I have never been in what can be considered “great shape”.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been over weight or terribly unfit, but have I ever had a full set of abs or some crazy shoulder definition? Well the answer is no.
I work a lot, travel a lot and in between working inside and outside the UK I try to keep as fit as possible. All the time going to the local David Lloyd and repeating the same weight routine I had done for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t until December 2014 (a date I remember well) when I saw someone in the gym demonstrating something not only extremely impressive to watch but also absolutely inspiring.
The person in question and now a good friend, was James Greenwood of Greenwood Calisthnics demonstrating a pure strength hold called a Back Lever.
Calisthenics was a dicipline I knew very little about but what I did know was all the people involved were of light build, athletic in appearance and a lot shorter than me. At 6’2” and 94kg I am none of these things, James, although shorter than me was in what I consider to be one of the best physiques I’ve ever seen.
It was from this point on I not only wanted to be able to do this but NEEDED to be able to do this.
So daily 7am sessions commenced with a massive emphasis on strengthening my core and oblique muscles as well as a huge effort in increasing my shoulder mobility. At the end of every core work out I would then get on the TRX rig and drill out multiple pull up variations to get used to working with my own body weight rather than dumb bells, something I had never really done because lets face it, no one likes pull ups! I can now happily rep out 15 – 20 body weight pull ups without to much trouble. Just goes to show.
Then the first question appears, how the hell do I even get into that position, well, you need to be ok with being upside down first! An exercise called “skin the cat” is a great way to get to grips with the initial part of a back lever of getting your feet though your arms and in reality, without being able to do this, a back lever is quite a long way off. Every day I practiced this exercise and slowly my shoulders became used to the movement and my core strong enough to hold a pause at the top in what is essentially a legs tucked back lever.
Obviously form here I thought I was home dry but then the realization of having to extend both legs comes quickly crashing down on you.
Step by step learning to extend one leg and keeping the other tucked I built confidence in my hold and with continued criticism from James, more often than not it was constructive!! I didn’t rush into learning the final hold until each step of the process was learnt with precise form. Why learn it wrong and then have to learn it again later…. It’s a sensible theory from a guy who makes this look easy.
The day you actually get this hold precise, flat, toes pointed and hold it long enough for your mate to get a picture is a great feeling! Not only have you achieved what you set out to do but, in your own mind you have broken the mould.
I am not a 24 year old, 5’8”, 70kg man who can train 3 times a day. I am 34, 6’2”, weigh 94kg and work all the time. So if I can do this gymnastics based movement and hold then pretty much anyone can.
If you want it bad enough to work through the doubts, bleeding callused hands, forearm & elbow tendonitus and a lot of shoulder pain then anyone can do it, I promise you.
I always use TuffWraps wrist wraps while doing any body weight movement because of the support and confidence they give me while I’m asking what is essentially a lot to ask of my arms and wrists, specially when upside down! Save 10% off your order with this code at checkout also JC10%
Credits to James Greenwood of Greenwood Calisthenics for giving me not only the inspiration to do this but the coaching and now friendship as well…. Cheers fella.