As people go through the early phases Freeletics training, the same remarks (and complaints) are often heard:
- Why are burpees so hard?
- These High jumps completely leave me out of breath.
- I can't do a single pull-up!
- Where does the Freeletics inventor lives? Me, my friends and our baseball bats are going to pay him a visit. (There's no need to play innocent. I know you've been thinking something along these lines at some point!)
And the list goes on.
Unless you were already in top physical form upon starting your training, the vast majority of the time these comments will echo your own experience with the program. When someone mentions his/her most disliked workouts the same names tend to show-up (yes, Kentauros, I'm thinking about you). I can relate to pretty much every difficulties that people typically say that they have encountered. With one exception: leg levers.
I mean, I don't claim that I won't feel any sore muscles after 250 reps. But I don't mind them at all. I actually prefer leg levers to regulars abs.
Early in my training, I noticed in forums that a lot of people hated them. At first I didn't pay attention to it. Leg levers are part of the standard boxing training drill, so I just thought that having done them for years I simply had a head start versus people discovering this exercise just now. As time went by (and when the Feed was added to the app), I noticed that even some long time freeathletes grumbled about leg levers. Including some of the guys that I consider in much better shape than me.
That really started me thinking about why I didn't feel the same way.
One possibility is that my body might be better suited for this exercise. May be. But I doubt that a natural ability (which remains to be proven!) would make much difference versus a well-trained person.
Another explanation could be that I have been doing more leg levers than the typical freeatheletes, and so, became better at it. I don't think that this argument holds either. First some people out there train much more than I do (longer & more frequent sessions). Second, push-ups are also part of the standard boxing training and I don't have stellar results in this exercise. So volume doesn't explain it.
The only explanation must be that I have been doing things slightly differently, and that it helped prepare my body to do the freeletics straight leg levers more efficiently.
In the past I have tried a few times to explain to other athletes, how we perform leg levers during our boxing training. It took a lot of words to describe, but thankfully after searching a while I found a video on Youtube that's fairly similar.
Look at the video from 02:00 to 02:45, to see how it works.
The first thing, is that we work in tandem with a partner. Notice how the person working out stops his legs before the heels hit the ground (actually, I find that he stops his legs a bit too early, ideally heels should be only a few centimeters above the ground). The partner has an active role: he pushes the legs downward, hence adding velocity to the movement and making it harder to prevent the heels from touching the ground (compared to training alone).
Then you can jump directly to 03:43.
See how he is doing side leg levers. That is also something that we systematically do.
If you don't have a training buddy, you may want to find something to hold-on to (a bench, a heavy chair, etc.) Given the unstable position when the legs are sideways, it's much better to have a solid hand-grip to perform this leg levers variation (it also helps keeping your back straight).
Note that when we do our leg levers routine, we don't do 30 seconds rounds like in the video. Our routine is 20 straight leg levers, 10 on one side, 10 on the other side and 20 straight leg levers again. All done at fairly high pace (less than 2 seconds per rep).
On top of doing Leg Levers differently, we also do a lot of Rowing Crunch (see the video below). You don't need a bench, just do it directly on the ground.
Keep in mind that the instructor is doing it slowly to explain the movement. When you practice it, it should be done at a much faster pace (same thing: less than 2 seconds per rep). And ideally your hands should not touch the ground (it takes a few attempts to find the right body position to keep your balance but the abs get a better workout this way).
For Rowing Crunches, you can also alternate regular ones (as on the video) with side movement (knees on one side, while heels come touching your butt on the opposite side). You can use the same routine as for leg levers: 20 straights, 10 one side, 10 the other side and finish with 20 straights.
For variety and to spice things-up you can also:
- change side each rep (1 right, 1 left, 1 right, etc.) - this is tougher than it sounds!
- in between each round (e.g. after the 20 straights) keep your legs straight in front of you (hands not touching the ground) and hold the position for 30 seconds. Then you do the next round. This is a good core exercise.
I am not suggesting that you replace straight leg levers in the regular workouts by some of these variations. Instead I see these exercises as side training that could be useful for those of you having issues with leg levers.
Focus on these for a few weeks and let me know in the comment section if they helped you improve your performance with straight leg levers.