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    Articles | Back lever

    Ever seen a peacock do a Back Lever?

    By Tim Stevenson

    I want to talk about peacocks.

    Not because they particularly fascinate me, aside from the fact I’m intrigued as to how something with such stunningly beautiful tail feathers ended up in possession of a face like a posh pigeon with a cocktail umbrella stuck in its head.

    But this blog is not about ornithology. It’s more about how some humans have adopted avian behaviours. If you read this and think ‘that’s not me’, that could be because you haven’t learnt how to do your first back lever yet.


    If you’re part of the health and fitness community, whether that be as a participant or professional you won’t get very far on any social media channel without coming across someone ‘Peacocking’.

    Put simply, the intentional flaunting of oneself with the goal of attracting attention and adoration.

    What’s interesting is that actual peacocks and their human impersonators often have one key thing in common, they wait until maturity before they start parading themselves about.

    Everyone starts at the beginning

    In the world of calisthenics that means you will see video after video of people doing amazing things. These impressive feats of strength and movement can make you feel pretty depressed about your own training and the stage you’re at.

    I’d imagine it’s the way a peacock would feel if he were to compare his posh pigeon face to some of the more exotic birds that live in the aviary of the local stately manor. But you have to look past what other people are doing and remember that everyone started at the beginning.

    Even the sexiest, most irresistible Don Juan bird once hatched out of an egg looking pretty unremarkable. It’s the same in calisthenics, everyone at one time or another has to learn to do their first push up, pull up, muscle up or back lever. No one is born with the ability to do these things, we have to earn them through exposure and progressive training. Some start young, others come to it later in life. As a result, the physical baggage that comes along with us can vary wildly.

    The reality is this:

    You are where you are. What is important is that you are moving forwards.

    The journey you are on is personal to you, so don’t get distracted or discouraged by the peacocks.

    If you want to get started in calisthenics, but all you see is videos of people doing stupidly difficult movements, it’s easy to get put off and think that it’s too hard. That is not true. Getting started is simple. And a great place to start is the back lever. I’m testament to that.

    Who Owns Movement?

    Hatching from my own egg using a back lever

    My beginning was on a deck overlooking the ocean in a town called Hermanus, just east of Cape Town, South Africa in December 2013.

    There was a gym in town but I had some gymnastic rings, something to hang them from, a great view and a hunger for a new challenge.

    So I tried my first back lever. With no gymnastics background and the remnants of the best part of 2 decades playing rugby, I literally started from zero and it wasn’t pretty.

    I’m a strength and conditioning coach working with elite athletes so over the next few months, Jacko and I used our knowledge of training and exercise science to work out the movement pattern we needed and in what positions we needed to get strong.

    After a while, I sprouted a new tail feather and managed to get my first back lever. At that point I was hooked.

    I just taught my body to do something new and I loved it!

    Fighting for territory

    Fast forward to 2019 and I’ve added some plummage that I’m pretty proud of. But whatever you see now, you need to remember that I started as a beginner, I have had to work hard for everything I can now do and I’m commited to continue moving forwards. I’m just like you.

    What’s interesting to me is the behaviour of other peacocks who can’t seem to help but peck at what they must believe is a rival. Just as birds compete by trying to display superiority in an effort to make other suiters look inferior, there is a group of people that use social media to do the same.

    If a peacock was to wait until he is King Ding-a-Ling before he starts strutting around, I think he’ll die a lonely bird. He also won’t contribute anything to anyone. Maybe this guy has got a little something different. Perhaps his feathered cocktail umbrella is just irresistable or the way his head bobs when he walks is tantilisingly hypnotic and sexual, even though some of his tail feathers are still growing.

    If we are constantly trying to move forwards we have to be pushing the limits of our ability and trying to bat above our average. Maybe we shouldn’t put ourselves on display until we reach perfection, even if we think we have something to offer the world? I think that’s a bad idea and it adds nothing to anyone.

    Become a confident peacock

    I could try and wrap this up eloquantly but Marianne Williamson has said everything I want to say already. She just didn’t mention peacocks (but I’d like to think they influenced her writing to some level. Maybe?!).

    Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

    You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

    As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

    I believe that we should all be the change we want to see in the world and I want to see more people enjoy exploring the limits of their bodies and learning to do things they thought were impossible.

    Hatching from your egg and growing tail feathers

    We’re here to help you become a peacock! Our unique School of Calisthenics Framework has been developed using years of practical experience as strength and conditioning coaches training athletes at the highest level. This knowledge of functional human movement, injury prevention, effective progression and programme design is central to ever course and classroom we have developed in the Virtual Classroom.

    When we were initially talking about developing the School of Calisthenics I said that if we were going to do it, I wanted to change the game. I believe we have done that. There is nothing else out there like our calisthenics framework for helping guide and teach you to move in new ways and get strong using just your own bodyweight.

    Coming soon is the Back Lever classroom with a full week-by-week course to follow, broken down into modules just like every course and classroom that members get full access too. The Virtual Classroom is designed not only to guide you, but also help track your progress and provide problem solving solutions at the end of each module.

    Below is a video example of what you can expect when we launch the course next week and we can’t wait to see all of you using it to help redefine your own impossible of the back lever.

    Future peacocking is of course optional but there is something about redefining your own impossible that makes it irresistible!

    No matter how far your journey takes you just do us a favour; remember you were once an egg too.

    Class dismissed.


    Starting Your Back Lever Journey


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