Some people have a pretty narrow scope of calisthenics. They think it’s just a whole bunch of push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups.
Well, there are a lot of those, yes (and for the record, we love ‘em). But the problem is, people think that’s all there is to bodyweight training, so we get a lot of emails from people looking for different ways to strengthen certain areas of the body. And probably the parts of the body we get asked about most are the abs and the back.
That’s why we’re thrilled to show you one of the toughest bodyweight exercises in the book, the front lever.
If you’re unfamiliar, the front lever is a gymnastics maneuver consisting of a static hold normally performed on the still rings or a pull-up bar. A front lever is performed by lowering from an inverted hang until the body is completely horizontal and straight with the front of the body facing upwards.
The front lever is actually one of the best exercises for both the core and the back — specifically the lats. It’s a benchmark for core strength overall, so if you can pull one off, you’re probably in excellent shape.
Now, we’re going to show you the exact steps to take in order to become a front lever master. But first, a little on what makes this exercise so challenging and special.
It’s pretty widely loved in the bodyweight training world. Our pal Al Kavadlo is pretty big on them, calling them “one of the most difficult (and coolest looking) calisthenics exercises of all time.” Antranik even called them “[his] love” in a reddit comment.
Speaking of which, the official world record for a front lever is held by Lexa Steel at 53 seconds.
So what makes this move so difficult?
Well, since your entire body is in a controlled suspension, weight and height are major factors in the front lever. The more weight you have to support, the tougher it will be. Likewise for height.
BreakingMuscle.com says, “It’s not just how much you weigh, but how tall you are that plays into the difficulty of this movement. As a leverage exercise, one additional inch in height adds many foot-pounds of pressure that you must resist.”
So for anyone ducking under doorframes, this one may be more difficult for you, even if you’re a calisthenics veteran. But that doesn’t mean you need to abandon the exercise and seek other, less arduous gymnastics exercises. You just need to know the proper progressions, which we’re about to show you.
While this is definitely not a maneuver you’re going to master on your first try, you can learn how to execute it perfectly, even during a nap (if you feel like showing off).
In the gymnastics code of points, which ranges from ‘A’ to ‘F’, the front lever is rated an ‘A’. Pretty insane, right?
Well, yes and no. The gymnastics code of points does in fact range from ‘A’ to ‘F’ — with ‘F’ being the most difficult and ‘A’ being the easiest. Boy, there’s an ego check for you.
Still, if you’re committed to learning it, don’t let anything stop you. There’s no tool more important than believing in yourself.
That being said, let’s get you on the path to conquering the front lever!
The front lever is no joke. It can do bad things to your shoulders if you don’t respect it. Make sure to take your time with each step and to perfect your form before moving to the next, starting with the hang.
Tuck Front Lever
Advanced Tuck Front Lever
One Leg Front Lever
Straddle Front Lever
One Arm Front Lever