The front lever is an advanced gymnastic skill that strengthen your core and upper-body muscles with a strength hold. It is usually executed as a static hold or for repetitions from the hanging pose.
The exercise will build up every single upper body muscle and some lower body’s as well, like the glutes. Being able to perform the front lever is also an indisputable evidence of how your hard works on building up your core, shoulders and back strength pay off.
Here are some benefits you’ll receive simply by building up to the front lever: and unbelievably robust and muscular midsection, strong lats, explosive core power and more than likely a beautiful six-pack. In addition, the exercise can improve your shoulder-to-waist ratio as well.
The front lever is widely considered as the apex of calisthenic exercises. However, it also ranks among the most difficult and demanding bodyweight strength workouts (about the same level as the human flag and the full planche).
So it’s not something that you can just jump right in without sufficient knowledge and understanding.
This article will help you approach the progression towards the front lever safely and also to build up your own expectation and goal for the exercise.
What You Need To Know About Front Lever
The front lever is based on the leverage principle, which means that both your weight and height are major factors. Basically, the bigger or longer your body is, the harder it will be to pull off.
Phenomenal back strength and good total control of your body are needed to execute the front lever. Therefore, you need to satisfy these requirements before thinking about front lever training:
- Capable of executing the dead-hang pull ups for the minimum of 10 reps.
- Capable of performing various full-range-of-motion hanging leg raises.
Here is how you can safely progress to the front lever.
Front Lever Progression
In my opinion, you should begin simply by building your strength and getting familiar with the body positioning. These first two exercises will help you do just that.
1. The Pullover & Inverted Body Row
So this is an easy one at the basic level. What makes the pullover good is that it develop your foundation strength in the same muscles you’ll be using for the front lever, with much lower tension.
You can perform this exercise with either a barbell, dumbbells or an e-z bar.
The inverted body row is another simple exercise to build up your lever muscles and body positioning.
2. The Pulling Prep & Some Variations
The pulling prep is an exercise that focus on scapular strength in position with the arms straight. For those who are unfamiliar with the movement, it can be very tricky. But I can’t stress enough on its importance for progressing in almost all types of strength techniques.
In order to build up for the front lever, aim for a straight arm pulling motion while keeping a horizontal stance of your body.
After the pulling prep, you need to work on how to bring your chest up towards the bar (or rings). One variation of pulling prep emphasizes on chest pull will help you with that.
The aim of this exercise is to lead the motion with your chest. Other parts include consciously pulling the bar down and engaging your core to lift your whole body up, in a single solid piece.
The final exercise you need to do before moving on with your progression is the pulling prep with knees up. It’ll teach you how to pull your knees up while your shoulders and elbows pulled down and backwards.
Once you master all these movements, you’re ready for the next progression, the tuck lever.
3. The Tuck Front Lever
Tuck front lever is a fundamental hold that you definitely must achieve in advance to the front lever. Its positioning is quite similar to a front lever’s except for the legs, which are squeezed up into your chest. Your hips and shoulders must be aligned horizontally to the ground.
There are tons of variation to tuck lever, including:
- Open front tuck: transition from a tight tuck to a more open one.
- Negative tuck lever: hang upside down from the bar or rings and lower your body slowly to the tuck position.
- Tuck lever pull-up: pull up while in tuck position.
- Tuck with leg extension (also known as the Can Opener): this will prepare you for the straight leg position of the front lever.
4. The Full Front Lever
This is the final step! Regardless of the building up exercises above, you still need to practice on proper body position and leverage before you can fully execute the front lever, for about 5 seconds.
As mentioned earlier, the front lever demands sufficient strength and other gymnastics skills. Essentially, there are three main steps to a proper front lever:
1. Start with the inverted hang position on a pull-up bar, parallel bars or gym rings.
2. Your body should be facing upwards as you slowly lower it down until it’s completely horizontal to the ground.
3. Retain the hold as long as your strength will allow.
The proper body positioning of a front lever focuses on four major parts of your body that contribute the most during the exercise including:
- Hands: your palms should be facing downwards. The trick is to squeeze the bar or rings and press down during the hold. This will generate tension to maintain the position while engaging your upper-body muscles.
- Arms: should be close by your sides at shoulder-width distance from one to another in general.
- Torso: your back and chest muscles should be tighten to sustain tension throughout the exercise, so does your midsection. Additionally, your shoulders should be in a natural position.
- Hips & Legs: the toughest part of the exercise is to stretch out and keep your body on a straight line parallel to the ground. To achieve that, make sure your hips is not bent and your glutes and legs are contracted. Also, pointing out your toes does help maintaining the balance.
And that is front lever progression in a nutshell for you (well, not really). The key thing here is to be patient, because working up to the front lever hold is definitely time-consuming and it can get frustrating sometimes.
Give yourself time to rest while still doing the basics and come back to training later, it does make a huge difference. For more epic calisthenic exercises, be sure to check out our Bodyweight and Calisthenics category page - this page contains all of our top posts on the topic!
Please leave a comment to discuss your progression with the exercises. And if you find this article helpful, please share it on.