Popularized by the late (and legendary) martial arts master Bruce Lee, the dragon flag is more than just something to show off with.
Oh, sure, it does look impressive, but there’s a reason that a practical and dedicated man like Bruce chose to include it in his training regimen.
Can you guess the reason? That’s right; the dragon flag is an excellent move that you can get a lot of mileage out of. Given that you take the time to master it, of course. Well, today we are going to help you do just that.
With these dragon flag progressions, you’ll be well on our way to a chiseled core of steel.
Benefits of the Dragon Flag
As we’ve mentioned above, the dragon flag is a core exercise. To be more exact, it’s one of the best core strength exercises that you could possibly do, assuming that you can do it in the first place.
The core responds best to the sort of workout where you hold a difficult position for an extended period of time, and the dragon flag makes you do just that, along with some added movement.
Furthermore, the benefits of the dragon flag do not extend exclusively to your core. Given that it is a compound move, it’s great for improving overall strength and fitness. Specifically, though, aside from your abs, it’ll also hit your lower back, glutes, and hip flexors the hardest.
Finally (and perhaps most importantly if you’re committed), mastering the dragon flag will open the door for you to learn some even more advanced calisthenics skills.
These include (but are not limited to) one-armed push-ups, the front lever, and the human flag, the lattermost of which could even be considered the ultimate progression of the dragon flag.
Dragon Flag Prerequisites
Just like any other advanced move, the dragon flag is not something that you’ll be able to hop into right off the bat.
Without a solid foundation, you’re not going to get anywhere. So, before tackling the dragon flag, we advise that you get good at the following exercises:
Now, what counts as being good at an exercise?
Well, if you can consistently perform the aforementioned moves, let’s say in 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps, with proper form, then you should be good to go.
If not, then we recommend that you put in a month or two to work on them. Otherwise, you’re not going to get anywhere.
How to Perform the Dragon Flag
These instructions will teach you how to execute a proper dragon flag. Even though you’ll likely be unable to do it immediately, you will get a clear picture of what you should pay attention to.
You’ll need a bench, or at the very least a flat surface that you can lie on.
You’ll also need something to grab on for stability, which can be anything from kettle bells to a barbell, but we recommend a sturdier anchor like a table or the vertical portion of a pull-up bar.
Of course, a specialized bench would solve all your troubles in this regard, but we realize that not everyone is willing to make such an investment.
Anyway, once you’re on your back, you’ll want to put your arms in a fixed overhead position and grab your anchor.
Next, tighten your core and raise your legs as if you were about to do a reverse crunch, but don’t bend your hips. Point your toes down and keep your body straight as you raise it up.
Now slowly lower your legs so that the only parts of your body that touch the bench are your upper back and shoulders. Once your lower body is just about to touch the bench or ground, stop. Don’t let it happen. Instead, raise your legs again and repeat the motion.
That was one rep of a full dragon flag, and what you will be striving for.
Now off to the progressions.
Dragon Flag Progressions
Before we start, you should know that all of these progressions can be performed as either an eccentric variant or a hold.
An eccentric variant is essentially the lowering portion of the move. So if you’re having trouble with, say, the tuck dragon flag, just rock your lower body up and slowly lower it down.
Alternatively, you can simply hold your lower body in a raised position until failure. Both variants will help get you closer to the full and proper progression.
Progression One: The Tuck Dragon Flag
As the name says, the tuck dragon flag is a dragon flag that you do with your knees tucked.
The farther your knees are from your chest, the more difficult (and therefore better) the progression will be.
Your long-term goal with this progression should be to keep your back straight so that you’ll be able to move over to the next stage.
Progression Two: The One-Legged Dragon Flag
Again, the name says it all. If you’re struggling to keep your back straight during this progression, then we suggest that you spend a bit more time with the tuck dragon flag.
Just like with that variant, adjusting the difficulty is quite easy here: simply experiment with much harder things get the more extended your tucked leg is.
Eventually, you should be able to extend it into a full dragon flag without compromising form.
Progression Three: The Dragon Flag
The real thing, in all its glory. We’ve already gone over how to do it, so we won’t repeat it here, but you should keep one thing in mind: With the dragon flag, form is key.
If you can’t keep your back straight, or need to lower yourself fully on the ground or bench, you’ll be missing out on what the move has to offer, and you’ll probably want to go back to the one-legged variant for a while
(Possible) Progression Four: The Human Flag
Some would call this the dragon flag’s evil stepson, and we happen to agree.
If you ever find yourself wanting more than even the dragon flag, we also have a guide for the even more difficult human flag. Indeed, when it comes to ingenuity in terms of human fitness, only the sky is the limit.
Chris is an experienced Calisthenics practitioner focused on isometric exercises and street workout. He founded thehybridathlete.com in 2017, which was subsequently acquired by theyhybridathlete.com
He is based in Portland and has been working out using solely his own body weight and bars for the past 6 years.