Parkour vs Gymnastics: What’s the Difference?

Parkour vs Gymnastics

Traceurs and free runners often flip and jump off obstacles in urban environments, but what is the difference between gymnastics and parkour? While both disciplines require athleticism and coordination, they are pretty different.

Parkour focuses on functional movement, while gymnastics is a competition-based sport. Read on to learn more about the differences between these two popular activities.

Is Parkour Similar to Gymnastics?

There is some overlap between Parkour and gymnastics, as both disciplines involve movement and body control. Parkour is similar to gymnastics because both require strength, coordination, and balance.

In addition, basic movements in parkour are often similar to those in gymnastics. These include flips, vaults, and climbs, which traceurs and gymnasts use to navigate their environment.


However, parkour focuses on functional movement, while gymnastics is a sport with specific rules and regulations. In early parkour, practitioners were heavily influenced by gymnastics and used many of the same techniques. Although, parkour has since evolved to focus on efficient and practical movement.

Now, let’s look at the critical difference between gymnastics and parkour.

Parkour vs Gymnastics

The history of parkour and gymnastics is long and varied, with each discipline’s unique origin story. Parkour is a relatively new discipline, only gaining popularity in the past few decades, while gymnastics has been around for centuries.

Parkour was created in the early 1980s by French military officer David Belle. Belle was inspired by his childhood hero, French stuntman and actor Raymond Belle, who often performed dangerous feats without using safety equipment.

Belle took this idea and applied it to military training, developing a system of movements that could be used to navigate any terrain or obstacle.

On the other hand, gymnastics has origins in the ancient world. The first recorded instance of gymnastics dates back to the early Egyptian civilization, where young men were required to perform acrobatic feats as part of their military training.

Gymnastics later spread to other cultures, including the Greeks and Romans, who used it as a way to train their soldiers. Gymnastics continued to evolve over the centuries, eventually becoming an Olympic sport in 1896.


We can attest that both disciplines require a high level of physical fitness and agility, and both involve performing complex movements. However, Parkour is focused on functional movement, meaning that the movements are designed to be helpful in real-world situations.

At the same time gymnastics, on the other hand, is primarily a competitive sport with intricate routines meant to be performed for an audience. Let’s look at the following criteria to discuss the distinctions between the two sports further.


In parkour, participants use a variety of moves to navigate their environment, including running, jumping, climbing, and vaulting. It is not uncommon for parkour practitioners to use flips and other acrobatic manoeuvres when jumping off obstacles. The goal is to move efficiently and effectively, using the least energy possible.

Gymnastics, on the other hand, is a more regulated sport with specific rules and regulations. Gymnasts perform routines that are judged by a panel of experts. These routines typically involve a series of acrobatic manoeuvres, such as flips, twists, and turns.

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While parkour practitioners use many of the same moves as gymnasts, they are not bound by the same rules and regulations. This allows parkour practitioners to be more creative in their movements, using whatever they think will be most effective in any given situation.


Parkour is considered a relatively safe sport as long as practitioners take the necessary precautions. The most common injuries in parkour are scrapes and bruises, which can be easily avoided by wearing appropriate clothing and using proper safety equipment. Although more severe injuries, such as broken bones, are possible, they are relatively rare.

On the other hand, Gymnastics is considered a high-risk sport due to the complex manoeuvres involved. Gymnasts are more likely to suffer from injuries like sprains, fractures, and concussions. The risk of injury can be reduced by using proper safety equipment and following the rules of the sport.

Easy to Learn

Parkour can be learned by anyone of any age, provided they are willing to put in the time and effort. The best way to learn parkour is to find an experienced practitioner who can teach you the basics and help you progress. Several parkour academies offer classes for beginners.

Gymnastics, on the other hand, is a bit more challenging to learn. It is recommended that gymnasts start training at a young age, as this can help them develop the necessary strength and flexibility. Gymnastics requires dedicated practice and a fair amount of natural ability.


Parkour is often associated with illegal activities, such as parkour practitioners jumping off buildings or other structures. This is because parkour practitioners often train in urban areas, where there are plenty of obstacles to overcome.

Gymnastics, on the other hand, is an officially recognized sport with rules and regulations governing competitions. This means that gymnasts typically train in designated facilities and do not have to worry about getting into trouble with the law.


Parkour training typically occurs in an outdoor environment, such as a park or urban area. This is because parkour is meant to simulate real-world scenarios. Parkour practitioners often use obstacles, such as walls and benches, to help them hone their skills.

Gymnastics training usually takes place in a gymnasium or other indoor facility. This is because gymnastics routines are designed to be performed on a mat or other level surface. Gymnasts typically use equipment such as bars and beams to help them train.

The type of training required for parkour and gymnastics is quite different. Parkour practitioners need to be able to adapt to their surroundings and think on their feet, while gymnasts must be able to execute their routines flawlessly.

Available Competitions/Tournaments

Gymnastics has a much more formalized structure, with competitions and tournaments going on for centuries. Gymnastics competitions consist of teams of athletes performing predetermined routines.

In contrast, parkour is relatively new, with the first World Parkour Championship only taking place in 2018. That said, parkour is rapidly gaining popularity and is now being recognized as a sport in its own right.

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The Egyptian Gymnastics Federation recently announced that parkour would be included in its official competitions, further solidifying its status as a legitimate sport.

So if you’re ever wondering whether to take up parkour or gymnastics, remember that they are two very different disciplines with different aims and histories.

Age Range

Parkour is an activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages as long as they are physically able to carry out the movements. Many children and teenagers participate in Parkour on their own or through organized classes. Parkour can be a great way for kids to stay active and explore their surroundings.

Gymnastics classes are generally recommended for children between the ages of 2 and 6. Gymnastics aims to help kids develop strength, balance, flexibility, and discipline. According to USA Gymnastics, most kids this age still develop their fundamental movement skills.

However, by the time a child turns five, they can start to master more complex gymnastics skills—if they’ve been taking regular classes for a few years. So if your child is interested in gymnastics, it’s best to sign them up for classes at an early age.

Equipment Needed

Parkour can be practised with little to no equipment. When starting, all you need is a pair of comfortable shoes and some loose-fitting clothes. As you progress, you may want to invest in some safety gear, such as gloves, pads, and helmets.

Gymnastics requires more specialized equipment, such as mats, bars, beams, and rings. This equipment is necessary to help gymnasts practice safely and effectively.


Parkour has a relatively small but tight-knit community, with many practitioners sharing similar values of self-improvement, individual expression, and respect for others.

However, the parkour community can be pretty competitive at times, as participants are always trying to outdo each other to establish their skills and abilities.

Gymnastics also has a strong community, with many devoted practitioners and teams worldwide.

But unlike parkour, gymnastics has a highly structured competitive environment that can be pretty intense sometimes. Participants must follow strict rules and guidelines to be successful in competitions, which can be stressful for some athletes.


Parkour has grown in popularity over the past few years, largely thanks to social media. Videos of parkour practitioners performing impressive stunts have gone viral on sites like YouTube and Instagram, giving the sport a lot of exposure.

In contrast, gymnastics has been around for centuries and has long been popular with athletes and fans. It has a long history of success in the Olympic Games, with many athletes gaining international fame as they compete on the world’s biggest stage.

The popularity factor is an essential distinction between parkour and gymnastics. While each sport has its loyal fan base, parkour practitioners have more opportunities to become famous, as the sport is still relatively new and innovative.

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Can a Gymnast Do Parkour?

Yes, a gymnast can do parkour. Parkour is all about using your body to overcome obstacles, and gymnasts have the perfect skill set. They are strong enough to vault over barriers, quick to dash past opponents, and flexible enough to contort their bodies into tight spaces.

In addition, gymnasts are used to performing complex movements under pressure, which makes them ideal candidates for parkour.

Of course, there is more to parkour than just physicality. Mental focus and discipline are also essential qualities for success. But given their all-around athleticism and mental toughness, there is no doubt that gymnasts would make excellent parkour practitioners.

Does Gymnastics Help in Parkour?

Yes, gymnastics can help in parkour. Gymnastics is a sport that requires strength, flexibility, coordination, and agility. Many of the skills used in gymnastics are also helpful in parkour. For example, both sports require excellent body awareness and control.

In addition, both sports involve a lot of jumping and vaulting, so having strong legs and good coordination is essential. Finally, both sports require quick reflexes and the ability to think on your feet. So if you’re looking to improve your parkour skills, taking up gymnastics is a great way to do it.

Can You Practice Parkour in a Gymnastics Facility?

Yes, you can practice parkour in a gymnastics facility. Many parkour practitioners find that gymnastics facilities offer an ideal training ground. Gymnastics facilities are designed with safety in mind, and they often have a variety of obstacles that can be used for parkour training.

Moreover, gymnastics facilities typically have experienced staff on hand who can provide guidance and instruction. For these reasons, gymnastics facilities can be great places to practice parkour.

Does Parkour Build Muscle?

Yes, parkour can build muscle. Parkour is a physically demanding sport that requires strength, endurance, and agility. As such, it is an excellent way to build muscle. Parkour practitioners often use their body weight to train, which can further help to build muscle mass.

Additionally, there is some evidence to suggest that parkour can indeed help to build muscle. A study published in the Open Sports Sciences Journal found that participants who engaged in parkour training for ten weeks significantly increased muscle mass and strength. So if you’re looking to build muscle, parkour is a great option.


Now that you know more about the difference between parkour and gymnastics, you can decide which one is right for you. Both sports offer a unique set of benefits, which comes down to personal preference.

Parkour is an excellent option if you’re looking for a challenging and physically demanding sport. If you’re looking for a more structured and competitive environment, gymnastics may be the better choice. Whichever sport you choose, you’re sure to have a great time. Thanks for reading!

We hope you enjoyed this article. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to us. We would love to hear from you!


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