How to Front Lever – Step by Step Guide

The Front Lever is one of the three lever exercises in Calisthenics (alongside with the Back Lever and the Planche).

It is a static hold normally performed on the still rings or the pull-up bar.

A front lever is performed by lowering from an inverted hang, with straight arms, until the body is completely horizontal, facing upwards.

Advanced athletes may also pull directly into the horizontal position from a dead hang!

Levers require a high degree of back and core strength. Their isometric nature, helps your tendons get stronger too.

There are many variations for the Front Lever… But the main way of progressing is starting from the smallest possible position building out into a full front lever.

Here is how :

1. HOLLOW POSITION

First things first – you can’t execute the Front Lever properly without holding a hollow body position.

This is an important position, as it makes a lot of Calisthenics movements (like the handstand and planche) easier to hold and better looking! 

In order to practise the hollow position you need to lie on your back with arms overhead, biceps by ears, and legs outstretched.

Lift your legs and arms so shoulders and feet are off the ground. 

Keep the head in a neutral position.

You need to be able to hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds before moving to the next progression.

2. Inverted Row

The Inverted Row is one of the best, simple and most effective exercises you can do to build the pulling strength required for the Front Lever.

To do an Inverted Row you need to set the bar, or rings, around waist height (the lower – the more difficult the movement), lie on the floor underneath it and pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar/rings. Then come back down slowly in a controlled manner.

Don’t forget to keep your core tightengaging your quads, glutes and abs, so that your body is in a straight line.

You need to be able to do at least 10-15 reps in one set, before moving to the next progression.

3. Inverted Hang

Inverted Hangs are a great way to build isometric strength and work your grip in order to accomplish the Front Lever.

An Inverted Hangs is performed by hanging upside down from the bar or rings.

It feels like doing a hanging handstand.

The easiest way to pull to the inverted position is with bent arms and your body tucked… Try starting with a pull-up first and eventually progress to using less of a pull-up (straighter arms) and less of a tuck (extended feet).

When you are working these progressions you should focus on keeping your core tightengaging your quads, glutes and abs.

You need to be able to hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds before moving to the next progression.

4. Tuck Front lever

The Tucked Lever mimics the full Font Lever except the legs are tucked up to the chest (the hips and shoulders remain in horizontal alignment). 

There are 4 progressions for it :

  • Tuck Lever Negative

The Tuck Lever Negative is an exercise that consists in performing the eccentric part of a Tuck Lever Raise… In other words: it consists on lowering a Tuck Lever from the highest height possible to a regular hang position. 

So, start hanging down from the bar or rings in an Inverted Hang position and lower yourself through to a dead hang, keeping your legs tucked to your chest.

You need to be able to do at least 10-15 reps in one set, before moving to the next progression.

  • Tuck Lever Hold 

After training the Tuck Negatives you should develop the strength to control and stop the hold, but with hips and shoulders in complete alignment.

You need to be able to hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds before moving to the next progression.

  • Tuck Lever Raise 

Now after training the eccentric you need to start pulling up into the Tuck Lever from a vertical position. 

Start from a regular hang position and use your back and core strength to pull your body to a Tuck Lever… don’t use your arms’ strength to pull yourself up… Your arms must remain straight.

At the top, your upper body should be parallel to the ground.  Then come down slowly.

You need to be able to do at least 10-15 reps in one set, before moving to the next progression.

  • Tuck Lever Pull-up

The Tuck Lever Pull-up is an advanced progression of the Inverted Row and it helps you build even more pulling strength, required for the Front Lever.

Start in a Tuck Lever position and pul yourself up to the bar or rings, until your chest touches the bar/rings.

You need to be able to do at least 10-15 reps in one set, before moving to the next progression.

5. Skin the cat 🐱

The Skin The Cat exercise combines all the above Tuck Lever progressions and helps you build straight arm pulling strength, required for the Front Lever.

Start in a regular hanging position and pull yourself through the Lever Position to an Inverted Hang and move down backwards to a hanging position. 

Keep your shoulders and hips in line and use your back and core strength to pull your body… don’t to use your arms’ strength to pull yourself up… Your arms must remain straight.

You need to be able to do at least 10-15 reps in one set, before moving to the next progression.

6. Advanced Tuck front Lever

Now that you can hold the Tuck Lever, you can begin to open up a little.

This will bring you into the Advanced Tuck position, bringing your legs out slightly – still tucked – but aiming for a 90 degree hip angle.

The Advanced Tucked position will help straighten out your back and teach you to engage your muscles properly before you can straighten out more…

Remember to keep your hips and shoulders in line.

You need to be able to hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds before moving to the next progression.

7. SINGLE LEG FRONT LEVER 

The next progression is the Single Leg Front Lever, where you need to keep one leg tucked into the chest with the other leg extended out to the full lever position.

You should alternate legs during the hold.

You need to be able to hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds before moving to the next progression.

8. Straddle front lever

The last progression, before the actual Front Lever, is the Straddle Front Lever.

For this one, just like in the Front Lever, you keep both your legs extended… but spread to deload and shorten the lever slightly.

Over time you will begin to bring your legs together, but until then, try to keep your legs as wide as possible to make it easier.

You need to be able to hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds before moving to the next progression.

Front lever

calisthenics front lever
finger Front Lever

Finally, you can bring your legs together and hold a FULL Front Lever!

Well done!!

But remember to ALWAYS keep a Hollow Body position and straight arms.

Now you can work your Front lever using all 4 Tuck Lever progression exercises, but with extended legs!

If a progression seems hard with legs extended, you could keep your legs spread (Straddle Front Lever) or keep one leg tucked (Single Leg Front Lever) to shorten the lever.

Just play around with all the progressions and variations…you earned it!

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