One skill that is considered a staple of calisthenics training is the front lever. The front lever is a static hold that is typically performed on the rings or a bar, and it requires that you hold your body in a horizontal position with arms straight. This skill requires immense strength in the lats and core. The front lever is also the perfect counterpart to the planche. Performing a front lever puts you in essentially the same body position as a planche, but inverted, and therefore works opposing muscle groups.
The full front lever is a very advanced skill that can take years to master. However, no matter where you are in your calisthenics journey, there is a progression that’s right for you. Outlined below are a few of the most popular front lever progressions.
Tuck Front Lever
Most people start with a tuck front lever. This is the most accessible position for people who have little experience with calisthenics. To perform a tuck front lever, pull your knees tight into your chest and try to hold yourself with your hips as high as your shoulders. Aim for about 10-15 seconds. If you’re not able to hold a front lever with the knees tucked, you can use a band around the lower back for extra support or keep your hips higher than shoulder height until you build the strength to bring them lower.
Open Tuck Front Lever
When you become proficient in the tuck front lever (you can perform about 5 rounds of 10-15 second holds), the next step is to aim for an open tuck position. In the open tuck position, your knees are still bent, but you’ll increase the angle in your hips. This will bring your thighs away from your chest and perpendicular to the floor.
Single-Leg Knee Tuck
The single-leg knee tuck is a great next step up from the open tuck. In this variation, you’ll keep one knee tucked into your chest (either closed tuck or open tuck position) and extend the other leg straight out. This position allows you to get closer to the full front lever position without putting your full weight into it.
Straddle Front Lever
The straddle front lever is typically the last progression before a full front lever. In the straddle position you’ll fully extend through your hips and straddle the legs. The wider of a straddle you can create, the easier this position will be. As you work toward a full front lever, you’ll gradually bring the legs closer together.
The variations mentioned above are the most common, but there are other ways to scale a front lever. Moving from one progression to the next can be a big leap, and one way to find an effort that’s somewhere in between is to use bands. If you’re proficient at tuck levers (you can do 4-5 rounds of 10-15 second holds), but you can’t hold an open tuck yet, try practicing the open tuck with a band. Another way to scale the single-leg knee tuck and straddle variations is to practice with a closed hip position before fully extending through the hips.
Finally, the ultimate goal is the full front lever with hips fully open and legs together. As mentioned earlier, this skill takes many years of training (and a lot of patience) to achieve. Enjoy the process and remember that no matter what progression you’re working on, you’ll build upper body and core strength along the way!
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