Thursday 9 January 2014

Back levers

Back levers involve the posterior chain, the core muscles, and the shoulder flexors (particularly the anterior deltoids). They are an intermediate bodyweight exercise which can be performed on rings, or on a pull up bar.

arm and leg lift plank, legs forward dips

In terms of difficulty, back levers should be significantly easier than the front lever, which the horizontal pulls progression on leads to. However, some people struggle with these because the shoulder is engaged at its weakest point, towards the end of its range of motion.
Practicing back levers can place quite a lot of stress on the soft tissues, and you should give yourself plenty of rest between your sessions to avoid injuries.

1. Tuck knees back levers. Hanging on the ring or on a pull up bar from an upside down position, tuck your knees towards your chest, and lower yourself down until you are in an horizontal position, with your torso parallel to the ground.
Start with a few seconds, and rest for what remains of a minute; then repeat 5 times. Build up to 5 holds of 15s, with rests of 45s.
 2. One leg extended back levers. From the upside down position, tuck one knee towards your chest, and extend the other leg, as straight as possible. Then lower yourself down to horizontal.
Again, start with a few seconds; rest for what remains of a minute; then repeat 5 times.
Keep alternating between legs.
 3. Straddle leg back lever. from the upside down position, extend your legs into a straddle, and lower yourself down to horizontal.
Hold the position for 5 sets of between 5 and 15s, resting for what remains of a minute.
4. Full back lever. This is performed with your legs perfectly straight, and your body in alignement.
Once you do sets of 15s, you can start working towards holds of one minute.
Aim for one minute work in total, so for instance, do 3 sets of 20s with 40s rest; or 2 sets of 30s with 30s rest.
Keep building this up until you can hold the position for a full minute.


  1. Hi Nick (el diablo),

    At the moment I'm nowhere near that level of exercises (still working on loosing weight, went from almost 19st to 15st, lot of work ahead of me:), but I'll get there too. What I'd like to say is, that I really like format of your website. Especially, where you give prerequisite for the more difficult exercises. It's very helpful. Thanks very much.

    1. Thanks for the kind words Mike. Appreciated.

    2. All the content looks very professional, the introduction part where you describe excercise and give the warning so people wont hurt themself (too much:D).

      Personally, I'm more less "half way up the ladder", except for "Squats", have to take it easy with those (previous knee injury). Few times I got "stuck" on one level of progression and if anyone else (and I'm sure there are plenty of people like me) is in the same situation, what help me break the stall, was to focus on the increasing number of reps in the same level and focusing more on loosing weigth than building up strength. I'm gussing it doesn't work like that "higher up the ladder", but where I'm, did the trick.

  2. Would I be right in saying that when you are exiting this hold you rotate back through your arms instead of dropping straight to your feet. This would mean that your shoulders don't ping out of the hold but instead rotate nicely back into a normal position. For some people you may find you need a second person ("spotter") to help you rotate back through, especially on the longer holds.

    1. You can actually do either of... If you follow the progression and build up gradually to hold of 15s for each step, there shouldn't be a need for a spotter.

  3. el diablo. number 1 says to tuck knees to chest but the pic shows the knees rather further away from the come? any videos you can post to help the movement of number 2?

    1. Try using the reddit Start Bodyweight group for your questions:
      How much you tuck your knees in will affect the difficulty of the exercise.
      I would make a vid, but this will have to wait a bit: I have a messed up elbow at the moment, and back levers aggravate it bad.

  4. it looks like i'm in the fetal postition from the sides. thanks.