Learn How To Back Lever

The back lever is an skill that involves holding the body in a horizontal position with your back facing the sky and having both your arms and legs extended.

The back lever requires exceptional upper body and core strength, as well as body control and stability.

What Muscles Does The Back Lever Train

The back lever targets these muscles and these muscle groups:

  • Latissimus dorsi (lats)
  • Biceps
  • Rhomboids
  • Trapezius
  • Triceps
  • Brachialis
  • Forearm Flexors
  • Erector Spinae

Level 1: Skin The Cat

The skin the cat exercise teaches you how to activate multiple muscles in your body as well as the standard entry into the back lever. This exercise will train your shoulders in the rotational movement used to enter the back lever position.

Typical Routine: 3 sets of 10 repetitions

Level 2: Tuck Back Lever

You can enter the back lever tuck position by first performing a skin the cat and pausing after the inversion. Tuck your knees to your chest and make sure that your back is parallel to the ground. Recording yourself at this back lever progression can help ensure proper form and reduce the risk of injury.

Typical Routine: 3 sets of 30 seconds

Level 3: Single Leg Extension Back Lever

From the tuck back lever position extend 1 leg out as far as you can. At first you may not be able to extend your leg fully and that’s okay. Slowly extend 1 leg while keeping your knee in line with the rest of your body. You can bend your leg so your toes are above your body to make this easier while you are building the strength needed to fully extend your legs outward.

Typical Routine: 3 sets of 30 seconds

Level 4: Straddle Back Lever

Once you are able to extend each leg one at a time outward in the back lever, extend them both but spread your legs apart. This is the straddle back lever. Over time you can bring your legs closer together to increase the difficulty until you unlock the full back lever.

Typical Routine: 3 sets of 30 seconds

Level 5: Full Back Lever

Congratulations on unlocking the full back lever. Let’s go over the form 1 more time to make sure you are doing your back levers properly. With your arms straight behind you, look forward and extend both legs straight out behind you. Your entire body should be straight and parallel to the ground and your lower back should not create an upside-down arch. If you find that you are arching your back, go back to the previous back lever progression and build up your strength further. Arching your lower back can lead to injury if you are not careful.

Typical Routine: 3 sets of 10 seconds

If you want to get back to the basics and master the standard pull up check out our pull up progressions guide.