Mastering the Front Lever Exercise is one of the first skills that you try to learn in calisthenics, the first preparatory are relatively easy and motivate those who try their hand.
In reality, being able to bring home the perfect skill is not easy at all and as with all things it requires commitment, dedication, and perseverance.
In this short article, we see the essential points to keep in mind when we want to master the front lever.
In the front Lever exercise, we will be hung from the support (bar, rings, parallel) with the belly upwards, and the whole body perfectly parallel to the ground.
It is therefore important that the shoulders, hips, and feet are on the same line and that this is parallel to the ground.
Muscles Involved In The Front Lever Exercise
The shoulder is in a flexed position but the muscles that must express strength are the extensor ones: the great dorsal, the posterior deltoid, the head of the biceps, but also the triceps and the ribs of the great pectoral.
The scapula must remain stabilized thus the rhomboids, the trapezius muscle, and the large anterior dentate intervene.
The shoulder must be depressed, the lower trapezius muscle, the great dorsal, the small pectoral, and the great pectoral are thus activated.
In order to maintain a horizontal position at the level of the abdomen, the flexor muscles of the spine and all the abdominals must intervene.
The pelvis must be well fixed and stable, therefore the activation of the gluteus maximus and the hip flexor muscles is strong.
Given the many muscles involved in the front lever, the force is expressed above all at the level of intermuscular coordination.
It is, therefore, necessary to understand which muscles are to be contracted at the same time.
Where To Start?
Let’s start by saying a hard truth the taller and heavier you are, the more difficult the front lever will be.
The variable, therefore, is not only the weight but also the height with an identical weight distribution a taller subject will have more difficulty than a shorter subject.
Don’t give up though it’s full of examples of tall, heavy guys who can do this isometric exercise.
The front lever requires both pulling force and abdominal force, it follows that the preparatory exercises for this exercise represent the traction exercises (both vertical and horizontal) and those for the core.
Starting from the latter you must become good in the planks in addition to putting general strength in the abdomen they will teach you and hold the retroversion position of the pelvis which will then be replicated during the execution of the front lever.
Other exercises for the abdomen will be the L-sit and the dragon flag, much more advanced than the previous ones but which will give you great strength.
From the point of view of the traction force, I recommend that you wait until you are on 10 – 12 prone tractions before starting the specific training for the front; training horizontal pull-ups (Australian pull-ups or body rows ) will also come in handy.
Front Lever: The Execution Technique
We are going to describe more specifically the technique of execution of the front lever, which will be in its cornerstones, the same for all the preparatory courses.
Let’s start with the arms they will be kept taut in the joint block.
To succeed in this, since working with straight arms is not natural at all, you can initially think of pushing from the elbows instead of from the hands, this should help you to keep them straight.
In any case, any proprioceptive input that leads you to the correct position will be fine.
As for the position of the shoulder blades they must be depressed. To do this, when you are hanging on the bar, you think you want to break the bar.
When descending the pelvis must be held in retroversion to properly activate the abdominal muscles.
This last point can create some problems if you are not very mobile of legs you will compromise the line to be able to keep the retroversion.
Now assuming that in this case, you will have to work on the mobility of the lower limbs, to be able to have a correct line with retroversion on a purely aesthetic level it is much better to see a front lever in line without retroversion than one with retroversion but legs not aligned as compensation.
Initially, I advise you to use a mirror or to film yourself with videos to check the goodness of the position until you acquire the proprioception to put yourself in the correct position without using these tools.
Preparations For The Front Lever Exercise
Let’s now quickly see the sequence to obtain the skill. I took the photos between one storm and another, don’t do them if they are very rough.
Tuck Front Lever
The first preparation of the front Lever is the Tuck version which is the one with gathered legs.
It is a very easy position to hold if you have the traction prerequisites, but it will be a bit uncomfortable at first especially getting into position.
To do this, I advise you to start using a low bar so that you can start dynamically also with the help of your legs not having to activate from scratch.
It is important especially at the beginning to keep the legs tightly folded to the chest if you do not, you will increase the leverage consequently increasing the difficulty of the exercise, bringing it to a level beyond yours.
Warm-up well it is easy to get a contracture in the rhomboids, or in the great dorsal muscle when we still do not have the proprioception of how to pull with the muscles.
- You can move on to the next propaedeutic when you manage to hold this position for at least 30 “
Advance Tuck Front Lever
In this position, the legs will no longer be gathered to the chest, but the angle between the femur and the torso will be 90 °. This will greatly increase the difficulty of the exercise.
There is the problem of the retroversion of the pelvis which was absent in the collected version as it came automatically.
It is important not to collapse with the abdomen, forming a hollow that is really ugly to see and not very useful in the learning process.
If you can hold the tuck front for the indicated time but still can’t do it well in the Advanced Tuck version you can use an intermediate leg angle opening up to the full version.
- You can move on to the next propaedeutic when you manage to hold this position for at least 20 “(if you reach more, however, it does not hurt)
One Leg Front Lever
In this position, we would have a leg tightly tucked up to the chest and a straight leg.
The difficulty of this exercise is to keep the leg well in line with the rest of the body: it is easy for the fact to keep one leg raised to cause the raising of that extended leg which will therefore be oblique and not parallel to the ground.
Here too, as in the tuck version it is important to keep the leg tucked up in order not to increase the difficulty.
- I recommend a 15-20 “before moving on to the next version.
One Leg Front Lever 2.0
But why are we still here? Because the next version can be the same one leg. This preparatory course, in fact, can be self-contained, that is it can lead you to the complete version of the movement.
By going to expand the collected leg you will increase the difficulty of the exercise, without having to use preparations such as the straddle and the half-full lay that have very high mobility requirements to be performed correctly.
The versions that you can use are those with one leg extended and one at 90 °, and gradually expanding the angle of the legs.
- I recommend holding at least 10 ”of a position before extending the leg.
Straddle Front Lever
It is not a propaedeutic that I really like, as the difficulties in terms of mobility are much more than those in terms of strength to hold the position correctly at the level of the leg line and the retroversion of the pelvis, you must have very high mobility of the lower limbs, certainly higher than the final version.
It is difficult to categorize in terms of difficulty because it depends on the opening of the legs of the subject there are those who manage to open very little and will find it extremely difficult, while those who do it in a split and will find it easier than that with one leg.
- I recommend holding at least 10 ”a position before bringing your legs together.
Half Full Lay Front Lever
Even the half-full version presents difficulties in terms of mobility, but less than the spread version.
Here we will be with the legs together and in the line up to the knees, while the shins will be held together by pushing the heels towards the buttocks.
A very difficult propaedeutic, once you master it you will not be far from the final version of isometry.
- When you get to about 12-15 ”you can move on to the final version.
Full Front Lever
Here we are at the final version!
To do it correctly you must have your arms straight, your shoulders depressed, your pelvis in retroversion and you must be parallel to the ground from shoulders to feet, which must be on the same line.
- When you hold the isometry for about ten seconds you will be a complete master.
Let’s now see a whole series of dynamic exercises that can help us train static positions.
In general, dynamic exercises put less stress on the nervous system than isometric ones.
Ice Cream Maker (Or Sling Bar In Gymnastics)
In this exercise we will start from the final traction position that is with the chin above the bar, and from here we will throw ourselves with the shoulders back, simultaneously raising the pelvis, arriving in a momentary position of the front Lever.
It can obviously be performed in all the preparatory courses, and it can be useful to understand how to activate when you want to move on from one propaedeutic to the next.
This is because the ice cream maker is easier than the isometric version in which we run it.
Indeed, many perform it correctly in the full version having at most a few seconds of one leg in isometry.
Front Lever Raises
In this exercise, we start hanging from the bar with arms outstretched, with the shoulder blades depressed and the pelvis in retroversion, and we go to raise the body bringing it into a momentary front lever position.
This exercise can also be performed in all the preparatory courses and is easier than the isometric version the raises in full front lever will be easier than the full isometric version.
An evolution of the raises are the complete ones, where we will not stop at the horizontal but we will arrive in inverted hang, that is, upside down.
These are much more difficult than the classic version and are placed as difficulties just below the isometry.
Front Lever Pulls
In pulls (NOT to be confused with pull-ups), we start from the horizontal position and should go into reverse hang (upside down).
It is a dynamic exercise that is more difficult than the isometric counterpart, to perform it correctly you will have to keep the isometry for about ten seconds.
Much more difficult than full raises, even if the movement in the final part is the same: this is because in the raises we arrive with the inertia of the push, while in the pulls we will start from the isometry and we should generate enough force to move from that position.
Personally, it is my favorite dynamic exercise.
Front Lever Pull-Ups
Front lever pull-ups, are an exercise that is very beautiful to see as it is very difficult to perform. Here too, it can be done in all the preparatory courses previously seen.
It’s important that the execution to be “valid”, must at least break the parallel, that is to arrive with the shoulder higher than the elbow.
In the tuck version, you can use parallel bars/rings as the legs would act as an obstacle against the bar.
Now that we have seen the first tips on how to perform the front lever we just have to see with a future article, what can be the programs to progress in the preparatory exercises.