If you’re passionate about parkour, then I know you’re already familiar with Ryan Ford. His name is synonymous with the Demon Drills YouTube channel, where he has posted over 160 videos, and has more than 11K subscribers and 2.7 million views. Aside from dominating the video scene, he is a force of nature in the PK community as the founder of both APEX Movement and Movemental Apparel.
As if owning a gym and clothing line weren’t enough to keep him busy, he is also a sponsored athlete for Vivo Barefoot shoes and is a FitFluential Ambassador, helping to promote fitness through different social media channels.
I had the pleasure of attending a seminar led by Ryan at the 2012 Seattle Summit, where he talked about harnessing creativity to use your environment to its fullest extent.
A super humble guy, he was kind enough to exchange contact info so that we could talk after the event. Some time has passed, but I finally got the chance to catch up with him and talk about his take on parkour conditioning concepts.
Here’s a transcript of our recent phone interview:
I saw that you just got back from Europe. What were you doing over there?
Erica Madrid went over to the Red Bull event in Greece, so I was over there to support her and be around for that. That’s how the trip started off and then we spent a few weeks traveling around the islands of Greece, Italy, Croatia, and Bordeaux, where we got to train with the locals.
What did you notice as major differences with how people train over there versus what is going on in the U.S. or at APEX Movement?
It’s hard to say. When we were in Santorini there were people from all over the world, so I certainly couldn’t put them in one category. Some were more freerunning, some were more parkour, or had a background in tricking, breakdancing or whatever. Some were more into big jumps.
In Colorado, we’ve really tried to promote all of those things because we do merge them together nowadays. We’ve never been about any one of them. We want to be well rounded through parkour, freerunning, gymnastics, and all that kind of stuff.
I saw that you have three APEX Movement gyms in Colorado. Tell me more.
We have two of our own gyms, and then a third that is out of a gymnastics gym, so I like to say that we have two and a half. And, were actually about to start our first out of state APEX Movement soon.
I was the founder of APEX, and now focus more on parent company stuff, like coaching certification and other projects.
How much training do you get to do on a weekly basis yourself?
It depends. I do at least an hour or two almost every day of the week. Sometimes it’s a lot more. When I’m not traveling and at the gym coaching or whatever, I’m always doing a little bit at least.
How much time would you say you devote between strength and conditioning versus skill development?
Probably around half and half. I try to limit my impacts. I actually heard some interesting stories about the early guys doing parkour how they way over-did-it and they’re now feeling it later on. I definitely don’t want that to be me.
Every jump you ever do adds-up. I try to limit the big jumps, and usually only do big stuff when filming, performing, or occasionally when out training on my own.
For the most part, it’s ground level stuff, low impact, and lots of strength and conditioning.
For someone trying to workout at home, what sorts of equipment might they consider for a gym space?
Well, one thing that I’ve been trying to do with Demon Drills is that I’ve always shot the videos outside, because I want to show people that you don’t necessarily have to have a gym to workout. It’s a matter of taking parkour, and applying it to workout with everyday obstacles, like benches and walls.
So, that’s one thing that I’ve wanted to show, but at the same time I’m also an advocate of some weights for parkour. Basically 5 main lifts and some gymnastics style conditioning. As far as weights go, it’s some basic barbell stuff, like deadlifts, squats, press, and weighted dips and weighted pull-ups. And, if you do those 5 basic moves and gymnastics training you pretty much cover everything you need to for parkour.
What else do you do for cross training?
What I did through high school and college, was mostly team sports, soccer, track and football. And then, when I got into college and more into parkour, I started cross training more with bouldering and rock climbing. I do quite a bit of that.
With APEX Movement we try to blend everything together. We all train and dabble with tricking, gymnastics, slack lining and all kinds of stuff.
As the head coach and founder at APEX what sorts of injuries have you seen with people starting out with parkour?
Well, we haven’t had any injuries aside from cuts, bruises, strains and stuff like that. I think the number one thing for parkour people to watch out for is overuse injuries. Especially with stuff like drops, if you use bad form – you might not really feel it. Cartilage in your knees doesn’t have nerves, but then in a couple of years your cartilage is cracked, torn, and gone.
That’s the biggest thing we try to get people aware of – that you always have to have good form, and basically install the mindset to think about staying healthy over the long run.
What do you have to say about injury prevention and prehab concepts?
There’s three main things for staying healthy with parkour. There’s good form, there’s good strength, and then good flexibility/mobility. It’s always important to pay attention to good form, stay strong, and stay flexible.
For good hip flexibility, I’m a fan of the caveman or “third world” squat, with feet flat on the ground, and a full squat. It’s so important for good landings. When you lack full flexibility at the hips and knees your landings can really injure you.
It doesn’t matter if you’re strong and have good form, if you don’t have the flexibility and mobility as well.
I try to get people to use a lacrosse ball and foam roller for mobility aside from basic stretching. I’m a big fan of the mobilitywod.com.
Any final cool news that you wanted to share?
Yeah, there are a couple of things that we’ve been working on pretty hard. We’re excited about the coaching certification. We did our first one in Philadelphia this summer.
We’ve also started to release our own workouts, which are posted on Facebook and will hopefully become more widespread. The idea is to list them blog-style, then provide hyperlinks to the Demon Drills videos.
With Movemental, I want to make it into a lifestyle brand, to promote the movement arts. I want to promote things like martial arts, tricking, parkour, and have all of us learn from each other and then collaborate to come up with new things. That’s what I want Movemental to represent, so we’ll be reaching out to those other communities.
Want more? Keep in touch with Ryan on Facebook.