After practicing calisthenics for a few months, many beginners decide to start working on some impressive-looking skills. The back lever is the mirrored version of the front lever and requires, unlike the front lever less strength. This makes the back lever the perfect beginner skill.
In this post, I will teach you how to achieve this skill in no time. I will cover how to train for this move, the progressions, and I will give some tips and tricks at the end.
Let’s dive into it!
Understanding the back lever
But first, we take a look a the skill itself.
The back lever is the opposite of the frontlever. A position in which you hang horizontally and parallel to the ground. The difference between the front and this skill is that with the front lever, you use your lads and abdominals much more. The front variant is overall much harder than the back variant. The primary muscles used while in a back lever are your abdominals as well as your shoulder, chest, and back.
This move is quite a beginners skill, as this is mostly one of the first achievements of most beginners. There are not really any requirements with this move. Just make sure you master the beginner basics.
And extremely important, you must make sure to warm up before training this move. If you jump in a back lever immediately without a proper warm-up, you can get yourself some serious injuries. So be careful and train smart.
Back lever progressions
When it comes to the progressions, I recommend you to start with the first progression. Before you move on to the next progression, make sure you first feel comfortable. Do not rush anything and focus on the correct form.
Skin the cat (preparing exercise)
The very first progression to the back lever is the skin the cat exercise. It is more like a preparing exercise, which prepares your muscles and tendons for the real variant.
The exercise requires more mobility than actual strength. To do this exercise you, grab the bar with hands, raise and rotate your body till the point as shown in the video.
Before moving on to the tucked back lever, make sure you feel comfortable while in this position.
Tuck back lever
After you have mastered the skin the cat exercise, it is time to move on to the next progression, the tuck variant of the back lever. The exercise itself does not need much explanation. You basically are in a back lever position, but your legs are tucked inside instead of straight.
Engage your core and make sure your back parallel to the ground. The more your tuck your legs in, the easier it is to maintain the hold. Make sure you have at least 10 seconds before you move on to the next progressions.
Straddle back lever
The last progression before the full variant is the straddle back lever. This progression is also very straightforward. In this progression, you straighten your legs, but unlike the full version, you spread your legs. To perform this, you already need a decent amount of strength.
When practicing this progression, just like the tuck back lever, engage your core and focus on that your body is in a straight horizontal line. Practice this progression enough until you feel like you are ready for the full-back lever. Aim for a hold-time of at least ten seconds
The full-back lever
The last progression is, of course, the full-back lever. Concentrate on all the points I just mentioned. Parallel to the ground, completely straight. Avoid the banana back lever. It can cause lower back pain and looks awful. When it comes to increasing hold-time, you should never sacrifice your form to hold your back lever for longer.
And remember, the back lever can be a dangerous exercise. Always do your warm-up. Do not hurt yourself!
Exercises to achieve the back lever
Now we know the progressions, it is time to look at some exercises to speed up the progress.
The best way possible way to achieve this skill is to do as many back lever attempts as possible. Why? Practice makes perfect. The more you do, the better. This way, your body gets to know the movement the quickest.
Rest is crucial with this method. You should rest around 2-4 minutes between each attempt.
In my tutorials, I talk a lot about how doing the negative version of a skill helps you to achieve it. Just like any other exercise, this also works with the back lever. To do this, you need to go into a back lever position, but with your feet pointing towards the sky. Then, slowly lower your feet until you reach the point where your body is parallel to the ground. Perform this motion really slow and controlled.
The last additional few additional exercises that will help with this skill are core exercises. The core is the primary muscle group when you perform a back lever. Therefore, by training your core frequently, you will get besides a six-pack, also a big boost in your skill progress. I made a complete article about core strengthening. Click here if you are interested.
Tips and tricks
Avoid the banana back lever.
A lot of people who just started training for this move still suffer a lack of core strength, which will result in having a banana looking back lever. If you see yourself doing this, go to an easier progression. It puts a lot of stress on your lower back. Pay close attention to your form!
Back lever on rings or a bar
You can do this move with the use of a bar or using gymnastics rings. What is easier/better? Well, there is not really an answer. It is all personal preference. Some people may like the rings more, but others like to train using a straight bar. The bar is much more stable than the rings. But in the end, it is all personal preference like I said before.
Something which surprisingly helped me getting a stronger back lever was focusing more on grip-strength. It is the same as with pull-ups. When you have a strong grip, you engage more muscles, and this can help you to do more reps or hold the skill for longer.
The back lever is not as much as intensive as the planche or the front lever, so this means you can practice it more often. The best way to achieve this skill fast is to grease the groove. Only when you feel muscle soreness, you should take a few rest days. The more you train it, the better.