How to do a Back Lever

October 28, 2010 // Al Kavadlo

Man has yet to fly without airplanes or helicopters, but performing a back lever feels pretty close! Practicing this exercise can help you build total body strength while giving you the sensation of being suspended in mid-air. Back levers are fun and functional, plus they look bad-ass!

Skinning the Cat
Before you attempt a back lever, you’ll need to learn how to “skin the cat.” Don’t worry, I’m not advocating harming any felines! In this context, the phrase “skinning the cat” refers to rolling your hips and legs over and around to the other side of the bar from a pull-up position.

Start by hanging from a bar with an overhand grip, then begin raising your legs with your knees bent. When your knees are all the way up to your chest, rotate your body around to the other side, keeping your legs tucked tight so they don’t hit the bar as you pass through. From here, extend your legs and let your body hang before reversing the movement.

Performing a Back Lever
Once you can get your legs over to the other side of the bar, you’re ready to start practicing towards a back lever. I like to get into position by straightening my entire body so that I’m hanging almost completely upside down with my legs above the bar and my torso below.

From there, start to lower yourself one inch at a time while pitching your chest forward. The objective is to get your body parallel to the ground with your hips directly under the bar. It’s helpful to have someone watch you or videotape you while you are doing this as you’ll likely have a hard time feeling when you are in position. Remember to contract your abs, lower back, hamstrings and glutes while performing this move. Your arms are only one small part of the equation.