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Christian Nogueira

Front Lever Training

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Christian Nogueira

Hello,

I have been training the first progression for Front Lever for about a month and a half and my tucked front lever has been steadily getting more solid and I'm able to hold it for longer. Ditto for German Hang and Back Lever. I don't have access to rings so all my training for now is on a pullup bar (a smith machine to be more specific).

The way I've been initiating the front lever is by doing half of a tucked front pull, that is I pull from hang into front lever. I take some care in making sure that I initiate the the front pull with retracted scapula, so it's a sequence of hang -> retract scapula (hold it for a bit) -> pull into front lever, trying to keep the scapula retracted (albeit I never keep that in the front lever, it seems more of a question of making sure that I use the shoulders to pull correctly).

The thing is, if I try to do it the same way I've seen most people here do on rings, that is start from an inverted hang, I can't hit the front lever as I those 90 degrees between the front lever and inverted hang I have no strength at all in that position, so I don't have enough control to stop my body in the front lever so I fall just below parallel (and then I don't have enough strength left to correct).

When I do back lever, I have a similar issue, I can't do a 360 pull with straight arms, so to get past that 90 degrees I just pull up and kind of just "drop" to inverted hang while straightening the arms. I don't have this problem in the back lever as from inverted hang I lower very slowly into the back lever almost centimeter by centimeter.

This shows that training is incredibly specific as the position I haven't been training is the one I have no strength all. The question is, would it be more productive to forget about front lever training and focusing on lowering from inverted hang with control and straight arms with the goal of eventually being able to stop in the front lever position and eventually being able to do a hang to inverted hang with straight arms (a 180 pull if you will) or should I just keep doing the front lever training and add this as assistance work ?

Thanks in advance.

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Jon Douglas

You need static hold (of some kind) before you can attempt to put it in the middle of another movement. It's slightly more difficult according to BtBG to pull up to FL hold rather than lower, personally I find it the opposite. I wouldn't stress it too much, remember that the lever hold is the most difficult angle of the front pull.

So tuck right in and work both lower and raise into FL. Both are useful, since the goal is the full 360 pull with control up and down and the ability to hold at horizontal, right?

Part of it is just finding the angle of your shoulders and hips in relation to the ground. I have an occasional issue with doing my back levers high from inv pike and thinking they are level unless I actually stare at the floor while extending.

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Craig Rackemann

In simplistic weight lifting terms you should be able to lower more than you can hold, and you should be able to hold more than you can lift. So eccentric strength > static strength > concentric strength. I think Josh had a post somewhere with estimates on the difference in percentages.

For me the realisation was that I "should" be able to lower into a higher static progression than I can hold, and I "should" be able to hold a higher progression than I can pull up into.

When I noticed that I could hold FL progressions (tuck, adv tuck etc.) but I couldn't lower into it correctly I figured that I must be doing something wrong and did a form check. This might be the case with you too. I suspect that your form might be better when you pull up into the FL rather than when you lower into it.

You mentioned scapular retraction and getting set before you pull into the FL. Do you also focus on scapular retraction in the inverted hang before you start to lower? If you do these on a bar, the cue that worked for me was to think about trying to rip the bar in half. Not so much of a cue for rings that move but you get the idea.

A second point on form, I found that I would naturally hold my head in a fairly neutral position when I pulled into a FL, however when I lowered into it my head was tucked up almost with my chin on my chest, probably just trying to look at how awesome my tuck FL was.

It wasn't.

Don't fall for that mistake, scapular retraction and correct head position make the world of difference.

Coach always stresses the importance of form - I think he might be onto something! :)

Also have you spent much time simply working on holding an inverted hang? Get really comfortable just hanging there.

Good luck and keep working at it!

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Craig Mallett

CraigR - awesome post, that tearing the bar in half cue is really useful. helps a lot to activate the proper muscles. I've also found that unless I'm properly retracting through the scaps, that I cannot hold form at all, as soon as I lose it I just drop. When you're dropping down from the inverted position, it can be really easy to protract, so if you just remember to cue your retraction you should be fine.

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Christian Nogueira

Hello,

Thanks for the responses. It definitely is a form issue, because when I do the pull to front lever I can feel everything properly tensioned but if I start lowering I lose tension somewhere and I don't "catch" the front lever position. It may be simple that I'm not "setting" correctly in the inverted hang, so I'll look into that. Regarding the head position, in principle I'm trying to pack the chin not exactly tucking the chin in, but I may be doing it incorrectly. Recently, when working handstands belly-to-wall I've found that tucking the chin corrects some mistakes I made in the hollow position, so I may unconsciously be doing the same for the levers.

Regarding 360 pulls, do you work them only after you've achieved some basic proficiency in the early progressions of the front lever, back lever and german hangs or are they a pre-requisite ? It seems to me that there are some parts of the ROM of the pull, when done with straight arms will require more strength than the basic positions (namely the 90 degrees between horizontal and inverted hang and going from german hang back to inverted hang) is this correct ?

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Craig Rackemann

Hi dritar,

Try not to focus so much on "catching" the FL position. You don't want to just drop uncontrolled from the inverted hang and then attempt to switch on everything to stop in the FL.

A 360 pull is essentially combining a front pull and a back pull so yes, you should definitely have some proficiency in the lower progressions for both of those.

When I started working 360 pulls I scaled right down and started each rep with a little bit of momentum. Each time they came up in a WOD I simply tried to use less momentum to get started and tried to really slow down the negative parts of the movement. The key for me was getting scapular retraction set from the inverted hang otherwise it was a free fall.

Here's a few points from various sources like BtGB and Coach's tutorials that really helped me.

Spend lots of time in hang, inverted hang, inverted pike and german hang. The last thing you want to be worrying about while inverted is your grip strength and this also gets you comfortable in multiple positions that you'll transfer through doing 360 pulls.

If you have a single bar, work on just holding an inverted hang with a straight body. Your center of gravity changes because your feet are in front of the bar and it makes you work harder to stabilise yourself and hold the inverted hang.

Instead of working the entire ROM from inverted hang to FL, just lower as far as you can pull back out of and then work on extending the ROM until you're lowering into and pulling out of the FL.

For all of my static work I only work a progression if I can lower into and pull out of it. Perhaps this is a bit cautious but I'm in no rush and I haven't had any injuries to date.

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Christian Nogueira

One other thing. That "rip the bar in half" cue. Works like magic :). I don't know why, but the addition of trying to rotate the arms while keeping them straight aids a lot in the power of scapular retraction. Whatever the reason, it works !

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dacicsak

One other thing. That "rip the bar in half" cue. Works like magic :). I don't know why, but the addition of trying to rotate the arms while keeping them straight aids a lot in the power of scapular retraction. Whatever the reason, it works !

Could you tell me more about this please? where do you rotate them to outwards or inwards? Thanks in advanced

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Christian Nogueira

So in the tucked front lever I start with pronated grip palms down, so the cue is rotating as to make your thumb go in a counterclockwise direction. It's my impression that if do it with straight arms this engages the musculature around the scapula more than just trying to bring the bar down (which is the other cue that I find useful for FL). This is based solely on my impression, I don't have an anatomical basis for this, as I'm not familiar with anatomy :).

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dacicsak

Thanks dritar and craig!

would you recommend to do front levers pullups also with this method during the whole movement? i mean when u FL pullup do you use this "rip apart" technic also with bent arms?

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Eric Heiden

Hey dritar, CraigR, or anyone who knows more about this cue -

I'm not entirely clear on what this means exactly: "rotating as to make your thumb go in a counterclockwise direction" is two different directions depending on which hand you're talking about.

I've attached a drawing of two interpretations of the "rip the bar in half" cue. Assume that what you see is the view you see during a Front Lever (1st person view).

I assume that what I've labelled B is the correct cue. Can one of you confirm that this is correct?

If so - a different wording for the cue could be "snap the bar in half" - the same way as snapping a twig over your knee, only without the knee... maybe that's not super clear either.

Anyway - I'm excited to try this out and see how it feels. I'm always having trouble with scapular positioning and find a good cue pretty invaluable for self coaching.

Thanks!

post-3095-0-83956300-1354047253_thumb.pn

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Craig Mallett

The cue is designed to help your back muscles fire and maximise retraction of the scapula. Basically pinching the shoulder blades together. Although unless you are mutant strong you wont be able to actually get the scapula together, the muscles still need to fire. The first image you have will help to do this.

However, the second image that shows a kind of snapping the bar will also help fire your lats, which are also needed to fire heavily in the FL. This will help maximise depression of the shoulders (i.e. move them closer to your feet and away from your ears).

In short both cues are very helpful, but for different things. I would experiment and see which brings the best result, no amount of me telling you one way or the other will give a clearer answer - you need to experience it for yourself.

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Christian Nogueira

I was visualizing my left hand while doing this so, it's counter-clockwise left hand, clockwise right hand, sorry if I confused you.

But like Craig said, nothing like trying. The point of the cues is to ensure that you are actively pulling with your back and not just hanging from the bar. I don't think you can actually do a FL with retracted scapulae.

Thanks to CraigR, for the cues. I'm getting to the point where I'm able to go from inverted to tuck FL with some control. Heck, I could do one rep of a tucked front lever pull the other day :).

Is it just me or does doing FL training decrease massively the volume of pullups you can do in the same workout ? Even if you don't actually feel all that tired after doing the FSPs ?

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Brian Li

I was visualizing my left hand while doing this so, it's counter-clockwise left hand, clockwise right hand, sorry if I confused you.

But like Craig said, nothing like trying. The point of the cues is to ensure that you are actively pulling with your back and not just hanging from the bar. I don't think you can actually do a FL with retracted scapulae.

Thanks to CraigR, for the cues. I'm getting to the point where I'm able to go from inverted to tuck FL with some control. Heck, I could do one rep of a tucked front lever pull the other day :).

Is it just me or does doing FL training decrease massively the volume of pullups you can do in the same workout ? Even if you don't actually feel all that tired after doing the FSPs ?

Interesting about the "rotating hands" cue. Where did you hear it or did you discover it yourself? I've tried the "pulling apart the bar" cue before and didn't notice much help from it, but I was already able to retract without any special cues. The most important cue is to pull the bar down towards the hips rather than focusing on trying to lift with the abs.

The front lever uses many of the same posterior muscles used in a pull-up so it will obviously tire you out for pull-ups. Word is that front lever takes about the same amount of pulling strength as in a pull-up with extra 80% of BW.

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Eric Heiden

Well I tried out the various cues last night and I found that a combination of rotating the hands and pulling (so both A and B from my drawing above) were effective in activating both my scap. retration and lats, resulting in a much much MUCH more stable advanced tuck FL. What a difference! I'm also concentrating on leaning my head back, where normally I'm lifting it up to peer forward and see how level my hips are.

Thanks everybody!

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Christian Nogueira

Interesting about the "rotating hands" cue. Where did you hear it or did you discover it yourself? I've tried the "pulling apart the bar" cue before and didn't notice much help from it, but I was already able to retract without any special cues. The most important cue is to pull the bar down towards the hips rather than focusing on trying to lift with the abs.

It's my interpretation of the pulling/ripping apart the bar. I knew about the cue of pulling the bar down towards the hip, but using this one in addition seems to have improved my form and stability a lot. I don't think it works for rings as unlike the bar they don't resist.

Well I tried out the various cues last night and I found that a combination of rotating the hands and pulling (so both A and B from my drawing above) were effective in activating both my scap. retration and lats, resulting in a much much MUCH more stable advanced tuck FL. What a difference! I'm also concentrating on leaning my head back, where normally I'm lifting it up to peer forward and see how level my hips are.

Thanks everybody!

Cool, I'm still at the tuck lever and advanced tuck still seems far off :). It really gives some perspective on how many countless hours hard work are hidden in an effortless performance of advanced gymnastic strength elements.

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Brian Li

It's my interpretation of the pulling/ripping apart the bar. I knew about the cue of pulling the bar down towards the hip, but using this one in addition seems to have improved my form and stability a lot. I don't think it works for rings as unlike the bar they don't resist.

I believe Ido's "pulling/ripping the bar apart" cue is to pull apart the bar by widening the arms rather than rotating the hands since he said to bring the rings outward when applying the cue on rings, but if you find rotating the hands helpful, then that's great and can be a new cue.

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Sailor Venus

In simplistic weight lifting terms you should be able to lower more than you can hold, and you should be able to hold more than you can lift. So eccentric strength > static strength > concentric strength. I think Josh had a post somewhere with estimates on the difference in percentages.

is eccentric strength is the same as doing negative reps?

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Mats Trane

The main exersices I used to get my frontlever were:

Hollow hold

Front pulls (as slow as possible)

Scapula pulls. Pull yourself up as far as you can with straight arms. Concentrate on bringing scapula together. Pause at top of each rep.

Static holds

Concentrate on "feeling" the pull in your neck.

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Craig Rackemann

is eccentric strength is the same as doing negative reps?

Yep, that's right. Eccentric is the negative part of the movement where the muscle under load is lengthening.

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Blairbob

 By the time you can do 5 skin the cats, you won't find training the basic positions for either lever that tasking.

 *Hint-hint*.

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Christian Nogueira

Hello Blairbob,

What's the difference between 360 pulls and skin the cats ? Is it the body position ?

I have no doubt that doing 5 skin the cats will make it easier to do both levers. I find that doing a nice smooth skin the cats always pulling with straight arms to have some parts of the rom which are harder than the lever positions.

At this point I'm now able in the bar to pull from hang into inverted hang and lower to tuck front lever, so I'm combining a front pull with lowering to tuck front lever, whereas it was very hard to go to inverted hang without bending the arms and pulling up.

The part of the ROM that still eludes me is going from german hang back into inverted hang, but I'll keep working at it.

One more question. I'm doing all this in a bar. To train skin the cats / 360 pulls how should I grip the bar. For FL I use a pronated grip and for BL I use a supinated grip as recommended in order for the palms to face down when in the tuck back lever. If I want to do both what do I do ? Switching grips in an inverted hang seems to be a bit suicidal at my current level of grip strength :P.

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Brian Li

Hello Blairbob,

What's the difference between 360 pulls and skin the cats ? Is it the body position ?

I have no doubt that doing 5 skin the cats will make it easier to do both levers. I find that doing a nice smooth skin the cats always pulling with straight arms to have some parts of the rom which are harder than the lever positions.

At this point I'm now able in the bar to pull from hang into inverted hang and lower to tuck front lever, so I'm combining a front pull with lowering to tuck front lever, whereas it was very hard to go to inverted hang without bending the arms and pulling up.

The part of the ROM that still eludes me is going from german hang back into inverted hang, but I'll keep working at it.

One more question. I'm doing all this in a bar. To train skin the cats / 360 pulls how should I grip the bar. For FL I use a pronated grip and for BL I use a supinated grip as recommended in order for the palms to face down when in the tuck back lever. If I want to do both what do I do ? Switching grips in an inverted hang seems to be a bit suicidal at my current level of grip strength :P.

[end of quote] (quoting is glitched)

 

I think Coach refers "skin the cats" as German hangs alone. Blairbob is actually referring it as 360 pulls with tucked or piked legs.

 

I completely disagree with the part that 360 pulls have certain angles that are harder than the lever angles because the levers ARE at the hardest angle of the ROM where the COG is farthest from the shoulders. 

 

I strongly advise you not to switch grips in an inverted hang during 360 pulls because of your current level of grip strength and the potential of falling off. I would just ditch the 360 pulls on bars and just do front pulls and back pulls separately. If I were to do 360 pulls on bars anyway then I would choose underhand grip so you can still condition the biceps in the BL and doing a supinated grip FL is a bit harder than one with a pronated grip.

 

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Christian Nogueira

I think Coach refers "skin the cats" as German hangs alone. Blairbob is actually referring it as 360 pulls with tucked or piked legs.

 

I completely disagree with the part that 360 pulls have certain angles that are harder than the lever angles because the levers ARE at the hardest angle of the ROM where the COG is farthest from the shoulders. 

 

I strongly advise you not to switch grips in an inverted hang during 360 pulls because of your current level of grip strength and the potential of falling off. I would just ditch the 360 pulls on bars and just do front pulls and back pulls separately. If I were to do 360 pulls on bars anyway then I would choose underhand grip so you can still condition the biceps in the BL and doing a supinated grip FL is a bit harder than one with a pronated grip.

 

Thanks B1214N, I know that the levers are the most disadvantages positions, but atleast for me I still find holding them in an isometric hold easier than moving with control over all the range of a 360 pulls while keeping the arms straight. Specially the german hang to inverted hang part.I'll keep working back pulls and front pulls separately then.

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