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Hang Tough: A One-Move Isometric Core Solution!

Advanced bodyweight maneuvers are some of the ultimate strength tests, because trying to cheat will just leave you flat on your back. Meet the front lever, an isometric core massacre that will show you what you’re made of!

People often underestimate how strong they can become with bodyweight exercises alone. To the average person, it may seem like once basic calisthenics like push-ups and pull-ups start to get easy, there's no way to progress without using weights.

Anyone who is well versed in bodyweight training knows this is total malarkey! The front lever is a simple bodyweight exercise that builds tremendous upper-body strength as well as an iron core. It looks pretty damn cool, too. A move regularly seen in gymnastics, the front lever involves pulling your whole body up until it is parallel to the floor, almost like you're floating on air.

Front levers are most commonly performed on gymnastics rings, but you can easily train them on any standard pull-up bar. In either case, both levers and modified front levers can take your pound-for-pound strength to new heights. However, you need to be strong already before you begin even the most basic variations. Before you embark on front lever training, you should be able to perform at least 10 dead-hang pull-ups (ideally more) as well as several full-range-of-motion hanging leg raises.

If you're already there, great! Now meet your next challenge.

The Lever Progression ///

The easiest variation on the front lever is the tuck front lever. Hang from a pull-up bar and squeeze your legs toward your chest while rolling your hips back until your torso is parallel to the ground.

After you can hold that for a full minute, the next step is to practice a straddle front lever. The straddle position, though much harder than a tucked front lever, is still significantly less of a challenge than a full front lever. By opening your legs, you change the balance and you also shorten the lever, both of which make the move easier. Additionally, you'll need better than average hip mobility to pull off a decent straddle front lever, so make sure you regularly stretch both your hamstrings and hips.

There are many ways to manipulate the leverage more or less in your favor depending on how you position your legs and hips. Feel free to explore other leg positions, such as the half-tuck front lever. The further you reach your leg(s) away from your torso, the harder the exercise becomes.

Full Frontal ///

When you've gotten to the point where these lead-up variations are no longer challenging, you will be ready to attempt holding a full front lever.

In the beginning, it may be easier for you to start in a tucked front lever position and slowly extend your legs into the full lever, maintaining total body tension the whole time. With practice, you can work toward pulling to the front lever position from a dead hang with your entire body straight.

When performing a front lever, think about squeezing the bar tight and pressing it down toward your hips. Engage your arms and torso, clench your midsection, and squeeze your legs together. This move works the entire body, especially the lats and other upper back musculature.

One of the most common issues people have with the front lever is keeping proper alignment through the legs, hips and spine. Point your toes and watch out that your butt doesn't sink; strive for a perfectly straight line from the top of your feet to your neck.

Though the front lever is most commonly approached as a static hold, performing front levers for reps can be a useful tool as you work toward an isometric hold. Practicing going in and out of position is a bit easier than trying to hold the peak contraction.

Keep your whole body tight as you use your arms and lats to pull your body into the lever position, then lower back down to a dead hang and repeat. Since you don't stay in the top position long, this move can help you ease into more difficult variations. You can practice going up and down for reps with a tucked or half-tucked position to vary the intensity. Though some swinging may be unavoidable, try to use as little momentum as possible.

Front Lever Training

Watch The Video - 02:06




Patience and Practice ///

Achieving a full front lever requires serious pulling strength as well as total body control, so working your way up to it can take a long time. Be patient and gradually work through each step before moving onto the next one.

If you find yourself getting stagnant in your progress, take a break from front lever training while you continue to work the basics like pull-ups and push-ups. Then come back to it after a few weeks. A little time off can sometimes give you renewed focus. The front lever is a difficult move; I'm still working on perfecting it myself.


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About The Author

Al Kavadlo, CSCS is one of the world's leading experts in bodyweight strength training and calisthenics.

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yrabadi

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yrabadi

Speaking as a guy who has a weak-*** core and can hardly get through a set of crunches, this is truly something to aspire to. Thinking of reading up on more of your exercises and incorporating them into the weight training I'm accustomed to.

Awesome stuff! Thanks!

Jun 13, 2013 5:13pm | report
 
AlexisBT

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AlexisBT

Impressive!

Jun 13, 2013 8:12pm | report
 
whozeboy

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whozeboy

I like seeing the calisthenic movement coming on bodybuilding.com You go Al.

Jun 13, 2013 9:24pm | report
 
hicker36

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hicker36

thats insane!!

Jun 13, 2013 9:37pm | report
 
artin1

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artin1

great thats cool

Jun 13, 2013 10:21pm | report
 
drscottpt

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drscottpt

I would say...amazing! The forearm and grip strength required to do those moves is also something to work on.

Jun 14, 2013 5:13am | report
 
ExtraPicante

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ExtraPicante

I can't wait to go try this! I'm sure I'll fail miserably the first time but now I have a new goal for the end of the summer

Jun 14, 2013 6:30am | report
 
jonlyo5150

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jonlyo5150

Hope you can pull build up to it in 8-10 weeks. I am thinking I'll need 8-10 months. Front lever and muscle up or bust.

Jun 16, 2013 7:49pm | report
rennbj4

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rennbj4

I just got to the point where I can hold a lever for 5 seconds. It's definitely a cool movement, and you feel mad strong when you get it...

also, it gets looks from people like nothing else.

Jun 14, 2013 9:07am | report
 
br86

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br86

great progression

Jun 14, 2013 9:34am | report
 
AlKavadlo

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AlKavadlo

Thanks for all the positive feedback! It's good to see there's plenty of love for bodyweight training in the bodybuilding.com community!

Article Rated:
Jun 14, 2013 10:07am | report
 
motule

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motule

I must try now....hmmm

Jun 14, 2013 12:12pm | report
 
mmiltonp

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mmiltonp

Al my man, you got core strength right brother, I need muscles that don't even know they exist yet to pull this off, but as you said, PATIENCE!!!

Jun 14, 2013 1:56pm | report
 
mfisher87

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mfisher87

Beast. Super Impressive.

Jun 15, 2013 4:23am | report
 
  • Body Stats
  • ht: 5'10"
  • wt: 191.14 lbs
  • bf: 13.0%
VanKnight604

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VanKnight604

That's insane! Great tips Al!

Jun 15, 2013 2:28pm | report
 
thomasmuro32

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thomasmuro32

Incredible muscle control and conditioning! Great Work Al!

Jun 15, 2013 6:10pm | report
 
aflexxg

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aflexxg

a man thinks hes got a fair amount of strength then he sees this holy @#$%. well i know what i'm working on my next few trips to the park. the crazy thing was the lever to muscle up man that just blew my mind most ppl cant comprehend how demanding that is on the body, like thats crazy hard, you the man Al Kavadlo

Jun 16, 2013 8:00am | report
 
deepakaggarwal

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deepakaggarwal

Speaking of the guy he has master the bodyworkout and he exept the beginer to do the workout ouch

Jun 16, 2013 11:24pm | report
 
fitnessfitsyou

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fitnessfitsyou

I like it.

Jun 17, 2013 1:47am | report
 
fitnessfitsyou

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fitnessfitsyou

I like it.

Jun 17, 2013 1:47am | report
 
warrendroms

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warrendroms

I think it's fantastic! I am so going to work up to this, it just looks so rugged to do! That should put a 2.5 minute plank to shame!

Jun 17, 2013 10:18am | report
 
Alekstar

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Alekstar

Impressive!!! I'm gonna start playing with the easiest variation and hope to get more strength, since (ashamed to admit) I still can't do a single pull up.

Jun 17, 2013 4:37pm | report
 
drscottpt

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drscottpt

Just tried to do the first part of this progression with pull-ups between sets of leg lifts...1 set of 10 of each, then only 8 of each and then only 7 of each...epic fail by me. Hamstring length is an issue as well. Maybe I should not have run 2 miles before either.

Jun 18, 2013 12:50pm | report
 
dylanfan61

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dylanfan61

This is also good to practice on the dip levers that are in the very front of the pullup machine.

Jun 21, 2013 12:44pm | report
 
verz22

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verz22

Ive already been working on being able to do this so its awesome to see some intermediate exercises to build up proper strength

Jun 21, 2013 1:00pm | report
 
Showing 1 - 25 of 35 Comments

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