The Back Lever Progression For Beginners

You’ve heard it countless times.

Know your limits and push beyond them. 

That’s one of the main components of making consistent progress.

 

But if you’re just getting started there is a problem with that advice:

How can you know your limits if you don’t know how strong you are?

Maybe you’re at the beginning of you calisthenics journey, with little results (Or all your results are not as impressive as you want them to be).

Or maybe you haven’t even started yet. 

 

What do you do then?

You know I’m big on finding the right progressions.

Whether it comes to core work or any other type or progress in general.

Just jumping into something like a back lever is like throwing darts blindfolded and hoping you hit the bull’s eye.

 

If it works it takes you much more time and let’s face the fact, chances are you’ll hit a brick wall more often than the bull’s eye.

The back lever after the muscle up is the first upper body target you want to hit.

With these progressions, you can’t miss, unless you want to ;).

 

 

The Backlever Progressions For A Solid Backlever

 

If you have been working on your core routine and your muscle up strength, a whole new world of possibilities opens up.

One of these is the back lever.

A true feat of strength and it looks pretty damn cool.

More importantly, it will build huge amounts of skill that will crossover to many other moves.

 

Be careful though, because these exercises shouldn’t be rushed.

The more you rush, the more likely you are to get into ‘injury zone’.

With proper preperation and patience however, it will be a walk in the park.

Ready?

 

 

1. Skin The Cat

 

Back-Lever-Routine-For-Calisthenics

Skin-The-cat-Bar-Brothers-Routine

Skin-The-Cat-Bar-Brothers-For-Calisthenics-Beginners

 

 

Main goal: Core strength, flexibility and trust in different positions

Additional goal: Developing the strength to be able to bail the back lever safely

 

1) Grab the bar or a pair of rings with and overhand grip

2) Slightly activate your shoulders by retracting your shoulder blades (Pulling them together)

3) Lift your legs up and transition from an l-sit or start from this position

4) Keep lifting your legs up to a full leg raise and keep raising your legs over your head

5) Allow gravity to lower your legs while slowly coming down in a controlled manner until you reach your end range and hold bottom position for 3 seconds (Here you can hold your hands in a neutral position (see picture), rotate them inwards to make it easier or outwards to make it more intense)

6) Bring your legs back to your chest as close as possible and rotate backwards by pulling yourself up again until your reach your starting position

7) Repeat by going through the transitions from passively hanging to a full leg raise and continue the rotation till you reach your end range of motion

 

Mastery at 5×10 repetitions

 

Note: Warm up properly. If you have never done a full skin the cat, make sure you have someone to support you in your rotation and make sure you can easily reach the ground. This exercise should not be take lightly, if you don’t have the necessary strength, you can seriously injure yourself.

 

 

2. Tucked Back Lever

 

Bar-Brothers-Back-lever

Calisthenics-Back-Lever-For-Beginners

Back-Lever-Workout-For-Bar-Brothers

 

Main goal: Developing back lever strength through isometric hold

 

1) Grab the bar or a pair of rings with and overhand grip

2) Slightly activate your shoulders by retracting your shoulder blades (Pulling them together)

3) Bring your knees to your chest and make yourself as small as possible

4) Keep lifting your knees over your head until you feel gravity is lowering you down in the opposite direction

5) Protract your shoulder blades maximally (Push them outward) and go down until you reach a more or less horizontal position with your back (Here you once again can go to a neutral position with your hands, rotate them inwards to make it easier or rotate them outwards to make it harder)

5) Hold this position for 3-12 seconds, starting with 3 and slowly progressing to 12 over time

6) After your static hold rotate backwards to your starting position by tucking your knees to your chest again

7) Increase the difficulty by moving your knees further away from your chest

 

Mastery at 5×12 second hold

 

Note: You can increase the difficulty by increasing the holding time or by moving your knees away from your chest.

 

 

3. Straddle Back Lever

 

Bar-Brothers-Teams-Routines

Routine-For-Back-lever

Bar-Brother-Beginner-Back-Lever

 

Main goal: Developing back lever strength through isometric hold

 

1) Grab the bar or a pair of rings with and overhand grip

2) Slightly activate your shoulders by retracting your shoulder blades (Pulling them together)

3) Rotate upward until you are fully upside down at that point straighten your legs

4) After straightening your legs bring them apart as wide as possible

5) Slowly lower yourself down until you reach the horizontal position (Rotate your hands inwards for the easiest variation)

6) Hold this position for 3-12 seconds

7) Lower yourself down into a skin the cat and go back to your starting position

 

Note: As you reach this progression you will discover how important a good skin the cat is to your overall safety and ability to bail. If you skip the basics you will eventually end up having difficulties in this position. Increase the difficulty by bringing your legs closer together.

 

Mastery at 5×12 second hold

 

 

4. The Full Back Lever

 

Back-Lever-Progression

Bar-Brothers-Back-lever

Back-Lever-Progression-For-Gymnastics

 

Main goal: Connecting the dots and achieving your first solid lever

 

1) Grab the bar or a pair of rings with and overhand grip

2) Slightly activate your shoulders by retracting your shoulder blades (Pulling them together)

3) Rotate upward until you are fully upside down at that point straighten your legs

4) After straightening hold them together tightly while pointing your toes

5) Slowly lower yourself down with maximal protraction until you reach the horizontal position (Rotate your hands inwards for the easiest variation)

6) Hold this position for 3-12 seconds

7) Lower yourself down into a skin the cat and go back to your starting position

 

Note: Really focus on protracting your shoulder blades maximally, contract your core and slowly lower yourself down. All the strength in this move comes from the shoulders and core.

 

Mastery at 5×12 second hold

 

 

Stop With Blindly Doing Workouts And Follow The Right Process

 

Being new to calisthenics training doesn’t have to mean fumbling around in the dark and hoping to finally hit that position you want to reach.

All the advanced moves aren’t some kind of superhuman feature of strength.

You can do it, you just didn’t know how to yet. Now you do.

The steps above will take your trail-and-error process and turn it into a simple step-by-step plan that’s proven to work.

 

Of course you can keep tinkering and try stuff that doesn’t work.

Or you can follow a proven process, be patient and surprise yourself.

Because with these exercises you will hit that bull’s eye even if you are blindfolded AND in the dark.

 

Beast mode ON!

 

 

Share

12 thoughts on “The Back Lever Progression For Beginners

  1. I’m a huge fan of bodyweight exercises but I don’t have the opportunity to get to a gym or playground very often. I’ve managed to get about half way through this position, to the point where I’m hanging upside down with my feet in the air and my body straight but I get nervous about flipping the rest of the way as I’m afraid I might pull my shoulders too hard. Is that ever a problem with this exercise?

    1. Hey Conor,

      Welcome to the movement!

      Yes, this is a very common problem, it means you are moving too fast. Go back to skin the cat, make sure you can do 5×5 reps with about 60/90 seconds of rest between sets.

      If you can do those with ease, your connective tissue and bicep will first of all have the required flexibility and secondly the required strength. The main danger with the back lever comes from a lack of bicep flexibility, because in the full back lever you are at the full range of motion so the muscle is fully extended. Lack of extension and connecitve tissue strength can result in tearing the bicep. So with the back lever it’s all about progressing slowly.

      Basically go back to skin the cat, move on to a 12 second tuck lever, then the straddle and then finallly the full one. Have you gone through these progressions? Because if you have you should have the awareness and strength.

      If there is anything else I can help you with, feel free to ask! Cool website btw ;).

      Beast mode ON!

  2. Hello Rich,
    it’s me again after a long time. I just lost everything I wrote because of a connection problem so I’m a bit annoyed, it’s late and I’m not a fan of writing on a cellphone which is what I’m doing right now so I’m not in the mood to write down everything again. I will maybe post it later this day or some other time. But to sum it up:
    I seem to always be stuck at roughly the fat around my lower abs as seen on the picture showing my progress after 4 months which I posted in one of your blog entries a few months ago. Should I use a low-carb diet again or medium carb diet with higher intensity workout (which I did mostly until now, only that I have been a bit lazy)? I tried low-carb for 3-4 days and it crushed me on the last one or two days. My nutrition always seems to go offtrack sometimes, even in the first 4 or so months after starting calisthenics but even moreso now.
    Thanks in advance and good night.

    1. Hey Thijmen!

      Haha, thanks for your comment! Looking forward to seeing that back lever of yours.

      You know where to find me if you want to have a training session together.

      Just send me a message!

      Beast mode ON!

  3. HEY BRO,
    HOW ABOUT BREATHING TECHNIQUES WHICH I THINK IS MOST ESSENTIAL. FOR SOME IT MIGHT COME NATURALLY. BUT FOR OTHERS WHO ARE IGNORANT YOUR REVELATION MIGHT HELP.
    THANKS IN ADVANCE, IT WILL HELP ME FOREMOST

    1. Hey Durai,

      Great question.

      The rabbit hole goes deep with this one. Breathing for relaxation, breathing for energy and much, much more. For most beginners this would perhaps be a bit too ‘out there’, but what do you want to know on breathing? What are the goals you have?

      Let me know!

      Beast mode ON!

  4. Great article guys! You were one of the reasons why I ditched the gym for working out in the parks and outdoors. Thank you, you helped me change my life in a very positive way. I have a question which is general for all hold exercises like back lever, front lever, planche etc. How long should one rest between repetitions. So for example I perform 10-15 seconds of tucked back lever, how long shall I wait before I perform again? For example for strength exercises they say rest 2-3 minutes, for repetitions rest like 30sec-1min. Is there for holds an optimal rest period between sets?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *