The L-hold Tutorial

by Aleks Salkin on April 16, 2013

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

aleks1

The L-hold (also known as the L-sit) is one of the 7 static holds included in the PCC syllabus. Like all statics, L-holds are phenomenal for tendon strength and powerful, total-body co-ordination—but don’t expect to see them performed in gyms around America anytime soon.

My own recent exploration of the L-hold started off somewhat embarrassingly – with a locked-up lower back. After botching my first dance with heavy pullovers, my lower back felt like a piece of wood – stiff and immovable (note to interested parties: common sense would dictate not to arch your back while doing pullovers. My common sense was evidently on a smoke break at the time. Don’t arch your back if you do them). I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t do pistols, I couldn’t do L-holds, I couldn’t even hinge at the hips without feeling like I was going to catapult face first into the ground.

I was in trouble with a capital “TROUB”.

Fortunately, I had a hunch that there was a simple solution to this sudden bout of inflexibility, and the answer lie in strengthening my low back’s next door neighbor: my abs.

I chose the L-hold because hanging leg raise variations were unbearable at the time, and because of the high promises made about L-holds in Convict Conditioning 2: “Cure bad hips and low back inside and out.” Could it really be that simple? Would the L-hold break its promise when I most needed it to deliver? There was only one way to find out, and fortunately the progression sequence Paul Wade laid out in Convict Conditioning 2 was just what the doctor ordered. I started with bent leg holds and found that pumping my legs between progressions increased the difficulty and skyrocketed my strength and blood flow to my low back all at the same time. To make a long story short, within a few short days my back was as good as new. In this post, I’m going show you how I approached mastery of the L-hold.

First and foremost, you are going to need two things: strength in the form of strong shoulders, lats, triceps, and (of course) abs. Be sure you’ve cut your teeth on dips, one-arm pushups and their progressions, handstands, pull-ups, and leg raises before you tackle this move. Second, you are going to need some good active flexibility, or as Coach Wade refers to it in CC2 “Tension flexibility”, in your hips and legs. Whereas passive flexibility is essentially yielding to the force of gravity to improve your range of motion, active flexibility uses muscle tension to kick gravity to the curb and move in an advanced range of motion against the Earth’s otherwise unforgiving pull.

L-hold domination

To begin with, start on some sort of raised surface rather than on the floor: paralettes, kettlebell handles (careful!), or a sturdy desk will do the trick. For the sake of variety, consider practicing them on all these surfaces. While I have no hard proof of it, getting good at a this or any skill in a variety of contexts may very well make you better at the movement overall.

To keep your shoulders happy, keep them pushed down as far away from the ears as possible, and keep your “elbow pits” forward for all the steps in each series. Let your shoulders round forward – flare your shoulder blades – and hold that position tight. Keep your gaze straight ahead.

aleks2

Nope! Chest is too wide and back is arched. You may not pass go.

aleks3

Bingo! Back is flexed, chest is sunken, abs are tight. You have redeemed yourself.

Aleks4

Make your elbow pit point the same direction as your fingers.

Your goal is to work up to 20 second holds on each progression before moving on. However, because you’ll achieve that goal by getting stronger before focusing on endurance, I’ll give you a tool to get a taste of the next progression in the series to help build your strength faster and work your way toward the advanced L-hold more time efficiently. Not only will you be building static strength, but you will also be building dynamic strength, thereby giving you some built-in variety and the ability to feel out the movement a bit better.

When your arms start shaking and you are making ugly faces and grunting to get through your sets, you’ve already gone too far. If you’re working yourself into the ground you’re building fatigue, not strength. Knock it off.

You’re going to start with the bent leg hold. Prop yourself up on your raised surface, bend your legs to about 90 degrees, and…well, hold it. Hold it for as long as you (semi) comfortably can, take a break, and repeat.

Your journey through the progressions will go in this order.

1) Bent leg holds

–>Bent leg-to-straight leg

2) Straight leg holds

–> straight leg-to-N-holds

3) N-holds

–> N-holds-to-L-hold

4) L-hold

And if you want to take the first small step toward V-holds, you can add in this gem

==> L-hold-to-advanced L-hold

5) Advanced L-hold

Check out the video for the deeper details to kicking gravity in the face L-hold style. Note that during the dynamic variations I’m controlling my leg movement, not letting it control me (i.e. bouncing around and losing balance). Don’t move on until you can do the same.

 

Programming will be different from person to person. If you’re a rank beginner, you can get by initially with just two days a week of work. I say “initially” because the L-hold is not as taxing as movements such as hanging leg raises and Dragon Flags, so practicing them daily should become your goal.

The following programs are examples. You may progress faster, you may progress slower. Use these programs as templates, not gospel, and you will find that you have a solid base to work from and progress should roll in faster than you can spell “transverse abdominis.”

 

Beginner program:

Week 1: Don’t overthink it – keep your effort level at around 50%-80%. No need to go balls-to-the-wall just yet.

Monday: Bent leg holds

Thursday: Bent leg holds to straight leg holds

Week 2:

Monday: sets of bent leg holds and bent leg-to-straight leg holds

Thursday: Straight leg holds

 

After this, three days a week should be no problem. If that’s still overdoing it, stick with two days a week and progress as slowly as you need to. You don’t get a medal for racing through the progressions.

 

Intermediate program:

Week 1:

Monday: straight leg holds + bent leg-to-straight leg holds

Wednesday: bent leg holds

Friday: straight leg-to-N-holds

Week 2:

Monday: N-holds + straight leg-to-N-holds

Wednesday: straight leg holds

Friday: N-holds to L-hold

And if you’re more advanced and want to work on these daily, here’s an advanced program.

 

Advanced program:

Week 1:

Monday: (warm up: bent and straight leg holds) N-holds + N-hold-to-L-hold

Tuesday: (warm up: bent and straight leg holds) N-holds

Wednesday: (warm up: bent-to-straight leg holds) N-holds-to-L-hold + L-holds

Thursday: (warm up: bent-to-straight leg holds) N-holds

Friday: (warm up: bent-to-straight leg holds) L-hold-to-advanced L-hold

Week 2:

Monday: (warm up: straight leg holds) N-hold-to-L-hold

Tuesday: (warm up: straight leg holds) L-holds

Wednesday: (warm up: straight leg holds and N-holds) L-holds + L-holds-to-advanced L-holds

Thursday: (warm up: straight leg holds to N-holds) L-holds

Friday: (warm up: N-holds) Advanced L-holds

Congratulations! You have just kicked the L-hold’s ass! And now your abs are punch proof. But they’re not punch proof enough – not if you’re reading this anyway. For the average exerciser a full L-hold is a laudable accomplishment. But you’re not average, otherwise you wouldn’t be here reading this. The time to go above and beyond is nigh. Stay tuned. The V-hold is calling your name. And it will soon be time to answer the call.

***

About Aleks Salkin: Aleks Salkin is a calisthenics and kettlebell fanatic and Primal Move Fundamentals instructor currently headquartered out of Haifa, Israel. In addition to his love of old school strength training, he is also a devotee of intelligent flexibility training and tension flexibility in particular. Aleks grew up scrawny and unathletic until he was exposed to Pavel and his training methodologies in his early 20s. He currently spends his time spreading the word of strength and health both in person to his clients and online via his website and Facebook page. He is available for online coaching for select, dedicated individuals, and enjoys crushing weakness wherever it tries to hide. Find him online at http://www.alekssalkin.com/

Print Friendly
  • This is one of the best tutorials I’ve seen on this move. Love the Hebrew Hammer!
    Always nice to find someone who takes “simple” moves and pays them the respect they deserve.

    • Thanks, Matt! I’m glad you liked it. I thought since it was so overlooked by so many who are searching for ever sexier moves to perform, it deserved a little love and a different-than-usual approach. Please feel free to share if you liked it!

    • Paul John Wade

      What the hell?!
      We have the Fit Rebel here with us! Your Red Delta Project work is just awesome my friend.
      And yeah, Aleks is a great writer with a phenomenal wealth of knowledge. He is gonna do great things in the strength and conditioning world, for sure. Watch this space!

  • Fi

    Great tutorial – very clear and really good progressions. Thanks Aleks!

  • Big-time thanks, Paul! Thanks for making the Red Delta Project connection – I totally didn’t realize it was Matt that did it! I am doubly honored now!

    Paul is right – watch this space! I will be back with another article before you know it.

  • Great stuff from an L-Sit master!

  • Doug Parra

    Thanks for sharing this much needed information. How many sets/reps/rest should we do per program? Thanks

    • Thanks, Doug! As far as sets and reps, I would say that going above 5 sets is probably overkill unless they are spread out throughout the day (in which case, do as many as you can while you still feel fresh). Regarding reps of the moving variations, stick to sets of 10 and under. I think you can do a set of 10 any time, anywhere, it’s time to up the ante, as they say.

  • Simeon Reigle

    I like this article and appreciate some of the excellent ideas on progressions. Keep up the good work and hard effort.

  • Silvio Bauer

    This worked for me like a charm! According to my training log, I started practicing these progressions on January 10th, not able to hold the L-Sit for even one second. Now, on February 3rd, I can do an L-Sit on the ground for at least 10 seconds! Thanks Aleks!!!

    • Aleks Salkin

      Wow, that’s awesome, Silvio! Way to go!

    • Aleks Salkin

      By the way, do you mind if I use this as a testimonial on my website?

Previous post:

Next post: