How To Back Lever For Beginners

The back lever is a bodyweight skill that involves holding yourself horizontally under a bar or gymnastics rings, this skill looks awesome when performed correctly.

The back lever is one of the skills we would recommend that you don’t overtrain and you really listen to your body as you could easily damage your shoulders if you overdo it.

SAFETY

Safety when learning the back lever is very important as chances are you will be suspended upside down with a concrete floor beneath you.

If your gym has mats available please use them, if they don’t it would be worth putting something down to break your fall if the worst was to happen.

EXPECTATIONS

You may find yourself asking how long will it take me to learn the back lever?, unlike the handstand, this isn’t down to balance but more based on strength and technique, if you have a good base strength and shoulder flexibility before starting learning to back lever you should be able to perform a back lever within 2-4 months or quicker if you are focusing solely on the back lever.

If you are just starting out bodyweight training it would be in your interest to build up your base strength before trying to learn any bodyweight skills.

If you have very tight shoulders you will need to address this as it will make the back lever much easier and safer if you have a good range of motion in your shoulders, this will also help avoid injuries. Warming up is really important to get the most out of your training and help avoid injuries.

Below you will find a warm-up video that you can follow along with.

HOW TO START YOUR BACK LEVER TRAINING

There are many different ways to go about learning the back lever and you will find lots of videos on YouTube, neither way is wrong its what works for you.

I will be outlining what has worked for me and the people that I train with.

For me, the back lever was more about repetition rather than lots of different exercises. I have outlined the exercises that I used to achieve my back lever.

SKIN THE CAT

If you are just starting out bodyweight training you probably have never been upside down on a pull bar, this will be your first exposure to the tension on your shoulders and the feeling of being upside down.

Please use mats if they are available as this will give you peace of mind that you are safe while upside down.

When performing skin the cat you may feel a tightness in your shoulders and chest, if you do experience of these either let go (when safe, not while upside down) or rotate back around, work into the position slowly and start working on your shoulder flexibility and mobility.

 

USEFUL TIPS

  • Keep your arms straight when performing the initial raise
  • Learn backwards and use your abs and back muscles to bring your legs through your arms

STRADDLE BACK LEVER NEGATIVES

The straddle back lever negative is a great way to really feel the tension this skill puts on your body while allowing you to achieve a hold, the straddle increases your lever width which makes the movement easier, the closer the lever width the harder the back lever will be.

Just like before we need to raise the body up into the skin the cat position but the difference now is when we reach the top of the rotation we are going to straddle our legs and look forward.

Once in this position you will want to lower as slowly as possible, when you first try this you may fall straight down, this is normal and over time you will start holding the straddle back lever for longer as you become stronger.

Once you can hold the straddle back lever for 15-20 seconds with good form you are now ready to start moving onto the full back lever negative.

FULL BACK LEVER NEGATIVE

At this stage, you would have built up a good level of strength and technique, we now want to start lowering with both of our legs straight, like before raise up to the skin the cat position and once at the top of the rotation you will want to point your legs towards the sky and look forward not down.

Slowly start to lower down, like with the straddle at first you may not be able to hold this and you may fall straight down, again this is normal, over time you will start to hold this position for longer as you become stronger.

BACK LEVER KICK OUT

To avoid wasting energy you can kick out into the back lever from the skin the cat position instead of lowering down from the negative.

I would focus on the negative lower until you can hold the back lever for around 10-20 seconds before starting working on the kick out.