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Step By Step Guide to Mastering the Lever Bodyweight Exercise

The Best Exercise Precursor to the Full Lever

Written by
March 6, 2015
Updated September 10, 2018
Category: Fitness

The acrobatic Half Lever bodyweight exercise is the perfect precursor to the Full Lever. It requires a serious amount of shoulder and hip mobility, back pulling strength if done for reps, and extensive core strength. If you do this bodyweight exercise for reps you will find that it’s an incredible metabolic stressor as well!

After deciding that I’m not in the favor of the term (and at the suggestion of a friend) “skin the cat,” I decided to name this bodyweight exercise after the 1960’s toy where the figurine spins around a bar by way of rubber bands after depressing the base.

This bodyweight exercise can be a stand alone move or a preparatory move for doing some of the most iconic bodyweight exercises: Front Levers and Back Levers. A word of caution however, you must “focus and use good judgement” while doing this bodyweight exercise sequence. If you don’t, take a yoga class (as Pavel famously quoted at my RKC).

In other words, if you lack shoulder mobility and have a history of rotator cuff tears, this may not be the exercise for you! Work through mobility drills and progressions until you can perform extreme internal and external rotation under load. And of course, as always talk to your physician before attempting a workout.

Minimum Prerequisites for Half Lever Bodyweight Exercise

Minimum Prerequisites for Lever Bodyweight Exercise

  1. 10 strict Hanging Pull Ups (chin above bar)
  2. 10 Hanging Leg Raises (to top of bar)
  3. 10 second Dragon Hold, or 15 second L-Sit

Half Lever Bodyweight Exercise Warmup

  1. Knee Lifts to chest into an inverted tuck. Keep the body “quiet” when the legs are hanging at the bottom of each rep. Do not use momentum. No swinging!
  2. Supermans with a 5 second hold.
  3. Straight Arm Lat Pulldown with lat pull down bar or bands; do not grip too tightly.
  4. Overhead Stick Rotations.

Half Lever Bodyweight Exercise Workout

  1. Straight Leg Raises to the top of bar. No momentum at bottom! Do this until you can complete 3 sets of 6.
  2. Straight Leg 4 Second Negatives from an inverted position to a dead hang. Back to the inverted position. Do this until you can complete 2 sets of 6.
  3. Inverted Leg Hangs down to 90 degrees so it looks like an L-Sit. Back up to the inverted position. Do this until you can complete 3 sets of 6.
  4. Body Press Down with straight arms. While hanging from the bar with straight arms, retract and depress your scapula pushing your body away from the bar. Focus on raising the sternum to the bar at the same time. Do not grip the bar too hard with your palms. I tend to use my fingers more than clamping down with a tight fist. Work up to 3 sets of 6 reps of each.

A Guide to the Half Lever Bodyweight Exercise

The Half Lever Exercise

A guide to the lever bodyweight exercise

  1. Hang from the bar and pull your legs into an Inverted Tuck.
  2. Flip backwards out of the Inverted Tuck to the point where your arms are totally internally rotated and straight. Your legs should also be hanging and straight.
  3. Activate your Rhomboids and Traps to pull you back through into the inverted tuck position again.
  4. This is the point where you activate your core with full body tension squeezing your glutes, transverse abdominus, obliques, lower back, etc.
  5. To start the kick out movement, you need retract and depress your Scapula pushing your body away from the bar with straight arms (it is at this point you should not overly squeeze on the bar with a tight fist, I actually almost grip more with the fingers than my palm/fist).
  6. For the kick out, extend your leg with pointed toes, straight back, and head/neck back.
  7. Now alternate legs.
  8. You can now pull yourself back into the inverted tuck and repeat steps 2-7.
  9. For an advanced movement you can do a double kick out, which actually puts you in a very brief front lever position. At the very extreme edge, I have seen one person do this movement with one arm. That’s freak show bodyweight strength!
Lionel Martin is A Manual Therapist who has worked with 27 Olympians, USA Track and Field, Volunteers his services to Olympic Training Center, and has worked with over 70 players in the NFL. He is formally an RKC, holds a level 2 Coaching certification with Russian Girya Sports Institute, and is a Master Instructor in Evidence Based Fitness Academy and Barefoot Strong.
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