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ONE Exercise To Build Your Front AND Back Lever

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In a world where time is scarce, efficiency becomes essential. If you have a goal or want to do something, finding the most effective method of doing so, without losing vast quantities of time, is the ultimate aim.

We’ve long since established dynamic exercises are superior to statics for levers – be it front/back or even planches/human flags (READ THIS for more info). With this in mind, can you train 2 within one move? Obviously the flag and planche can’t really be trained within one move, but the front lever and back lever certainly can! All you need is a set of rings with enough overhead clearance and you’re golden.

A more pressing question is whether it’s ‘ideal’ to train the 2 moves together? From a static holds standpoint I’d argue no, it’s not efficient. Whichever hold you do first always gets the brunt of your power output and to do front to back lever rotations with holds above 2 seconds or so, is mighty tough. And let’s be honest, most of us ego train when it comes to these moves; we use progressions that are above us.

If you’ve read my post on dynamic exercises > statics for levers, you’ll know I’m a big fan of exercises targeting the muscle(s) through their full range. One of the simplest ways to do this with front and back lever combined, is with the good old skin the cat!

Most people get their levers to advanced tuck level or slightly beyond and dismiss skin the cats as a viable strength builder. What they fail to realise is a ‘skin the cat’ can be made INCREDIBLY hard……

‘360 Pulls’ – The Gymnastics Name For ‘Skin The Cat’

Ever tried a fully straight body skin the cat? This is essentially what a full 360 pull is. In the video below Daniel Vadnal from FitnessFAQs demonstrates this beastly exercise in its full variation.


No different to your normal levers, these can be scaled. A basic skin the cat would be a tucked 360 pull. I have a video sequence below featuring tuck, advanced tuck and halflay variations. The full 360 pull is very advanced and takes a truck load of strength. I’m on the journey with you.


This is a great move for those pushed for time. The rep range for a move like this is going to be 1-5. Don’t grind reps and terminate any set where you lose body tension or feel your speed becomes very slow; the speed will likely be slow but shouldn’t be barely moving. I like to do 3 sets in a drop set like fashion. For example, I would do 1-2 reps once I’ve warmed up off halflay. Then move onto 3-4 reps of advanced tuck and finally, 4-5+ reps of tuck pulls. The rest periods should be generous. Feel free to stick with the same progression for every set, just know that the volume on a move like this will never be high. This is the very definition of strength work. 

As a bonus, you can add in brief pauses throughout the range for a second or 2. This isometric hold will make it SO MUCH harder to regenerate force again, and thus, build more strength. These are incredibly challenging. Check the video below where I demo these in an advanced tuck.

As always, if you have any questions please leave a comment or for further info, email:


JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All

The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.

5 thoughts on “ONE Exercise To Build Your Front AND Back Lever Leave a comment

  1. great show of skill James loved the article has spured me on
    to enjoy the skills of Calithentics

  2. Great advice, man! I’ve been training my levers with mostly static holds and I hit a plateau very quick (holding no more than 10 seconds in adv tuck).
    These dynamic excercises have been helping me a lot, and they also gave me a mood boost for keep training my levers 🙂 !

    • Hey Chris, thanks so much for the feedback! What levers are you working on in particular? Static holds alone don’t do a great deal for developing the levers themselves, I’m sure of this because even when I coach people their holds go up without ever really doing any holds!

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