Learning The Back Lever
The back lever is a body weight skills that involves holding yourself vertically under a bar or rings, this skill looks awesome when performed correctly!. The back lever is probably one of the skills we would recommend that you don’t over train and you really listen to your body as you could easily damage your shoulders if you over do it.
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.
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 body weight training it would be in your interest to build up your base strength before trying to learn any of the body weight skills, if you have very tight shoulders you will need to address this as it will make the back lever much easier if you have loose shoulders, this will also help avoid injuries.
Warming up is really important to get the most out of your training and help avoid injuries, an example warm up is outlined below:
Please note the following times for the triceps, arm circles and wrist stretch:
- Arm circles should take 30 seconds each direction
- Tricep stretch should take between 20-30 seconds on each arm
- The wrist stretch should be performed for 20 seconds each side and the wrist rolls should take 20 seconds each direction followed by a 10-second stretch on each side of the hand
Chest Stretch- 30 seconds
Jump Squats – 15-20 reps
How To Start Your Back Lever Traning
There are many different ways to go about learning how to perform 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 will outline the exercises that I used to achieve my back lever.
Skin The Cat
If you are just starting out body weight 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 being upside down, please use mats if they are available as this will give you piece 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 then 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.
- Try and 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.
Once you are holding the straddle back lever for 15-20 seconds you are 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 straighten 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 fall straight down, again this is normal and you will over time start to hold this position.
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.