How to Improve Your Body Levers
Body levers, also known in the calisthenics community as dragon flags, are one of the best exercises around to strengthen your entire core. Done properly, body levers will challenge your abs, lats, lower back, and more. Once you have the hollow body position fully mastered, spending time on body levers will further help prepare your body for future front lever work. The trick, however, is making sure that you are doing body levers correctly to ensure that you will get the most out of this incredibly effective movement.
The Candlestick Position
One common issue that trainees experience when attempting body lever work is the top "candlestick" position. In this shape, your body should be held vertically in one straight line while you are resting on the back of your shoulders and the base of your neck. In order to balance yourself in this position, grab onto the bottom rung of a set of stall bars, or a set a barbell up low on a power rack. Awaken GST Manager Tanya Hill demonstrates a straddle candlestick position here.
Please note that the candlestick shape might require you to mobilize the muscles and fascia in and around your neck, shoulders, and upper back. For many people, this is not an issue of strength, but rather stiffness and lack of range of motion. If you fit into this category (perhaps too much desk work), then try this supine trap stretch from the GB Thoracic Bridge Stretch Series.
Straight-Arm Strength for Front Levers
Another troublesome plateau for athletes occurs when attempting to transition from the traditional bent-arm body lever (such as in the candlestick photo above) to straight-arm strength movements such as inverted hangs or front levers. If you notice this is the case, then you need to try straight-arm body levers as demonstrated by Ashleigh Gass of Florida GB Affiliate Slice GST:
With the elbows locked, your lats will be forced to fire in order to slow your body during the negative portion of the movement. This lat contraction is an essential piece of the puzzle for front levers, as many people fail due to their inability to properly feel their back spread and lats turn on. Of course, the same basics apply here for the actual body lever as well: legs straight, toes pointed, and body held in a hollow shape throughout.
- Body levers strengthen your entire core for future front lever work: abs, lats, lower back, and more.
- Improve your body levers by working on the candlestick position; also try the supine trap stretch if needed.
- Be sure to practice the straight-arm body lever variation as well to strengthen your lats and elbows for front levers.