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Elbow Lever

The elbow lever is a position where the body is held up horizontal to the ground. But unlike the planche (where there is NO support along the length of the body), the elbow lever uses one’s elbows as a resting and balancing point for the body. This makes the skill much easier than a planche.

An elbow lever –

It’s a fairly simple skill really. There’s just several key points in order to find the correct position.�۬

The Hands

You’ll want to put your hands down on the ground about shoulder width apart, with the fingers pointing to the side, or even slightly backwards. This hand orientation is essential in balancing the skill correctly.

The Elbow Stab

What’s this about stabbing? Well, as I mentioned before, your body is resting and balancing ON your elbows. In order to do this, you need to learn the correct place to put your elbows. This placement is called “stabbing”.

As you can see from the picture above, you’ll be placing your elbows to either side of the middle. The placement of the elbows is fairly intuitive, as your elbows aren’t going to be able to meet in the middle of your body, and if they are placed any farther out, then your body is not resting on them.

The picture below shows a single elbow stab into the correct position. Your elbow should rest right at the edge of your ‘six pack’.

�۬If you were to take one arm and stretch it across your body like so, then you can easily find the correct position. It should feel like your elbow is sitting into a groove.

Of course, this is also a good stretch to do if you find inflexibility is making the elbow stab difficult.

You can also work the traditional shoulder stretch to help any flexibility problems.

When your elbows are stabbed, your arms will be parallel or turned slightly outwards. If you try this skill on a set of parallettes or rings, your arms will definitely turn outwards, forming a trapezoid in the empty space.


If you find your elbows slipping off your stomach, there are two things you can do. First is to work on your flexibility with the stretches I showed above. The second is to put your hands slightly farther apart. By doing this, the base of that trapezoid (space between your hands) is longer and the sides of the trapezoid (your arms) must lean at a sharper angle in order to meet the top of the trapezoid (your stomach). The result of all this is that your elbows are stabbing more toward the center of your body and less likely to “pop” out. Confused? Good, let’s continue.�۬

The Start

With the correct hand orientation, hands about shoulder width apart, you’ll want to lean forward and “stab” both your elbows in at the same time.

You should start to feel the support that your elbows will be giving you.

If you are still having problems getting your elbows into position. You can also hunch your back over. I find this helps in getting the elbows into the right position.

Whether you start with your body in a straighter position, or hunched over is unimportant if you can extend into the elbow lever in the end.

The End

After you stab in your elbows, you’ll want to ARCH your body to make it more horizontal. This will lift you off the ground and into position.

There are three main points to remember when extending into the elbow lever. You’ll be doing these all at the same time –

1. look upwards – the spine follows the head, so looking up will flatten your back out.�۬

2. lift up your legs – you’ll feel this in your lower back, as you’ll essentially do a reverse hyper extension of the back. Really work to extend as high as you can. Try not to bend your knees though.�۬

3. lean forward – you’ll have to lean forward and open the angle of your arms to balance correctly. Elaboration of this point follows.�

Aug 18, 2010 | Category: The Levers, Tutorial | Comments: 23


23 Responses to “Elbow Lever”

  1. Zheng


    Will developing this level also help in achieving the planche? is the planche basically this plus more pushing power?


    • admin

      The elbow lever has very little carryover to the planche. You are better off practicing the handstand press with straight arms. That will develop the strength that you need. The elbow lever is quite easy compared to a planche.

  2. Juan

    Great tutorial!

  3. Jovan

    I would like to thank you for all the awesome tutorials on this site. Now that i have learned how to do an elbow lever, I would like to ask you if you could make a planche tutorial. I am interested in this accomplishment and imo you would be the best one to ask for advice on how to do it.

  4. Tang

    My elbows won’t stab into my abdomen at the same time thus requiring me to simply attempt (important word there) bent armed planches.

    Is there any method of training that I could do to gain the flexibility for these?

  5. Jason


    I have found this tutorial very helpful, thanks! Are there any progressions for the one-armed elbow lever?


  6. David

    Thanks to your tutorial I can now do an elbow lever. It may be a basic skill to you but it impresses the hell out of all my friends!

  7. Tim

    Hey, just tried this and did it, but only for about 3 seconds! Are there any progressional exercises or is it more just a question of practice and balance? Thanks, awesome tutorial by the way!

  8. Frank

    Great tutorial but I can’t seem to bring my legs up. Any progressions to help build strength?

  9. Jason

    Nice tutorial but any tips on building strength to lift up my legs?

  10. Daniel

    I’ve been bodybuilding for years but now I’m serving a two-year mission in Brazil and don’t have access to weights. I’ve been working on more of these high-weight, low-leverage bodyweight exercises, but I’m afraid that due to years of bodybuilding my legs are too heavy to balance normally. This exercise is an example of that, where I can get myself up for a second, but my legs always drop down. How can I resolve this?

  11. deep

    great tutorial. i succeeded at first time to hold.
    you should also give benefits of these holds to enthusias people to do them.
    also give planche tutorial.

  12. Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The words in your post seem to
    be running off the screen in Chrome. I’m not sure if this
    is a format issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I thought I’d
    post to let you know. The layout look great though!
    Hope you get the problem resolved soon. Thanks

    • admin

      Thanks for the heads-up. I’ve had some issues with formatting and not enough time to really sit down and deal with them. Thanks for the patience.

  13. eric

    this move is really elusive for me, sometimes i get it perfect and others there’s no way. Do you recommend any exercises that would prepare my body for lower back specific exercises like this and the back lever?

    • admin

      I find this is not a matter of lower back weakness, but shoulder inflexibility (can’t get elbows into position) and lack of technique with the arm angle.

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