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Look at Olympic gymnasts—who train with only their body weight—and it’s pretty obvious that you don’t need barbells and dumbbells to be strong and ripped. The front lever (shown above)—which every top gymnast can do in his sleep—is a better indicator of your lats, core, and grip strength than a deadlift. Why? Because you can’t cheat it—if you can’t do one with the right form, then you can’t do one. It’s as simple as that.
And mastering this move will pay dividends when it comes to your other lifts, as being able to suspend yourself in midair with your back parallel to the floor requires a tremendous amount of full-body stability. That stability will benefit you during compound lifts and Olympic movements. Not sure where to start? Follow the progression below.
How To Do It:
Work up to your first front lever with this progression.
1. Hang from a bar and simply bring your knees toward your chest.
2. Aim your knees toward the bar; get as parallel to the floor as your spine will allow.
3. Next, try to hold that position, with your back parallel to the floor, for 10 to 15 seconds.
4. When you can do that, extend one leg and alternate. (One extends; the other retracts.)
5. Now attempt to spread your feet as you extend your legs. This will help dissipate tension through your body.
Use the following exercises from longtime Muscle & Fitness Editorial Director (and front lever aficionado) Shawn Perine to perfect your front lever.
Core: Hanging Leg Raise
Perine says: “Superstrict hanging leg raises and superstrict pullups, where you bring your body as high over the bar as possible, will help prep you for front levers. You want to get totally comfortable on the bar and have control in your movements on it.”
Back: Straight-Arm Pulldown
Perine says: “This move mimics the motion of the front lever, except your feet are planted and your hands move along an arc, which is the opposite of how you move in the front lever. Remember to keep a slight bend in your elbow to avoid hyperextension and to keep your shoulders down and back.”