Back Lever

Generate incredible core tension and display impressive bodily control with this core gymnastics strength hold - the back lever.

Primary Muscle Abdominals
Secondary Muscle(s) Shoulders, Back, Chest
Difficulty Advanced
Optional Rings, Pull-up Bar

How to do the Back Lever

The back lever requires a high level of strength and conditioning to achieve. it's not an exercise that can usually be performed by beginners and requires foundation bodyweight strength.

  1. Grab the bar and assume an upside down tuck position (knees to chest).
  2. Continue to pass your knees up and over your head and down into a 'skin the cat position'.
  3. Raise your legs up so that you're hanging upside down (inverted hang). The body should be straight and fully extended at the top of the movement (when just starting out you may have to raise your legs in the tuck position. Keep them straight if possible).
  4. Lower the body, leading from the toes down to a horizontal hold, parallel to the ground. Hold this position.
  5. Raise the legs back to the starting inverted hang position.


  • The back lever can be performed on a static pull-up bar or gymnastics rings. equipment choice is largely down to personal preference, although using rings means that there's no bar obstructing movement so you can move the legs straight into an inverted hang instead of passing under a bar.
  • Keep the body tight with muscles engaged at all times.
  • The back lever can be a dangerous exercise when first starting out. If you drop from the bar you're plummeting face first to the ground. Make sure you land on your feet if you dismount.

Back Lever Guide

The back lever is a foundation gymnastics strength movement (rated as an A skill on the gymnastics scale from A - F, F being the most difficult) and a good starting point for those that are competent with pull-ups, dips, and muscle-ups looking for their next progression.

This strength hold forms the basis of more advanced exercises such as the planche or maltese cross. When developing the back lever you'll develop the muscle mass and strength for total bodily control and coordination that will serve you well in your gymnastics training.

Back lever progressions

The key to the back lever is body tension. Keep muscles tight and engaged, locking the back and arm muscles together is essential.

The following progression exercises are recommended to build the necessary strength for the back lever - 

  1. Skin the cat - practicing the skin the cat position will help you build basic strength for the inverted hang.
  2. Tuck back lever- train the tucked back lever (knees to chest) to take some of the weight out of the skill and make it easier. 

    1. One-legged back lever - when your tucked lever has progressed, try training with one leg extended at at time. As you gain strength begin to slowly extend both legs until you work up to a full back lever.

Back lever related exercises

After mastering the back lever you should be in good shape to tackle these exercises next - 


Always consult your GP before undertaking any form of weight loss, fitness or exercise.