It’s fair to say the human flag is the ultimate in bodyweight exercises. Visually striking, it’s a move that calisthenics enthusiasts strive to achieve as it’s also an indicator of true upper-body strength. But, like all good things in this world, it takes time to learn. Luckily for you, we’ve teamed up with Progressive Calisthenics Coach and PT Greg Cornthwaite, who’s devised a seven-step programme to building your way up to the flag.
By breaking down the flag into its constituent parts, you start by building muscles in the lateral chain (external and internal obliques, abductors and adductors, glutes, transverse abdominis and deltoids), as well as supporting muscles, such as the pecs, lats and rotator cuff. From there, you’ll slowly manipulate your body to create resistance and then progressively overload these muscles to build even more strength.
Be warned, this guide isn’t a shortcut to success – you need a decent base level of strength and high power-to-weight ratio to even execute the first three phases. Greg estimates that for a novice, the human flag is achievable within 12 weeks, but can take anywhere up to three years in total to perfect. But if you do, it will have been worth the wait.
A seven-step programme to executing one of calisthenics’ most impressive moves
Because it’s one of the hardest moves to do out there, but also one of the most rewarding
Using a series of progressions that manipulate the body to build strength, balance and control of your upper body
STEP 1: SIDE PLANK W/ RAISED LEG
WHY? Advanced versions of the plank are necessary for building the foundations needed to execute the human flag. A ground exercise such as this will strengthen obliques and abs,
as well strength and stability in the shoulder joint.
60 SECS (EACH SIDE) // 10 SECS REST // 2-3 SETS
STEP 2: PRESS FLAG HANG
WHY? The second stage of progression is to hang off the apparatus so you can feel the physical mechanisms required to support your body. Again, this will build stability in the shoulder joint – stable shoulders are stronger.
45 SECS (E/S) // 20 SECS REST // 2-3 SETS
STEP 3: HALF-TUCK 45 ̊ PRESS FLAG
WHY? Like the press hang, you’ll be building up strength and muscular endurance in the anterior, posterior and lateral chains. You need to make your torso rigid, and lift the lower body so it straightens to roughly 45 degrees.
30 SECS (E/S) // 30 SECS REST // 2-3 SETS
STEP 4: TUCK PRESS FLAG
WHY? Tucking your legs together effectively spreads your body’s mass over a smaller space, bringing it closer to your natural centre of gravity. This will aid your balance, as well as further build all muscular chains.
25 SECS (E/S) // 40 SECS REST // 2-3 SETS
STEP 5: SINGLE-LEG PRESS FLAG
WHY? The next natural phase of progression is to start extending your legs out. Before you stick both straight out, gain a measure of control and balance by extending your top leg outwards and keeping the bottom leg in a tuck.
20 SECS (E/S) // 60 SECS REST // 2-3 SET
STEP 6: STRADDLE PRESS FLAG
WHY? Now it’s time to extend both legs out, so you’re in the straddle position. In doing so you’ll increase pressure on your abdomen, as well as maintain balance in the flag before bringing your legs together.
15 SECS (E/S) // 90 SECS REST // 2-3 SETS
STEP 7: THE HUMAN FLAG
WHY? Once you’ve reached the straddle press flag and can execute it comfortably, it’s time to bring your fully extended legs together. Aligning your grip and having your arms evenly spaced apart will help stability, as will keeping your hips aligned.
10 SECS (E/S) // 2 MINS REST // 2-3 SETS
Nailed that? Try this - TRAIN LIKE A STRONGMAN