Back Lever Workout Beginner to Advanced

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Do you want to work your way up to a back lever? 🏆Has the prospect of mastering this particular piece of gym equipment filled you with excitement?😱 Your core and upper body strength will be put through their paces when attempting the back lever, but don’t worry—with our helpful tips and proven strategies; you won’t be doing pull-ups in record time. 

In this blog post, we’ll show you how to build up your upper body strength before starting a back lever workout, as well as offer specific exercises that increase muscle mobility in order to become a master of the back lever. So get ready because it’s time to beef up those arms and practice like never before!💪

Back Lever Workout

A workout towards the back lever can come with different looks. Some people opt for an unstructured workout routine filled with back lever attempts and some other supplementary exercises. Some prefer a more structured training style that offers planned reps and sets, goals, and exercise lists.

There’s also a variety of structured workouts. Here’s an example you can watch: 📍The Best Back Lever Workout Exercises for a Strong and Safe Back Lever Training

Both training styles can offer their own advantages and disadvantages, but today we’re going to share with you a more structured approach to training the back lever.

This structured approach will help address elements that are required to build toward the back lever. By breaking down the move into simpler elements, we can gradually build up the intensity and learn the movement step-by-step without burning and frustration.

  • Skill – technique, movement pathway, and mobility development
  • Strength – Specific and general strength (main exercise progression)
  • Muscle – Targeting specific muscle groups for strength
  • Endurance – Building up working capacity 

We can explain these more in this section: 📍The Best Back Lever Progressions


Shoulder dislocates

2-3 sets of 10 reps – 60 sec rest
TMA Shoulder dislocates

Our main goal in the skill element is to prepare the shoulders for the unusual position you will need to hold. For this purpose, we’re going to use the shoulder dislocate exercise.

Don’t worry! You will not need to actually dislocate your shoulders! The movement should be pain free, and you can pace yourself depending on your current mobility. The shoulder dislocate mimics the shoulder position in the back lever at the end range. It prepares you for the position with extended shoulders or the hands behind the body but with minimal loading.

The regular shoulder dislocate is performed with a retracted scapula, but for the back lever, we’re going to do the opposite and protract the scapula to closely resemble the movement pattern of the back lever.

In the video, we’re using resistance bands, but you can also use a stick for the exercise. The band allows for scalability, so you can easily adjust the hand width as you are moving through the motions.

☝️How to Perform
  1.  Begin by placing your hands in front of you while holding a band or a stick.
  2. Extend your arms forward so it’s straight.
  3. Protract your scapula as you begin to lift your arms overhead.
  4. Continue moving your arms until your arms are behind you.
  5. Stop at the maximum range of motion.
  6. Reverse the motion.
  7. Repeat for reps.
🎯Coaching Pointers:
  • Depressed shoulders when at the back
  • Arms straight throughout the movement
  • Elevated shoulders at the top
  • Palms facing forward
  • Protracted scapula
  • Adjust hand width depending on your mobility, but aim to perform with hands shoulder-width apart

Skin the Cat Lifts and Return

2-3 sets of 5-10 reps – 90 sec rest

Skin the Cat Lifts and Return

The next exercise is essentially a loaded shoulder dislocate that’s closer to the movement pattern of a back lever. The skin the cat is a prerequisite for the back lever. And even if you already have mastered the move, there’s always room to improve upper body mobility and control in this position.

The skin the cat lifts and return is a challenging exercise, for some. So in our context of a scalable program, you can use different progressions of skin the cat. You can hold the bottom position with leg assistance or go through the lifts and return if you’re mobility allows you to. A wider grip also also decreases the difficulty of the exercise, while a narrower one increases the demands.

☝️How to Perform:
  1. Get into a dead hang position.
  2. Depress and retract your scapula.
  3. Push your hips and legs upward into an inverted hang.
  4. Drop the hips and lower body to complete the range of motion.
  5. Pause at the bottom position.
  6. Reverse the motion to complete one repetition.
  7. Repeat for reps.
🎯Coaching Pointers:
  • Slow and controlled movement
  • Arms straight and locked out
  • Move through your maximum range of motion
  • Depressed scapula
  • Engaged core
  • Posterior pelvic tilt


Straddle Back Lever Hold

3-4 sets of 8-10 seconds hold – 3 min rest

Straddle Back Lever Hold

Here’s the juicy part. The actual back lever strength holds. For this example, we’re going to show the straddle back lever hold. However, take note that the strength progression you’ll use should depend on your current skill level specific to the back lever. 

If you find the straddle back lever too challenging, opt for an easier body progression. You can start off with the tuck position, move towards extending the hips, then slowly extend the legs. 

You can learn more about the back lever progression here: 📍BEST Back Lever Progressions You Need – Step-by-Step Guide

Take note that the back lever strength exercise isn’t necessarily held. Again, it depends on your current level of strength and skill. You can opt for back lever negatives or back lever negatives + hold to make the exercise a bit easier yet gain transferable strength towards the actual hold. 

☝️How to Perform:
  1. From a standing position, straddle your legs slightly wider than your hips.
  2. Bend over by hinging at the hips and maintaining straight legs.
  3. Place your hands in front of you on the floor.
  4. Shift your weight forward.
  5. Raise your hips and compress your lower body closer to your chest. This should automatically lift off your feet.
  6. Move your feet closer to your hands and plant them on the ground.
  7. Move your hands further again from your feet.
  8. Repeat the motion as if walking.
  9. Repeat the motion but in reverse for a backward “walk”.
🎯Coaching Pointers:
  • Depressed and protracted scapula
  • Shoulders pushing downward
  • Straight lockout arms
  • Full body tension
  • Horizontal bodyline during the hold


Banded Half-lay Back Lever

3-4 sets of 15-20 sec hold – 2 min rest 

For our first muscle element exercise, it’s actually a combination of muscle, strength, and skill development. We’re going to use a band to decrease the intensity while also opting for a harder variation so you can learn the correct position for the next skill.

In this case, we’re using the half-lay position. It’s basically a full back lever but with bent legs. The hips are extended fully, similar to a full back lever. The bent legs massively decrease the intensity compared to the back lever, but are still more difficult than the straddle planche.

The band allows us to achieve the half-lay position and build hold times there. Make sure you’re using minimal assistance from the bands as much as possible. If the half-lay position feels impossible, even with the band, it’s ok. You might be too fatigued from the straddle planche. If so, you can use again the straddle position with bands to build a longer hold time.

You can opt for two techniques when setting up the band. One option is to place it on your foot. This provides a lot more assistance since the band is stretched more. Setting the band on your hips is the second option that we prescribe because it offers vertical and equal assistance compared to the first option.

Banded lever is your secret technique to progress to the next progression.

☝️How to Perform:
  1. Anchor the band on your rings or bar.
  2. Position into an inverted hang.
  3. Slowly lower down into the back lever position while letting the band catch you by your hips.
  4. Hold the back lever position for time.
🎯Coaching Pointers:
  • Choose the band that offers as minimal resistance for you to hit the recommended time.
  • Follow the regular back lever technique.

Laying Back Lever with Band Lifts

3-4 sets of 8-15 reps – 1.5-2 min rest


Building muscle is also crucial for strength development. In this case, we’re going to target specific muscle groups used in the back lever, such as the front of the shoulders, chests, biceps, and lats. 

Using the lying back lever with band lifts, we get to target these key areas while simulating the back lever position. But since we’re moving only against the t the resistance bands, the loading can be much lower, and we don’t have our full body weight as resistance. Because of the much lower intensity, we can build up the higher rep ranges to stimulate muscle growth.

Remember, bigger muscles show potential for stronger muscles.

☝️How to Perform:
  1. Begin in a downward dog hold position.
  2. Move your weight into your hands.
  3. Lower your body by bending your elbows.
  4. Lower down until your head lightly grazes the floor.
  5. Push back up to the downward dog position.
  6. Repeat for reps.
🎯Coaching Pointers:
  • Full shoulder depressed at all times
  • Scapula protracted
  • Straight lockout arms
  • Choose a band appropriate for your intensity
  • Full body tension

Ring Bicep Curls

3-5 sets of  12-15 reps – 1.5-2 min rest


Building stronger biceps helps accommodate better back lever holds. Any straight-arm strength puts significant strain on your biceps. This is why conditioning by building bigger biceps is crucial for the back lever. 

You don’t always have to train with straight arms to build bigger biceps. The ring bicep curl is a solid, opting for isolating the biceps to facilitate hypertrophy. The beauty of ring bicep curls is that you can scale them easily by adjusting the ring height. The lower you go, the harder the exercise. You can also move to unilateral work to increase intensity and address imbalances.

If you want a more isolation exercise or don’t have rings, you can also perform standard bicep dumbbell curls for your bouldering biceps.

☝️How to Perform:
  1. Hang with a horizontal bodyline on your rings.
  2. Turn the rings outward so that your palms face your body.
  3. Pull your body upward by pulling the rings towards your head.
  4. Brief pause at the top.
  5. Lower down with control.
  6. Repeat for reps.
🎯Coaching Pointers:
  • Straight arms at the bottom position
  • Actively contract at the maximum range of motion
  • Full body tension
  • Extended hips
  • Maintain the same shoulder position; elbows must be the only one flexing
  • Adjust the height of rings depending on your skill level


Dead Hang 

3 sets of 30-45 secs – 90 sec rest


For the last portion of the workout, we’re going to build up the endurance element of certain muscle groups that we need to improve further. 

As you might noticed, throughout the workout, you will be gripping the bar or rings for extended periods of time. So we need to increase our gripping capacity further as much as possible. We don’t want our grip to be the limiting factor when training for longer back lever hold time.

It could make sense working on your grip with the inverted hang, but it can be dangerous when we’re pushing our hold time. If you slip, you might not be able to adjust quickly enough to fall safely on the floor.

☝️How to Perform:
  1. Enter the dead hang position.
  2. Hold for time.
🎯Coaching Pointers:
  • Full body tension
  • Breathe 
  • If your shoulders are getting uncomfortable, switch to an active hang by pushing the shoulders down and retracting your scapula


3 sets of 30 – 60 secs – 90 sec rest

Box Straddle Extension (Back Lever)

For our last exercise, we’re going to shift our attention to the lower body. Sometimes, we neglect to train the lower half, which can cause some issues, as mentioned in the common mistakes section. [Back Lever Mistakes]

There are various positions you can choose when working with this exercise. For the more advanced athletes, you can hold a straight-legged position for time. This is the most challenging variation. 

To make the exercise easier, you can switch to an advanced tuck, half-lay, straddle, or one-legged position. Hold time is not necessary. You can perform reps with this exercise with your lower half dropped at the bottom position before lifting it horizontally.

This exercise strengthens your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back, which help sustain the lower body in a full horizontal plane when in a back lever hold. And because the exercise is targeting these muscles, you also get the benefit of improving potential weaknesses since these muscles are often neglected. You won’t be having any lower back aches and tightness any time soon.

☝️How to Perform:
  1. Begin by lying on an elevated surface in a prone position.
  2. Place your hips at the edge of the elevated surface so that the lower body is hanging.
  3. Extend the hips and legs until straight and aligned with the upper torso.
  4. Hold the top position for time.
🎯Coaching Pointers:
  • Full body tension
  • Breath
  • Actively engage your core
  • Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings
  • Point your toes for additional leg tension
  • Tightly grip the elevated surface with your upper body for additional tension
  • Avoid arching the lower back


We end our session with flexibility work with high focus on the pancake straddle position.


Because this is exactly the position we want to achieve when performing the press to handstand. 

Static stretches are placed at the end of the workout as research shows that static stretches can potentially affect the muscles’ strength capacity for the main workout. In the review, it’s said that it can be recommended to implement short static stretches (less than 60 seconds) during warm-up for non-high-performance athletes. But we’ll stick to the safer side and add it at the end since dynamic stretches can also help in flexibility for an upcoming workout without potential risks.

Cooldown Sample Infographic

🔥Workout Format:

Straddle Pancake stretch – 3 sets of 30 seconds (Go deeper into your stretch after each set)

Wall stretch – 30 seconds 

Shoulder stretch – 30 seconds for each side

Wrist stretch – 30 seconds 

Tricep stretch – 30 seconds for each arm

Quad hip flexor stretch – 30 seconds for each leg

Key pointers:

  • Workout 3 – 4 times per week
  • At least 24 hours of rest given that near maximal effort is exerted
  • Always do your warm-up and cooldown to maximize progress
  • Find the balance for each exercise that’s challenging yet you can achieve the minimum number of reps and sets without going into failure (you can no longer do any reps)
  • Listen to your body. If you’re feeling aches and pains, you might need to take longer rest in between sessions or decrease your effort in your training



Shoulder dislocates 2-3 10 reps 60 seconds
Skin the cat progression 2-3 5 – 10 reps 90 seconds
Strength Back Lever Progression 3-4 8 – 10 sec hold 2 – 3 minutes



Banded Back Lever Progression 3-4 15 – 20 sec hold 2 minutes
Lying back lever with band Lifts  3-4 8 – 15 reps 1.5-2 minutes
Bicep exercise (Example: Bicep ring curls or dumbbell bicep curls) 3-5 12 – 15 reps 1.5-2 minutes
Endurance Dead Hang 3-4 30 – 60 seconds 90 seconds
Box Straight Leg Hold 3-4 30-60 seconds / 8 – 15 reps 90 seconds


This is just one example of a good back lever workout routine. However, you need to adjust it to fit your current skill level and abilities.🤸

Workouts should be personalized and adaptive to an individual. You can’t just slap on a cookie-cutter workout and expect amazing results.

Try out the assessment below👇👇 if you need a workout that matches these descriptions. If you’re interested in making good progress with calisthenics, this is the best place to start.



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