at the point you left off at. The walls are made
of stones that stick out anywhere from an inch to not at all. As the
picture suggests, many rock climbers train here, leaving behind chalk
Once the traverse is complete, you must do basic quadrupedal movement
around the corner (19) to the precision jump circuit (20). The
precision jump circuit consists of seven jumps. The wall on the left to
the square, the square to the other side of the square, the square to
the bench, the 180 hop from bench to bench, the bench to the square,
the square to the other side of the square, and finally, the square to
the wall that you started on. This is one circuit. The goal is to
complete five perfect circuits. A perfect circuit means no wasted
steps, hops, or jumps and no falling or slipping off the targets. A
perfect circuit emphasizes control, technique, speed, and precision.
Once five perfect circuits have been completed, we make a short sprint
over to an overhang in which we complete an arms only hanging shimmy
from one side to the other (21).
Next, we do walking lunges (22) for thirty meters to a large staircase.
We proceed to do two rounds of backwards quadrupedal movement up the
two flights of stairs (23) and two rounds of squat hops back down (24).
To finish off this area, we cat balance up the side of the stair case
Now that stage two has been completed, we jog about 400 meters (26) to
a basketball hoop. Here, you must climb up, do either five muscle ups
or twenty-five kipping pull ups, and then climb down (27). While
waiting for everyone to finish, you must hold yourself in a front plank
position. We then jog another 400 meters (28) to the beginning of stage
Once at stage three, we begin at another staircase. We start by doing a
hang shimmy and dynos up the multi level side of the wall (29). Once at
the top, we climb up and over the wall and do squat hops down the
stairs (30). Upon reaching the bottom, we turn around at cat balance up
the stair rail to the top (31). We then do forwards quadrupedal
movement down the stairs (32) immediately followed by forwards crab
walk back up the stairs (33). We then walk down to the bottom of the
stairs and do five pistols each leg (34) and five wall climb ups (35).
This completes one round of stage three. We do three rounds total at
Stage four begins at the top of the stairs. What we are at is a
large parking garage that is about 50 meters by 75 meters with walls
and other obstacles encircling the parking garage. Unlike the other
stages, stage four is more open ended in its movements. The challenge
of stage four is to traverse the entire perimeter of the parking garage
without touching the ground. We pretend that the ground is lava. In
addition, you cannot touch the vegetation. We pretend that the
vegetation is like an electric fence. In addition to simply traversing
the car park with these two simple guidelines, we also focus on being
as silent as possible.
With these three simple “rules”, we
set off around the obstacle rich parking garage. We are forced to use
quadrupedal movement underneath tree branches, wall climbs, precision
jumps, hanging shimmies, cat leaps, and more. The goal is to complete
the entire stage with silence, stealth, speed, and efficiency. There
are several tricky parts to the course and chances are, you will not
complete it your first time without being “burned by lava” or “shocked
by electricity”. This is a great challenge that utilizes many parkour
like movements in an imaginary life or death situation. Essentially, it
is parkour in its true form, the intent to overcome obstacles in a life
or death situation. Obviously, the only difference is our life or death
situation is imaginary.
Here is a sample of the obstacles
undertaken in stage four. Use your imagination to figure out how you
would complete the stage.
Once you have finished your journey around the parking garage, your
muscles will be burning, you will be short of breath, and your hands
will be torn up. But it is worth it because you have just accomplished
a long and difficult course. If you did it with a group and everyone
made it, you should be proud of everyone because you pushed each other
along the way and improved your fitness and discipline. If you did it
alone, you should also be proud, knowing that you alone are capable of
pushing yourself through something very challenging. By finishing a
Gauntlet, you are becoming more physically adept and developing the
strong mental discipline required to be successful in parkour.
Congratulations, you have completed a Parkour Conditioning Gauntlet and
are on your way toward many more successful parkour and fitness