Films like Brick Mansions, Casino Royal, and Assassin’s Creed don’t show any science tricks. These athletes are part of a worldwide community who practice parkour, a similar activity to gymnastics that was develop from military obstacles courses. Parkour is a way to move quickly and efficiently in a complex environment.
Our research has shown that science can make parkour more efficient. This includes maximizing your landing opportunities and running up walls faster. Even if you don’t intend to play the sport, it’s still an amazing thing to see.
Traceurs Et Traceuses
Parkour is recognize as a sport in certain countries. However, it is impossible to know how many people participate worldwide. Parkour is an unorganized activity, which could be part of its subculture appeal.
Parkour athletes can appear reckless to casual observers. However, most parkour athletes train hard and practice a wide range of individual skills as they move through the environment. The sport is divide into traceurs (males) and traceuses (females).
Parkour’s individual movements are similar to other sports like gymnastics and trail running.
Parkour is a lesser-studied sport than other mainstream ones. It is regrettable because both shared the same fundamental principles for generating and redirecting momentum. All of these activities can benefit from a better understanding of them.
Run Up Walls Science
Many parkour enthusiasts are fascinated by the feat traceurs perform to climb high walls and get onto buildings. Parkour athletes use parkour to climb high buildings. They run towards the wall, kick off with one or more contacts, and then sprint toward the wall. This allows them to jump higher than a standing vertical jump and allows them to move more efficiently in urban environments.
We embedded a force plate into the ground and another force plate on the wall to see how athletes manage this wall run. Then, we filmed participants approaching the wall. We observed how the athletes used a consistent transition strategy, which relied on specific actions on the wall and floor to redirect their bodies.
Parkour guides may recommend that athletes cross the floor and wall simultaneously. However, we didn’t observe this as the traceurs left the floor before touching the wall.
Moving Science Momentum
We wanted to understand how best to place our feet on the wall and ground, as well as the effects of different approaches speeds. We created a computer simulation to optimize each.
The model matched what we had observed, which was an intermediate run-up speed. This allowed us to see why.
Horizontal momentum is the result of speed and bodyweight during the run-up. You can redirect some of that horizontal momentum to vertical momentum by keeping your leg straight on the ground. This is a bit like a pole vault using a rigid pole.
Slower approaches will result in less horizontal momentum. The take-off leg must create vertical momentum using science the leg muscles, which is less efficient.
The take-off leg must be able to absorb shocks from a fast approach. This will waste energy and negate the benefits of a slower approach. Tracers naturally choose a slow run-up speed to make it easier to scale the wall.
Higher walls may require a faster approach, but this requires the ability to generate enough leg force. Speed increases momentum, but also decreases the time it takes for the leg (or the product of force/time) to generate the impulse necessary to scale the wall.
Returning To The Ground Science
It is important to remember that what goes up must also go down. Research on traceurs jumping off walls has shown that their body mass, height, and leg power all influence the landing type they choose.
To land safely, you need to manage a variety of forces. Imagine that you are able to jump or step off an object. Your body will accelerate due to gravity. Your weight and speed determine the momentum of your body upon landing. The higher you jump from an object, the faster your landing speed will be and the more vertical momentum before landing.
Landing is all about dissipating your momentum so that the load and speed (making up the accumulated energies level) don’t exceed biological limits. This could lead to muscle tears or tendon ruptures.
You can reduce the impact of momentum on landing by increasing the duration for which landing forces are applied. Allowing the supporting joints to bend (that is, flex) over a wider range can decrease momentum.
Alternativly, you can redirect the force by turning momentum into rotational momentum using a roll. This allows force to be directed in the direction that causes least harm.
There are many strategies available for each individual depending on their body characteristics. These include height, weight and flexibility as well as bone and joint strength and muscle strength. Insufficient momentum management can lead to injury to bones and muscles.
It Is Easy To Roll Into It
Our research revealed that individuals are more likely to roll when landing at higher drops. Nine men and two women were included in our study. Their height ranged from 1.58-1.87m and their weights from 54 to 92 kg.
A two-footed landing at some heights is impossible. However, the maximum drop height in this study was only 2.4m. Some traceurs decided not to roll at this height.
Long legs allow for a slower force to be applied over a longer period of time. They flex their legs slowly to absorb momentum and we discovered evidence that shorter traceurs roll at lower heights.
People who are heavier than average have greater momentum when they drop from the same height as those who are lighter. This was a factor in the likelihood of rolling. We found that heavier athletes were more likely than lighter ones to roll when they dropped from a lower height.
The ability to manage impulse absorption through the legs of athletes with more leg power was evident up to a higher drop height. The likelihood of a roll landing at lower heights was higher for those with less explosive legs power.
Although you cannot change your height, you can increase your leg power and body mass through training. This allows you to choose a landing strategy that suits your situation, rather than trying to dissipate momentum.