Are you intrigued or inspired by today's skill work? Here is the intro from a great CrossFit Journal article breaking down training the front lever on rings to explain why you should come in today and give it a shot!
The front lever is one of the basic strength holds on rings that is most attainable by a non-gymnast. It is an excellent exercise for developing a strong core and powerful pulling muscles. The front lever is also a good example of how gymnasts develop their impressive levels of strength without lifting weights (and it’s very popular with rock climbers, as well). Instead of lifting progressively heavier weights to increase their strength, gymnasts work through progressions where they manipulate 1) leverage, 2) range of motion, or 3) momentum. The manipulation of leverage is a pretty well-known kind of progression; the other two are a bit less commonly known but still very useful.
The front lever involves holding your body in a rigid plank in a horizontal position under the rings, with straight arms and your body perfectly parallel to the ground. To “hit” the move in competition, gymnasts are required to hold it for a minimum of two seconds. Deductions are taken if there is any bend in the arms, if the body is not level to the ground, or if the line of the body is not straight. In gymnastics, all moves are assigned a grade from A to F in terms of difficulty. The muscle-up used to be an A-level skill, but it was recently demoted to zero value. The iron cross is a B-level skill. As difficult as it is, the front lever is only an A-level skill. Don’t pass up the front lever because of its “easy” rating though. That just goes to show how insanely difficult gymnastics really is. The lever is very challenging, especially if you don’t have the body type of a typical gymnast (i.e., small and light). Your reward will be greater upper-body and core strength, which will carry over to pull-ups, L-sits, and a whole variety of other, seemingly unrelated exercises.
The technique of the front lever is simple to describe but difficult to master. The main requirement is total body tension. It is especially important to keep your glutes and abs tight. This not only ensures a straight body line, but it also boosts your strength throughout your body. With a solid platform in place, your lats, shoulders, triceps and back muscles can do their job as the prime movers. A false grip is not necessary for a front lever and can actually make it more difficult for most people. You can just hold the rings normally with a firm grip. Keep constant pressure on the rings by trying to pull them downward toward your hips, which will activate your lats. It can also help to pull the rings together, which will activate the muscles of your chest and help lock your arms into your lats.
Training for the front lever is also considerably safer for your joints than learning some of the other highlevel strength skills, such as the iron cross or maltese, because you are not supporting your weight on top of locked elbow joints. The front lever is not too hard on the body. But because training for the front lever means that you will be hanging upside down, I would recommend having something soft underneath you and to make sure your hands and the rings are not sweaty. And don’t let go when you’re upside down. I’ve never had to tell anyone that more than once!
Read about Front Level Progressions in the CrossFit Journal Article here.