Human Flag: A Step-by-Step Tutorial

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What is the Human Flag

The human flag is a calisthenics power move where you lift your body sideways whilst holding on to a pole or a stall bar so that your body is parallel to the ground. This gravity-defying skill displays a combination of brute strength, stability, and control. It will eye-catch a crowd at any given moment.

According to the Guinness of World Records, the longest duration to hold a human flag for males is 1 minute 5.71 seconds, and the longest for females is 36.80 seconds. The trick lies in having an extensive upper body strength, especially your obliques, shoulders, and back muscles.

Human Flag Muscles Worked

The human flag is a full-body exercise as you will have to actively engage both your upperbody and lower body muscles to elevate your body up sideways. The primary muscles worked are the deltoids (posterior and anterior deltoids), latissimus dorsi, obliques, and abdominals. The secondary muscles worked are the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

What Level is the Human Flag

This is an advanced level skill because you will require a solid foundation in calisthenics (pull-upspush-upsdips) before you begin training for the flag. Moreover, your proprioceptors (sensory capability to feel various parts of the body moving through space in relation to each other) will be put to a challenge as you will need spatial body awareness to coordinate your body to be in a correct position. The prerequisite to start training for the human flag is to do able to do 15 pull-ups for 5 sets.

How to do a Human Flag

The human flag comes in different progressions that you must go through to know your current level and what the next step would be. These progressions will help you to develop the strength, stability, and coordination required for the flag. Let’s look at these in more detail.

Hand Placement

The technique to the human flag is that you will be pushing and pulling simultaneously to lift your body sideways. The top arm is used for pulling, and the bottom arm is used for pushing. Moreover, the hand position of the flag requires a supinated grip on the bottom hand and a pronated grip on the top hand. Your hands must be in line with each other.

It is slightly easier to perform the flag on stall bars as there is more of a stable foundation due to the hand being in a neutral grip. So, it is highly recommended that you start practicing with stall bars if you have access to it. The key is to have a firm grip on the base (bottom hand).

Human Flag Progression

Flagpole Exercise

Side Plank Flag

The first progression will start from the ground up. The side plank flag is the most simple form of the flag as both of your hands and your feet will on the floor in a side plank position. This will get you used to the hand position, as well as developing your straight arm strength and condition the lats, shoulders, and obliques. To perform this, you will:

  1. Grab the pole or a stall bar wider than shoulder-width with the top hand being in a pronated grip, and the bottom hand is in a supinated grip at the ground level. Push with the bottom hand and pull with the top hand. Your arms are fully locked out, and your body is in a straight line.
  2. Lift your top leg to be in line with the top hand. Keep your core engaged and focus on the push and pull from in the arms.
  3. Hold this position between 10-20 seconds for 5 sets, and do this on both sides. You can move on to the next progression once you can hold 20 seconds for 3 sets.

Flag Kicks 

Flag kicks are a great progression that develops the swing transition into the flag. Your aim is the kick up so that your body is sideways up, and parallel to the ground. To perform this, you will:

  1. Grab the pole or a stall bar wider than shoulder-width with the top hand being in a pronated grip, and the bottom hand is in a supinated grip. Push with the bottom hand and pull with the top hand. Your arms are fully locked out, and your shoulders and lats are engaged. Your feet are on the ground.
  2. Swing your top leg inwards towards the pole, followed by swinging it away from the pole, and kick up with the bottom leg to assist in the swing up. Aim to raise until your body is parallel to the ground.
  3. Practice this motion between 3-8 reps for 5 sets, and do this on both sides

Inverted Tuck Hold

At this stage, you should comfortable with kicking up and having enough upper strength to be able to hold an inverted tuck. To perform this, you will:

  1. Grab the pole or a stall bar wider than shoulder-width with the top hand being in a pronated grip, and the bottom hand is in a supinated grip. Push with the bottom hand and pull with the top hand. Your arms are fully locked out, and your shoulders and lats are engaged. Your feet are on the ground.
  2. Perform a flag kick to swing your body vertically upward. Tuck your knees in towards your chest as you lift off and squeeze your core. Your feet should be pointing up towards the sky, whilst your head is facing the floor.
  3. Hold this position between 10-20 seconds for 5 sets, and do this on both sides. You can move on to the next progression once you can hold 20 seconds for 3 sets.

One Leg Inverted Tuck Hold 

This progression will require you to get into an inverted tuck hold position, followed by extending one leg out to increase the load on the shoulders, core, and lats. To perform this, you will:

  1. Get into the Inverted tuck hold position.
  2. Extend the same leg as the base arm out fully. Engage your quadriceps, glutes and point your toes, whilst keeping the other leg tucked in towards your chest.
  3. Hold this position between 10-20 seconds for 5 sets, and do this on both sides. You can move on to the next progression once you can hold 20 seconds for 3 sets.

45° One Leg Flag 

The 45° flag increases the leverage significantly as you would lower down at approximately 45 degrees from the one leg inverted tuck hold position. The goal is to keep increasing the angle so that eventually your body becomes horizontal. To perform this you will:

  1. Get into the one leg inverted tuck hold position. 
  2. Gradually lower your body down until your body is approximately at a 45 degrees angle in relation to the pole and the torso. Keep your base arm locked out, your core engaged, and squeeze your legs.
  3. Hold this position between 10-20 seconds for 5 sets, and do this on both sides. You can move on to the next progression once you can hold 20 seconds for 3 sets.

180° One Leg Flag

Once you can hold the 45 degrees flag comfortably, you can progress by lowering your body further to be horizontal and parallel to the ground. To perform this, you will:

  1. Get into the one leg inverted tuck hold position. 
  2. Keeping your base arm firm by pushing into the pole while you simultaneously pull from your top arm. You will lower down your body until it is parallel to the ground.
  3. Hold this position between 10-20 seconds for 5 sets, and do this on both sides. You can move on to the next progression once you can hold 15 seconds for 3 sets.

Straddle Flag

The straddle human flag will require you to get your body into a horizontal position and spread your legs away from each other to form a straddle. To perform this, you will:

  1. Grab the pole or a stall bar wider than shoulder-width with the top hand being in a pronated grip, and the bottom hand is in a supinated grip. Push with the bottom hand and pull with the top hand. Your arms are fully locked out, and your shoulders and lats are engaged. Your feet are on the ground.
  2. Perform a flag kick to swing your body vertically upward. As your body propels up sidewards you will straddle your legs. Squeeze your core, glutes, quadriceps, and point your toes.
  3. Hold this position between 10-20 seconds for 5 sets, and do this on both sides. You can move on to the next progression once you can hold 15 seconds for 3 sets.

Open Flag

This variation looks like the front lever as your stomach will be facing upwards, whilst you are pushing and pulling with both arms. To perform this, you will:

  1. Grab the pole or a stall bar wider than shoulder-width with the top hand being in a pronated grip, and the bottom hand is in a supinated grip. Push with the bottom hand and pull with the top hand. Your arms are fully locked out, and your shoulders and lats are engaged. Your feet are on the ground.
  2. Perform a flag kick to swing your body vertically upward. Draw your legs together as you lift and turn out your body so that your stomach is facing the sky. Your body is in a straight line.
  3. Hold this position between 10-15 seconds for 5 sets, and practice on both sides. You can move on to the next progression once you can hold 15 seconds for 3 sets.

Human Flag Pole

Finally, after you have completed all the progressions above, you will have enough upperbody strength to be able to hold a full human flag! Note that you can transition into the flag either from the top-down or from the bottom up. To perform this, you will:

  1. Grab the pole or a stall bar wider than shoulder-width with the top hand being in a pronated grip, and the bottom hand is in a supinated grip. Push with the bottom hand and pull with the top hand. Your arms are fully locked out, and your shoulders and lats are engaged. Your feet are on the ground.
  2. Perform a flag kick to swing your body vertically upward. Draw your legs together as you lift. Your body should be in a straight line.
  3. Hold this position between 4-10 seconds for 5 sets.

Flagpole Workout

It is highly recommended that you practice the human flag 3 times a week as this will give your body enough time to recover and grow stronger from the new stimulus. You should implement 2 exercises from the progressions, along with 2 conditioning exercises in a single session, and take 2-3 minutes rest in between sets (always time your rest!). 

Conditioning exercises include:

Human Flag Benefits

Looks Cool

Let’s face it, the human flag is debatably one of the most impressive bodyweight displays of strength that anyone has ever invented. Whenever someone does a human flag, no doubt, it would attract a lot of attention as this is an eye-catching skill. 

Increase Proprioception 

The human flag will increase your body awareness, also known as proprioception. We have touched on this topic briefly. For example, the ability to elevate your entire body sideways with only contact points being your hands holding onto the pole or the stall ladder. Your body and mind coordination is key to mastering this skill, as you will gradually be able to sense when your body is in a perfect horizontal line. 

Develop Upper-Body Strength

Training for the human flag will strengthen almost every muscle in your body, along with reinforcing your connective tissues, tendons, and ligaments. The process of obtaining this skill will work on the deltoids, abdominals, obliques, and lats. Along with lower body muscles such as the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves, as they will have to be engaged to form a straight line with the body.

Human Flag Variations

Dragon Flag

The dragon flag is an advanced-level core exercise that requires significant core strength. It targets the entire body from head to toe as you will have to actively engage almost every muscle to keep a rigid body. You can achieve a great upper body physique from this, and itt will give you shredded six-pack abs.

Front Lever

The front lever is a power move that displays a substantial level of core strength and pulling power. This is a truly gravity-defying feat and would be considered to be on a similar difficulty as the human flag. By doing the front lever, you can build exceptional strength in the back muscles. You can learn all of the progressions towards achieving the front lever in this front lever guide!


All Power Move Exercises

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