Why the Planche and the Front Lever Won’t Make You Big

| by Truth Seeker |

Believe it or not, the front lever and its counterpart the planche will not cause significant if any hypertrophy. Why? The number of reasons is longer than you may think.

1.Skill-based movements are not optimal for hypertrophy and basic strength development.

When a movement is complex and demands too much skill, it immediately becomes less suitable for hypertrophy training.

For example, weighted pull-ups and dips are great for hypertrophy whereas L-sits, front levers and planches are static holds dependent mainly on joint strength (damn elbows) and skill development. Additionally, 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 lats, the long head of the triceps and the scapula retractors can gain the strength needed to hold the front lever position in 6 months.

The hard part is getting there without destroying your elbows which need a lot more time to adapt. Whenever a movement is limited by a very specific joint adaptation, it’s less favorable for growth.

The planche is known to be an elbow and wrist destroyer too. Many people have torn their bicep tendons because of it.

If you want to develop your delts and chest, there are more effective options – bench presses, dips, overhead presses.

3.Static holds have a small range of motion.

Obviously, static holds come with a very limited range of motion. This makes them less optimal for hypertrophy training because dynamic exercises cause more muscular fatigue and damage 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 over a full range of motion. It’s simply more optimal for the task.

Of course, one could argue that this changes once you start performing front lever pull-ups and planche push-ups. True, but why bother getting to that point if you can achieve the same growth with a simpler and faster approach?

4.Advanced static holds are not for everybody.

Long limbs are a large disadvantage in the world of gymnastics. There is a reason why gymnasts are short – the torque is smaller. The advanced static holds are practically impossible when you have extremely long levers. If you are 6’4″ or more, and you are trying to learn the planche, you are looking at a very long process. Small guys usually get it in a couple of years, but high altitude brahs need even more.

Most tall people will never acquire that skill, just like somebody who is 5’1″ will most likely never dunk a basketball.

Meanwhile, the best hypertrophy exercises are suitable for everyone. Height may make the planche impossible, but you can still bench heavy. That’s why the best hypertrophy exercises are always the basics.

5.You’ve been brainwashed once again.

I am going to say something that may hurt, but people need to hear it. You are not going to become a muscular monster even you achieve sick bodyweight skills.

Most of the bodyweight ninjas are relatively small and short. Meanwhile, the big guys (180lbs +) are usually on steroids and hiding it. Their growth is certainly not the result of 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 the end of it all.

One of my favorite illusions in the bodyweight circle is the belief that planche training will help you bench 2 times your bodyweight.

Seriously? A shoulder dominant static hold will make you good at a dynamic barbell exercise which requires strong shoulders, chest and triceps? I don’t think so.

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 the online legends saying that “planchers” push 2BW 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 limbs, and can do more advanced things than the planche. I can see somebody with this profile performing a 200% bodyweight bench press after learning the proper technique. However, if you think that by the time you have a planche, your bench press will automatically jump to 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 carry over to cycling. Why not train with a more direct approach? Because you have been brainwashed and want to be a part of the “superior” group.

In conclusion

The front lever and the planche are great skills to have. If you want 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 achieve bodyweight mastery. It will not happen, regardless of what the gurus are saying. Good luck with your goals!

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  1. Tim

    This is all misinformation. I’m 6’2 205 lbs. I used to be 195 before I started gymnastics strength training. I’m heavier but I look more lean. I actually feel more sore training these skills than I do weights. I went back to my gym and a lot of the people are the same size only 7 months later while I’ve grown. I’d put money I can deadlift and bench press MUCH more than before. I do ring and floor trainin.

  2. Max

    It really depends on what you aim to achieve. I personally find quite shameful that a guy who can bench press 400 lbs is not able to do a single arm push up, even though he’s surely bigger than the average calisthenics joe out there.

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      Well, if that guy is not fat, he can probably learn a perfect one arm push-up in 1-3 months easily. The opposite…may never happen. However, I really doubt that most people will ever bench 400 lbs naturally in a super lean condition. It can be done by very few people in this world.

  3. Flo

    a bit late to comment here..

    But I gained 25 pounds (from 175 to 200) working progressions on the rings towards planche, front/back lever within 1 year… No steroids, but whey protein and lot of dedication (and sleep, and good nutrition, and no alcohol). It’s probably easier for one’s ego if you see a well trained guy in the gym and allege drug intake 😉 Good luck

    1. Truth Seeker Post author

      Before and after

  4. Visto

    180lbs to 185lbs at 10-12% bf doesn’t necessarily require steroids for 6’1 feet tall. Despite your good info exposing this corrupt field you seem to greatly undermine naturals abilities to grow to almost none existent

  5. visitor

    Anything you said is open to discussion except one “The planche is known to be an elbow and wrist destroyer too. Many people have torn their bicep tendons because of it.” BW training is nowhere near to weight training in terms of risk of injury. E.g. If you can’t hold a planche you just take a somewhat gentle fall on dojo mat but If you can’t benchpress the weight you try, the bar won’t take a gentle fall on you

  6. Dee

    You completely fail to mention the dynamic movements people do in order to build the strength and hypertrophy necessary to achieve a planche. Pseudo planche pushups, weighted dips, handstand push ups, etc. Dynamic straight arm dumbbell work. Who the hell works just statics all day? This article a joke, yo.

  7. Tim

    The first point is from what I know wrong. Planche and Levers aren’t really skill-related movements. Of course you need right technique, but in reality Planche and Levers are strength exercises. And bad things for the joints, cause of static hold are very unlikely to happen. With the rest of the points I agree.

  8. Daniel

    Gymnastic training became a trend and a lot of people on the Internet consider themselfs experts, although they have no real gymnastic background. which led to wrong information. Planche, Front Lever, Muscle ups etc. are skills that you train as a gymnast in order to perform them all together in a competition. Only from these skills you won’t get as big as Arnold. And yes, they can be terrible for your joints if you want to much to fast or if you get older.

  9. Viktor Csomor

    You obviously know very little about body weight training let alone gymnastic conditioning if you think the front lever is a skill based exercise. It requires zero skill. it’s a pure strength exercise. If you can’t do it, you’re not strong enough. Period. The planche does require a minimal amount of balancing and a fair amount of wrist flexibility but it’s still a strength exercise because the strength requirements (which are much greater than that of the front lever) dwarf the balancing and flexibility components. Most people do not train these for hypertrophy either. There certainly are better and easier ways of getting big. However, there is no better way of building relative strength. Depending on your height, weight, body proportions, and muscle insertion, you will also need to have a fair amount of muscle mass to even come close to pulling off a front lever or planche. Through your training towards these moves, you’ll inevitably build this muscle mass which, unless you are very light with extremely advantageous levers, will be quite a lot. Have you ever seen the physiques of gymnasts? It’s also daft to assume that superior tendon and joint strength are not absolutely critical for elite levels of general strength.

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