Bodyweight Exercises- Front Lever Variations


Longtime readers know how much I have always loved and promoted bodyweight exercises. Renegade Inner Circle members know how much I love gymnastic holds such as the front lever. I believe this should be part of everyone’s training arsenal and is an incredible lat exercise that is nearly unmatched.

The first, most basic progression of the front lever simply involves holding yourself parallel to the ground in a fetal position with your back rounded and your knees on your chest. Do that 3-6 times per week for 3 sets of 10-15 seconds until it becomes easy. Then move on to the next level which I have demonstrated below. The difference here is that you try to keep your back flatter and extend your knees away from your chest so that they are bent 90 degrees. The arms should be straight and you should be pushing down toward your feet like you were doing a straight arm pulldown. You will feel your lats like you never have before and will probably even notice a difference in the way they look within your first 4-6 weeks of using the front lever regularly. Take it slow and steady on these. Don’t be in any kind of rush to progress too fast.

Another cool variation of the front lever can be used to make inverted rows more challenging. If you’re dominating your inverted rows and don’t have any chains or a weight vest to throw on you could always try removing your legs from the ground entirely. Simply get into the front lever tuck position and row yourself up. The easier version is done on a straight bar and is demonstrated below by Jen. Obviously the drawback here is the limited range of motion. But it’s still a great exercise.

The harder version is done on rings which I have demonstrated in the second video. Start by leaning back closer to an upside down position and as they get easier flatten yourself out closer to parallel with the ground.

Let me know how it works out for you and if you have any questions drop them below.

For more on how to do front levers and every other cool pull up bar trick known to man be sure to check out Al Kavadlo’s Raising the Bar by clicking HERE now.

 

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29 Responses to Bodyweight Exercises- Front Lever Variations

  1. Thomas January 17, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    I started doing these in august last year when I learned them from you (in the inner circle) and made great progress, thanks!

  2. Matt January 17, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    Jason,
    I just purchased Minimalist Training and was hoping I can sqeeze in some front lever, back lever, and planche work. Would the beginning of a workout be the best time to place the gymnastic holds or would splitting it into two sessions be a smart idea with one being dedicated to solely gymnastic movements?
    Matt

    • Jason Ferruggia January 18, 2012 at 11:53 am #

      Matt,
      Yup, start the workout with them.

  3. Chris January 17, 2012 at 10:16 pm #

    I love the tuck row, which I do on parallel bars – but I can’t get very high – barely until my elbows are horizontally aligned with my shoulders. I’d like to be able to pull my body higher…. Would using rings be better? I imagine it’d be a more natural motion for my joints… Is it an upper-back strength thing?

    • Jason Ferruggia January 18, 2012 at 11:55 am #

      Chris, that’s completely normal as this is a very difficult exercise. It will probably be harder on rings because of the added stabilization element. Try looping a very light band over the rings and putting your feet in that for assistance. Over time you can lighten the band.

      • Chris January 18, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

        Thanks Jason!

      • Mauro May 25, 2013 at 7:31 am #

        Hi Jason, one question:

        _ Front Lever and front lever pull up is superior to normal pull up (or chin up) for back development (strength and hypertrophy?)

        Thank’s.

        M.

  4. Pearson January 17, 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    I used to do this stuff in the playground when I was in school. Just playing around and stuff. That was about 15 years ago. Gonna take some time to get back into it. My mobility sucks big time now.

  5. Alex January 18, 2012 at 2:37 am #

    Almost a full body exercise as you have to keep your whole body very tight..
    Will surelly give it a try on the rings, looks very interesting and quite a different angle to work the lats..
    Keep it up !!

  6. Troy January 18, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    Awesome, more stuff to work on with my rings! I’ve been working and slowly progressing towards a muscle-up, but haven’t spent much time on the front-lever. I’ve been doing body rows, these are great. I just had to run out to the garage to try them out. I can’t flatten out, yet.

    • Jason Ferruggia January 18, 2012 at 11:57 am #

      Troy, both the muscle up and front lever, along with the tuck rows, actually, are hard as hell. Just be patient and do low rep, easy sets very often. High frequency is key when trying to improve something like this.

      • Troy January 18, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

        “grease the groove” – I’m doing my best to convince our health&wellness folks at work to install some pullup bars and maybe even rings at work. That will help mixing in lots of low rep, easy sets sprinkled through out each and every day. Woo hoo!

        The plan works well on days when I get to work from home. Just need some more equipment at work. ;)

        I can see the headline now “Cube Dweller nails slow, controlled front lever and muscle up”!

        Thanks!

  7. Jason January 18, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

    I will try these in place of the regular inverted rows. I was looking for a way to make them harder.

  8. Nick January 19, 2012 at 11:42 am #

    I never though tabout doing a tuck front lever row. I have been racking my brains to find a bodyweight version of a row that isn’t just an inverted one too. Thanks Jay

  9. Karl January 19, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    Hay, where and when would you add this into a program? Iv tried them, love ‘em, and want to progress them…just where and when should I haha. Thanks.

    • Jason Ferruggia January 24, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

      You can practice the front lever daily. The rows can be done in place of any type of rows in your program.

  10. Devon Dudeman January 19, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    I guess this works if you don’t have access to a t-bar row, pull up bar, lat pull down, or row machine at your gym…

    I honestly don’t know how useful this would be in my training regimen. I ride FMX which requires a strong back, but I don’t know what good this would do for me.

  11. Bryan January 20, 2012 at 5:26 am #

    I love inverted rows and all the variations; feet elevated, single arm, these front tuck levers, static holds, rowing high to the neck – low to the waist – and everywhere between, uneven with one arm high and the other low. I’m sure creative minds have more but these are my staples.

    Really working toward a full front lever. A real litmus test for core strength.

    @ Devon – part of the excellence that the front lever inverted rows bring is the core strengthening element. If you’ve never tried them I’d suggest stick these in one day where you’d normally do the rowing machine. You’ll find it surprising.

  12. Mike January 20, 2012 at 6:30 am #

    Good stuff–thanks. I recently built myself an 8-ft standing pullup bar in my apt, and have been using it to build up to a muscle-up on rings.

    Curious to get your response from the guy who wrote that these exercises prevent “thoracic extension and retraction of the scapulae.” I think he means that curving the thoracic spine during this exercise is somehow bad, and that the exercise is too hard for most folks to fully retract the scapulae? Trying to make sense of this, especially as I am 44 and have lumbar spine issues.

    Thanks again!

  13. Kevin January 20, 2012 at 11:54 am #

    Damn, I thought I invented a new exercise! Guess not. I do the “tuck front lever rows” on a JG XT once in a while starting about 4 months ago. I do them with weight strapped to me (currently around 35 lbs- you have to wear the belt backwards to do this).

  14. ryan January 20, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

    dude, is that a casio g-shock frogman watch you have on in the video?

    tried these today and funny thing is another guy came up to me and said ” did you see that on ferruggia’s site this week? ” I said; “who’s that?” j/k.

    I liked these, im actually sore tonight, also curious what you think Jason about what chropractic dude had to say about these.

  15. Dale January 21, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    To the ex-gymnast, now chiropractic student: I’ve been doing tuck lever rows now and my posture has never been better. Shoulder pain has been mitigated as well. You don’t have to actually extend the thoracic spine at all times to strengthen the muscles that facilitate extension.

  16. Niko January 26, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

    Gotta get me some rings for my home gym!

    • Troy January 26, 2012 at 10:48 pm #

      Do it! No really! I’ve added several things to the garage gym and the rings are near the top of the list. (Even if I still suck at ‘em.)

  17. Liam June 19, 2012 at 7:01 am #

    hi jay,how would you put this into a workout routine? Where you mentioned you can do this up to 6 times a week,can you do it on its own on off days?

  18. Robert September 24, 2013 at 3:48 am #

    Can skills like levers and planch be worked on a daily basis?