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I'm currently doing a typical push-pull workout in the gym, mostly with basic exercises (bench press, squat, dead lift, weighted pullup, ...) and low reps. Now I would like to integrate the front lever into my training. I can currently only perform a quite crappy strongly tucked form, however I feel that my triceps are the limiting factor and not so much the core stability.

All tutorials suggest that you train your core stability with dragon flags and the like. When I do the tucked variant my triceps burn like mad, and afterwards feel quite destroyed (I nearly completely lock out my elbows). It is however a very localized pain right in the middle at the thickest area. Could it be the spot where the tendons from the back muscles attach to the back of the upper arm bone (humerus), and that I'm only mistaking it for triceps pain? When doing the exercise I think about pushing my (nearly) locked out arms towards my hips, and then it really starts burning.

With the intesity of this excerise I only want to do it every 5 days or so, so this spot can properly adapt without being destroyed again before it can heel. I think of the front lever as a back excerise, hence it should be placed in the pull workout day, but this strong triceps pain makes me wonder if it would be better placed in the push day. What do you think is better?

Are my triceps muscles or tendon pain holding me back?

Should I also think about pulling my shoulder blades downwards?

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One comment I always see when talking about front levers is that one should learn the back lever first. It is a much easier movement, but is very helpful in preparing the joints and tendons for the stress of a front lever. –  VPeric Dec 25 '13 at 15:31

3 Answers 3

I could do a front lever when I was 20-22 years old. Haven't tried but I don't think I have a chance now. I find that it is a tendon/balancing exercise. One of the great things about it is that it really picks on your least acclimated body part. It shows you where you need to work.

Practicing

  1. Get a partner who will take some body weight off of you while doing this. Make sure your palms are pointing at your feet. This is a key to the front lever and is almost counter-intuitive to what you might do your first time - hang and stick your legs out.
  2. Do sets in the front tuck. Also note that I would do these on push days. If you do these on pull days your forearms will be shot and your form will suffer. I can't see trying to do a front lever after a good pull workout and doing it before could hurt your workout.
  3. Once you get very comfortable with holding the front tuck then progress to push outs. You will simply just push your knees out of the front tuck towards the front lever in very small increments and hold. Maybe an inch every week.
  4. When I had trouble holding on to the rings - I was swaying so much it wasn't possible - I was told to try it on a bar first which is easier. I used a bar on a squat rack to practice. This does help build up triceps and forearms.
  5. Practice, practice, practice. The only reason I could do a front lever easy is because I wanted to date the hot gymnast I was working out with. So I did tons of sets. And I hate to break it to you but it is probably your shoulders not triceps.

Lifting

  1. Pull-ups - palms out. Weighted would be better. Do them nice and slow too.
  2. Inverted Rows - just reverse bench.
  3. Dumbbell raises.
  4. Skull Crushers
  5. Good mornings and ab work for core.

But when asking how to do front levers by lifting it is kind of like asking how to lift to dunk a basketball. You can get marginally better at the front lever by lifting but if you do lever exercises more you will get to it much faster. And at the time I was in peak shape and it took about 2.5 months of practicing it 3 times a week.

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Grant Grimes is the only person who I've seen discuss on the internet how to integrate the front lever into generalized training. His program has been posted many places across the net (for instance), but here's one excerpt that may have you:

I did gymnastics movements first because I viewed them as a skill I wanted to improve. If you just want them for static strength, you should follow the traditional training hierarchy and put them last. I did a lot of static strength work, so gymnastics first never bothered me. However, I wouldn't recommend that a newbie tax his trunk with planches and front levers before doing heavy squats and deads.

So he's saying the front lever involves the back, that it's a static strength exercise rather than a push or a pull, and that it should be done last if you are doing it for strength rather than skill.

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Great link. One superb quote "Eat lots of red meat. It’s just better. Consuming large quantities of blood-soaked animal tissue puts you in a better frame of mind to train like this." –  Franz Kafka Dec 25 '13 at 15:46

Follow this?

It's an exercise that works out your core (Like hanging leg raises). However because its a body weight exercise it will test everything (Arms, back, legs, everything really).

To be able to do it is to train out all the weak spots until everything is strong enough to do it (All those tiny stupid supporting muscles).

This is a really advanced core, body weight exercise; it could take a year of daily practice to get up to that level (exaggerating). Maybe less if you have done those sort of core exercises (Like flagpoles) before.

If you are interested in that sort of stuff maybe dedicate a whole day to training core per week. Get a book like this and work your way through it.

TL;DR: Keep going, everything is going to hurt for a while before you get it

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