The front lever position is a challenging callisthenics skill, requiring a combination of strength, stability, and body control.
It involves holding your body parallel to the ground with only your hands holding onto a bar or rings and your body fully extended. As such, achieving a front level is an impressive feat and a testament to the hard work and dedication put into strength development and body awareness.
So, if you want to add the front lever to your list of callisthenics skills, you’re in the right place. This step-by-step guide will take you through the necessary lever progressions and techniques to achieve the full front lever.
Whether you’re a seasoned callisthenics athlete or just starting out, this guide will provide you with the tools and knowledge needed to progress towards the front lever safely and effectively.
So, without further ado, pull up your socks, and let’s get started!
Table of Contents
A Quick Guide To The Front Lever Position
The front lever position is a popular strength hold, usually performed by male gymnasts. It is a type of callisthenic exercise, which utilises the weight of one’s own body as resistance to build lean muscle mass.
Gymnasts who exclusively rely on a bodyweight exercise, like this, as part of their training are often considered ideal examples of the effectiveness of callisthenics.
Performing A Front Lever
Start by holding a pull-up bar, with your arms forming one straight line.The body should be in a straight line from head to toe maintaining a completely horizontal position parallel to the floor. The aim is to hold the upper body muscles in this position.
Note that to progress towards achieving a full front lever, it is essential to undertake front lever progressions. Gradually increase the difficulty of the exercises to build up the necessary strength and body control required to execute a full front lever.
How To Maintain The Front Lever Form Properly
Maintaining a proper form during exercises is crucial, and the same applies to front levers as well. Here are some tips to maximise the benefits of your workout:
1. Keep Your Back Straight
You must keep your back flat to prevent injuries. While there may be some natural curvature near the shoulder blades, try to keep the back as straight as possible.
Pulling back the shoulder blades and retracting the scapula can help. You could also add strain to the body by flexing the glutes and pointing your toes.
2. Straighten Your Arms
Straight arms shift the workload to the back and core rather than relying on the biceps and triceps. So, avoid bending your arms to avoid unnecessary strain.
3. Do Not Droop Your Head
Always keep your neck and head aligned to your back. Do not raise or droop your head unless you want to invite some nasty injuries.
Pre-Front Lever Progression Exercises
1. Inverted Rows
Inverted rows improve your back strength as you pull yourself towards a bar instead of pulling the bar towards your body. This position is similar to an upside-down push-up.
2. Hollow Body Hold
A hollow body hold is a core exercise where you lay on your back and press your lower back onto the floor. Then you must raise your legs and chest so that they are hovering off the floor and hold the position for as long as you can.
Keep your legs straight in front and sit with your palms laying flat on the ground. Then carry your entire body off the ground using your palms, keeping your feet aligned with your hips, and maintaining the L position or isometric pike.
This gymnastic exercise can help build core strength and the backs of your arms.
4. Skin The Cat
To perform this, you must pull your knees up from the lever position. As such, your body should end up in an upside-down hanging position.
5. Dead Hangs
A dead hang is a simple warm-up exercise that stretches your spine, activates your upper body muscles, and strengthens your grip. It is the base for achieving a full front lever.
6. Tuck Lever Position
The tuck lever is a basic grip that must be mastered before achieving the full front lever. In the tuck lever, keep the legs tucked up to the chest while the shoulders and hips maintain horizontal alignment to the ground.
A. Negative Tuck Levers
This position involves hanging upside down and lowering yourself into a tuck while maintaining the hold.
B. Tuck Lever Hold
Once you have developed control over the tuck negatives, you should train until you can maintain the tuck lever hold for at least 10 seconds.
C. Tuck Lever Rise
Begin training the tuck lever rise by pulling yourself up into the tuck lever from a vertical position by bringing your shoulders back behind your hands.
D. Tuck Lever Pull-Ups
Tuck lever pull-ups involve pulling yourself up to the rings/bar in the tuck position.
7. Weighted Pull-ups And Muscle-ups
These exercises prepare your lats for holding you up during the front lever. Muscle-ups involve a kip swing to pull your whole body up towards your hands on the bar. Follow it up by pushing yourself up so that your arms straighten up from the dip and your hips are at your hands.
8. Straddle Front Lever
To do this, straddle the legs apart by extending your hips and hold for as long as you can.
The time required to progress to the top front lever can vary depending on several factors, like your starting fitness and strength level, training consistency, and individual genetics. As such, it’s difficult to give a specific timeline for achieving a front lever, as it can take anywhere from several months to several years.
However, to progress in front lever training, a solid foundation of strength and stability in your upper body, core, and back muscles is essential. Consequently, it’s necessary to practise the front lever progression exercises regularly, gradually increasing the difficulty and duration of the exercises as you improve.
You can even proceed to add more complex exercises like the advanced tuck front lever, single leg front lever, and the inverted hang position.
That said, it’s also important to listen to your body and avoid overtraining, as it can lead to injury and slow down your progress.
Check out our best calisthenics programs to help you progress in the different movements.
Founder of www.calisthenics-101.co.uk. Training calisthenics since 2012.
Currently working on: 30 second one-arm handstand, muscle-up 360, straddle planche.