Back Lever Tutorial: The Easiest Calisthenics Skill?

Stong man with short hair is doing a back lever

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 calisthenics 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

The back lever is the opposite of the front lever. 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.

Requirements

As said earlier, the back lever is a beginners skill, as this is mostly one of the first achievements of most beginners in calisthenics. There are not really any requirements for this move. Just make sure you master some basics, like for instance hanging on the bar for at least ±30 seconds, doing 5 regular pull-ups and some push-ups.

Make sure you to warm up before training this skill. 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

The very first progression to the back lever is the skin the cat exercise (a.k.a. German Hang). 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.

How to Skin the Cat

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 is 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 10 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.

Exercises to achieve the back lever

Now we know the progressions, it is time to look at some back lever exercises to speed up the progress.

Attempts

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.

Negative Back Lever

In my calisthenics skill tutorials, I talk a lot about how doing the negative version of a skill helps you to achieve it. Just like any other calisthenics 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.

Core exercises

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.

Extra Tips and tricks

Here are four extra tips and tricks to progress faster in the Back Lever!

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!

First Back Lever – Banana 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.

Grip strength

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. 

Frequency

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.

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