The Clutch Lever

The clutch lever is a unique bodyweight strength skill that works the entire upper body as well as the core muscles, especially the lower back.

A hybrid between a clutch flag and a front lever, the clutch lever is an intermediate-level skill that’s less challenging than the full front lever much in the same way that clutch flags are a good precursor to the human flag – but that doesn’t mean it’s gonna come easy!

Before you’re ready for this move, you’ll need a fairly high level of strength in your upper body, abs, glutes and grip. Make sure you’ve got a good foundation in push-ups, pull-ups and dips prior to beginning your clutch lever training.

To perform a clutch lever, stand next to a sturdy vertical pole and wrap your arm around it, clutching it tightly. Keeping your elbow fairly close to your body with your hand just above shoulder height, reach your opposite arm behind your back to get a solid grip on the pole right outside your hip. Squeeze tightly with both hands and lean your trunk back, using your forearm beneath you for leverage to lie back into a horizontal position. Allow your top arm to extend as you lean back; feel free to experiment with varying degrees of elbow flexion.

To achieve a successful clutch lever, you’ll need to maintain tension through your entire body. Also, be careful not to lean your weight too much toward the pole. Doing so can lead you to spin out of position. Though it may take some time to get the hang of this exercise, with practice you will be able to gradually work up to longer holds.

Watch the video below for more:


22 thoughts on “The Clutch Lever

  • By Lelio -

    Video is set to private…

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks for letting me know! A few others have told me they’re having trouble viewing this clip outside of the US. I’m looking into it and hope to have the issue resolved shortly.

      • By Sam J Jones -

        All good in the UK Al. Reckon the Clutch Lever could be the final progression I need before the full Front Lever! Thanks! 🙂

        • By Al Kavadlo -

          Right on, Sam! Thanks for the comment!

  • By timshel01 -

    Levitating Houdini LOL
    Nice party trick, hope I don’t snap …

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks! It’s harder than it might look so make sure you’re ready before you try!

  • Pingback: Macho Moment: Tattooed Brothers Clutch Lever Tutorial: Video | Accidental Bear

  • By Rifat -

    I got know about this article a week ago via facebook.I thought it was harder than front lever. Can they be done with window bars(kinda like stall bars)?

    Long live calisthenics.

    Keep smiling

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks, Rifat! Feel free to experiment with different variations – there are an endless number of ways to vary this move.

  • By LEO -

    i got a straddle front lever, full back lever, one arm bridge hold…
    clutch lever? bring it on!

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      That’s the spirit! We’re Working Out!

  • By Alex -

    Hi Al,

    I am really interested in bodyweight training since I purchased your book Pushing The Limits!.I’ve just one question: if I am actually underweighted (ectomorph somatotype), it is a good idea to use a weighted vest to make an closer approach to my “ideal” weight?
    Thank you.

    (I’m male, 16, my height is 5′ 8″ and I weight 121lbs)

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      I wouldn’t recommend using a weight vest unless you can do lots and lots of reps of a given exercise with your bodyweight first, and even then it might make more sense to simply move on to a more difficult exercise variation.

      • By Alex -

        Thank you Al I’ll keep that in mind

        • By RobbyTaylor -

          I’d like to say that, if you happen to already have a weight vest, then it can be a good way to add variety to your training, especially if you are having difficulty with a new exercise. Pull ups and dips in particular are good choices for adding weight. But if your primary goal is high level calisthenics, then adding weight should not be the primary focus of your training. It seems to me though that adding weight to easier exercises may be more effective at instigating muscle growth, since your body doesn’t have to overcome its own weight at such drastically reduced planes of leverage. Generally speaking, weightlifting exercises can be viewed as calisthenic type exercises that are so easy as to require weight (most obviously the standard squat). I haven’t tested this out though, and a lot of guys get jacked simply by progressing to harder exercises. I’ve personally gotten leaner in my training and have gained some muscle but my overall weight is within the same 10 pound range as when I started.

          Fwiw, the legs are the most deserving of adding weight, but I don’t see much point until you can do at least a dozen pistol squats per leg. Also I much prefer holding a dumbbell to a vest for that purpose.

          • By Alex -

            My main focus is high level chalisthenics but since I have a low weight I was thinking about using the weight vest to improve my leverage. I’ve tried it two weeks ago and it really meant a challenge, which I liked. But then I started to read more about weighted chalisthenics and I wanted to know if my joints could get pottentially hurt since my body is not mature yet.

          • By RobbyTaylor -

            You need strong joints for advanced calisthenics as well

          • By RobbyTaylor -

            Let me elaborate…you need good joint and connective tissue strength for both, and the way to develop that is by training and getting really good at the basics. Don’t add weight or move on to a harder exercise regularly until you can do it without joint pain. His is why Al says you should be able to do many reps before adding weight. Muscular strength develops more quickly than joint strength but you do need both.

          • By Alex -

            That was exactly what I wanted to know, thank you very much!

  • By r.cardona -

    hey al what prerequisites do you recommend before you i attempt this skill, i tried it but i cant hold up my body with my bottom arm

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      You should probably have at least 10-15 clean pull-ups first and a very solid plank.

      • By r.cardona -

        thanks a lot al

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