I was already part of this muscle game when the front lever and planche virus hit the online muscle realm. Today, with the popularity of street workout, those two movements are back in the spotlight. In this post, I will once again explain something very obvious which enigmatically is not always covered by the gurus who promote gymnastic training.
Believe it or not, the front lever and it’s counterpart the planche will not cause significant, if any, hypertrophy. Why? The number of reasons is a little longer than you may think.
1. Skill based movements suck for hypertrophy and basic strength development.
When a movement is complex and demands too much skill, it immediately becomes less suitable for hypertrophy.
For example, weighted pull-ups and dips are great for hypertrophy while stuff like L-sits, front levers and planches are static holds mainly dependent on joint strength (damn elbows) and skill development. Also, those movements are heavily affected by weight gain. Even 5 pounds may be enough to throw everything off.
2. Static holds could be hell on the joints
The actual strength needed by the primary muscle groups involved in the front lever and planche develops relatively fast. The lats, long head of the triceps and scapula retractors can have the strength to hold the front lever position in 4-6 months.
What’s hard is getting to that level without destroying your elbows, which need a lot of time to adapt. Whenever a movement is limited by very specific joint adaptation, it’s less favorable for growth. I am not saying this makes it a bad movement in general, but when we are selecting exercises specifically for hypertrophy gains, it’s better to choose more basic techniques.
The planche is also known to be an elbow/wrist destroyer. Many people have torn their bicep tendons playing around with it. Of course, the movement is not always to blame and most of the time its impatience, poor programming and bad form that get you injured.
This proves once again that the movement is mainly a skill with high level of joint preparation needs. As such it’s less suitable for actual hypertrophy training.
3. Static holds don’t have any range of motion
Obviously, static holds come with very limited range of motion. This makes them once again less suitable for hypertrophy training because dynamic exercises cause more muscular fatigue and growth stimulation than isometrics. What do you think will make your shoulders grow faster? A planche or an overhead press? The overhead press is basic and works the shoulder dynamically through full range of motion. You are also not risking any significant joint strains with it.
Of course, one could argue that this changes once you start performing the front lever pull-ups and planche push-ups. It’s true. But, why bother getting to that point if you can achieve the same growth wise with much simpler exercises?
4. Advanced static holds are not for everybody
Having long limbs is a large disadvantage in the world of gymnastics. There is a reason why those guys are so short – the torque is much smaller. This makes advanced static holds too hard to learn when your have disadvantageous levers. If you are 6’4″ or more and you are trying to learn the planche, you are looking at a very long time. Small guys usually get it in a couple of years, but basketball stars need even more.
Most tall people will never get that skill, just like somebody who is 5’1″ will most likely never dunk a basketball.
The best hypertrophy exercises are more suitable for everyone. For example, being tall may make the planche impossible, but you can still bench heavy weights. That’s why the best hypertrophy exercises are always the basics.
5. You’ve been brainwashed once again
A lot of people have been convinced that there is some sort of magic around static holds. Without a doubt they do look seriously awesome, especially the planche. However, we are not talking about which one is prettier or more stylish. Obviously, the grace of gymnastic elements beats movements like the dip, bench press…etc. That’s a given.
Since many people get involved in this type of training, they need to know the truth – you ain’t going to become a muscular monster even after achieving suck skills. Most guys who can do them are relatively small and short. The big guys (180 lbs +) are usually on steroids and hiding it. Their growth is certainly not achieved through planche and front lever training.
In addition, there is a gymnastic cult that consists of brainwashed people who sometimes fail to realize that gymnastic training is not end of it all.
One of my favorites is the believe that planche training will help you bench 2 times your bodyweight. Seriously? A static hold, which is primarily shoulder dependent will make you good at a dynamic barbell exercise which requires strong shoulders, chest and triceps?
I don’t even think it’s possible for everybody with proportional upper and lower body to bench press 200% bodyweight naturally in the first place.
The truth is that the planche and the bench press are different. There will be some carryover from the planche to the bench, but let’s get serious. Do you really believe those online legends that “planchers” push 2 BW the first time they bench?
It’s possible, but you have to realize that many of those guys have been training since their childhood, have short arms (great advantage for ring exercises because the stress on the elbows is much smaller) and can do way more advanced things than the planche. I can see somebody with this profile performing a 200% bodyweight bench press after some introduction period to learn proper technique. However, if you think that by the time, you have a planche your bench press will automatically be 2BW, you could be terribly mistaken.
Besides, if a solid bench is your goal, why are you bothering with the planche in the first place. It’s like trying to reach elite runner status in the hope that it will carryover to cycling. It will but why not train using a more direct approach? Because you have been brainwashed and want to be part of the “superior” group.
The front lever and the planche are great skills to have and require tremendous amount of dedicated work to master. If you want to be able to do them, you should pursue your goals without hesitation.
Nevertheless, you should not fall for propaganda and assume that you will become as big as the popular calisthenics guys once you have achieved such level of bodyweight mastery. It will not happen, regardless of what the gurus are saying. Good luck with your goals!