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Side Lever Pulls - The Ultimate Side Press


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#1 Coach Sommer

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 04:29 AM

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It has become fashionable to talk about training "mid-line stability", however few even attempt to achieve this from a standing position, let alone from a multi-dimensional approach. To be successful at even moderate levels of gymnastics strength training, it is necessary to build a core that is essentially bullet proof from all angles. Side lever pulls are one of the tools which I use to achieve this with my own athletes.

Side lever pulls may be performed in variety of training scenarios. They are most efficiently performed on the stall bars as demonstrated in the video link at the end of this essay; however they may also be done on the side of a set of parallel bars or even on playground equipment if necessary.

Regardless of where you perform side lever pulls, you will first want to establish a proper grip. Facing your bar, place your bottom hand slightly below waist high. If you are fortunate enough to be using stall bars, your bottom hand will be face palm up. If on an pole or another type of upright support; your bottom hand will be turned sideways so that your thumb points downward (similar to a chin-up grip, but turned 90 degrees).

Now reach over your head and place your other hand on the bar at least twice your shoulder width apart from the first hand. If working on the stall bars, place the top hand so that it is facing palm down. If on a pole, your top hand will once again be turned sideways with the thumb pointing downward, however this time your hand position will be similar to a pull-up grip turned 90 degrees.

Remember that if you are training on an upright pole rather than stall bars, adjust your grip so that BOTH thumbs are pointing toward the ground.

For side lever pulls to be successful, it is important to understand how these two different grips will work in concert to provide stability. The bottom hand and arm will PRESS strongly into the bar, while the top hand and arm will PULL strongly on the bar. It is this interaction between the two arms individually pulling and pressing that allows the body to remain moderately stable in the sideways position.

PROGRESSIONS:
1) 1/2 Negatives - Establish a stable grip and then jump up to a horizontal position and attempt to slowly lower back to a stand. Initially you will find it much easier to perform this in a tuck, then proceed to a straddle, then 1/2 lay and finally to a straight body position.

As a side note, you will find it most efficient to break your straddle position into two variations. When first attempting the straddle, I recommend adjusting yourself so that your bottom leg is horizontal with your top leg at approximately 90 degrees or more from that horizontal bottom leg. This offset straddle will greatly reduce the oblique strength required to hold the straddle side lever position.

2) Horizontal Static Hold + 1/2 Negative - Same as above but now hold a 2-3 second static position prior to slowly lowering through the negative.

3) 1/2 Side Lever Pull - From the second variation above, now attempt to "pull" back up to horizontal. These may be done either with or without static hold at the horizontal position.

4) Full Negatives - If you have worked successfully through the other variations, by now you should be quite comfortable with the peculiar grip needed for side lever work. If you are not yet confident in the proficiency of your grip, DO NOT attempt this variation but return to the other variations until you are more adequately prepared.

To perform a full negative, first establish a solid grip and then attempt to jump to an completely inverted position. You will need to maintain a very firm pressure with the bottom arm to achieve this. Please note that at the inverted position, the body will no longer be completely sideways. This is not something to be overly concerned about, but is something that will occur naturally as a consequence of the physiology of the shoulders.

5) Side Lever Pulls - After performing a full negative, you may now attempt to add a pull back to the inverted support. At first it will be most efficient to utilize a different position for the negative (i.e. straight body) and then a different position for the pull itself (i.e. tuck).

You may also add static holds on the ascent or descent as the mood strikes you.

If you have never performed side lever pulls before you are in for a special treat. Your obliques are about to be stretched and strengthened as never before. And if you didn't know where your scapula were before, you will in just a few short moments after attempting your first repetition :D.

Yours in Fitness,
Coach Sommer

#2 JoeSimo

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 05:32 AM

Finally a "basic" strength move that I can already do well. The kid in the video has them real good. I so rarely see anyone doing these right. More often than not I see bent arms and unstable bodies.

If you want to get really crazy try the same movement with ankle weights on. That will really et you feel it.

#3 George Launchbury

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 05:54 AM

Here's me showing my lack of gymnastic knowledge ...but what is a half-lay?

If I had to guess, I would say probably straight at the hips with bent knees? If so, what angle for the knees?

Sorry to be asking such a basic question :oops:

Thanks,
George.

#4 Alex

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 06:22 AM

Thanks Coach.

#5 Brandon

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 08:00 AM

I'm assuming you rotate sides while attempting each progression. i.e. first time with right arm on top and left arm on bottom, second time with left arm on top right arm on bottom. Is that correct?

#6 Coach Sommer

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 10:47 AM

Yes George, you are correct; a 1/2 lay is a body position where the knees are bent, but the hips and torso remain straight and flat.

As far as repetitions, I generally have my athletes perform 3-4 reps on one side and immediately switch to the other side and perform another 3-4 reps.

Yours in Fitness,
Coach Sommer

#7 George Launchbury

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 11:35 AM

Thanks Coach.

George.

#8 Blairbob

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 08:23 PM

So this is basically straight arm flag variants?

Aren't most flags done with bent arms?

Does starting off this skill with bent arms decrease the load on the side of the body and it's musculature? ( hence being if an athlete must use bent arms perhaps they are of insufficient pull strength to make training this skill worthwhile ).

#9 Coach Sommer

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 08:35 PM

Yes you are correct; using bent arms would significantly reduce the load of this movement upon both the core and the shoulder girdle. Which is why, even from the very beginning, I emphasize straight arms when using this movement with my athletes.

Yours in Fitness,
Coach Sommer

#10 Gokudmc1988

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Posted 13 May 2008 - 01:17 AM

Hi coach I have been trying to do this ever since and cant seem to progress. I only have a metal pole to practice on. The problem is that when I try it I always feel my elbows strained and not my abs or my shoulders. I think I have the grip all wrong. I couldnt understand the grip from your article. Can you please post a picture of a gymnast doing it on a pole so i can see the hands. I need to learn this skill at all costs lol. Thanks my email is gokudmc1988@gmail.com

#11 George Launchbury

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Posted 13 May 2008 - 01:30 AM

Hi Gokudmc1988,

Does this help? Bottom hand is palm facing toward you (like a chin-up) and top hand is palm facing away from you (like a pull-up). Below is a picture of Dominic Lacasse Setting a new world record on Nov 23, 2007. He held himself on a bar as a "Human Flag" for 39 seconds.

Posted Image

There is also a video of the successful attempt here, if you're interested:
>

Cheers,
George.

#12 John Sapinoso

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Posted 31 August 2008 - 10:28 PM

how do you prevent side swinging?

sometimes this happens to me:


thanks

#13 George Launchbury

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Posted 01 September 2008 - 12:10 AM

Don't know if this helps?

From: http://www.beastskills.com/Flag.htm (W/F safe)

Balancing to the front and back is not difficult at all if you kept your body in a straight line. The difficulty arises with getting yourself horizontal.

DANGERS
There's only one major danger that can arise when working this skill - and that's if your body starts to fall to your backside. If you start to fall towards your backside, let go of your hands immediately and fall to your feet. The reason for this warning is that if you keep on holding while your body falls backwards, you have a great chance of ripping up your shoulders. It would be akin to holding onto a failed snatch as it fell down behind your back. You'll hurt your rotator cuffs if you try it.


It does seem like your upper hip/shoulder are behind your lower hip/shoulder slightly, but that is only really visible after you have rotated ( 00:18 ), and since your upper hand is unable to rotate like your lower hand, it may be something that happens after the fact... Maybe try also moving your upper hand back a little, as the point of higher tension might not be toward your little finger slightly and therefore slightly in front of the vertical bar?

George.

#14 Nic Scheelings

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Posted 01 September 2008 - 05:01 AM

Hey Tsoonami,

Have u tried it on the stall bar? (The thing the kid uses in the video, not sure if that's the right name but neway) I find it much easier to stop any left to right movement on that, it just seems a little bit easier than a pole. Then i guess u try the pole wen u eliminate that movement. Also do u ever try kicking up to invert and then slowly lowering into the flag? I find this is the best way of making sure i hit the right position wen i do the static hold.

Hope this helps

#15 greekdawg

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Posted 29 October 2008 - 08:23 PM

Coach,

I've been trying to do this for quite some time.

What if you can't even do a solid 1 second hold in the flag position? What is the progression to lead up to that? What are the "pre-requisites" so to speak?

#16 George Launchbury

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 12:05 AM

Hi greekdawg,

Progressions
1) 1/2 Negatives - Establish a stable grip and then jump up to a horizontal position and attempt to slowly lower back to a stand. Initially you will find it much easier to perform this in a tuck, then proceed to a straddle, then 1/2 lay and finally to a straight body position.

Work through the initial progressions, attempting the next variation when you feel ready. If you are strong enough to lower under some amount of control (and be honest with yourself if you want to progress) then you are ready to move on. If not, move back to an easier progression that allows you to put some work in with good form and control, and check again in a week or two.

If you are unable to start with the initial progression ...you are probably not ready for this exercise. Keep up some handstand, hanging and core work in your workouts: including hollow holds, arch (superman) holds, and side holds (laying on side with arms above head, shoulders and legs off ground).

Regards,
George.

#17 greekdawg

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 12:05 PM

Thanks George. I thought was for the dynamic version only, I will try those today in in a negative in a tuck.

#18 JoeSimo

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Posted 14 December 2008 - 12:36 PM

If you want to get creative with it there are many varieties you can do as well. I compiled a video few months back showcasing some of the variety possible. Enjoy!



#19 Blairbob

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Posted 14 December 2008 - 03:51 PM

Last time I tried I can't hit the horizontal flag really, especially on my weak side ( I think it's more of my retarded side than being weak in those muscles engaged ). On my bad side, my bottom arm likes to bend and I don't seem to know how to balance it out. Again, retarded side.

Currently I hold the side lever with my body and feet vertical and practice lowering down. Or one leg horizontal, one leg vertical.

Now, that I'm in the gym more I should practice then more. Hmm.

#20 ryantherobot

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Posted 18 December 2008 - 12:58 PM

I too am interested in Side Lever Pulls prereqs. I don't want to injure my shoulders so whats a good indication an athlete is ready to begin the progression to Side Lever Pulls? While at it I might as well ask - I plan on practicing on a fence that should work right?