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Human flag tutorial

Human flag
The human flag is one of the greatest body weight challenges of all time. When someone can hold a full human flag, it always attracts the attention and admiration of onlookers. In my opinion, it is the most eye-catching skills in the calisthenics world.

Most people assume it’s strictly an issue of upper body strength, but there are other things to consider when training for the human flag. Training for this unique exercise will strengthen every muscle in your body, as well as toughen up your tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues. The ability to do a human flag demonstrates a high level of strength and control, but even just the process of working toward this skill will help you improve those attributes. Achieving a full human flag begins by having a thorough understanding of these considerations. From there it’s simply a matter of practice, dedication, and patience.

In this tutorial, I’ll show you what it takes to get the human flag, and take you step-by-step to master this impressive skill.


Don't go for the human flag training if you can not do

20 Push ups in a row

or 10 Pull ups in a row

or 90 seconds plank.

You must have some basic strength before going to the training progression. Then make sure that you can hold a position at least 30 seconds before going to the next step if you don't want to hurt yourself.


Step One: Support Press

This flag variant will start to give you a feel for the full press flag while allowing for considerably more favorable leverage and less proprioceptive confusion. You will need a pull-up bar with a vertical support to practice this exercise.
Grab your overhead bar with one hand while using your opposite hand to press into the vertical pole that supports the bar.
Make sure to keep both arms totally straight with your shoulders and lats engaged.
Lift your feet as you press into the support beam with your bottom hand, while pulling from your top arm.
Avoid bending at the elbows as you tense your entire body, holding yourself at an angle approximately 45 degrees to the ground.

Step Two: Tucked vertical hold

Once you’re able to hold the support press for 30 seconds, you can begin the transition to practicing with your top hand positioned directly above your bottom hand.
Tucked vertical hold, human flag progression
As the leverage here becomes significantly more difficult, we’ll be elevating the hips above the shoulders and bending both legs to compensate. Changing the angle and shortening the length of your body will allow you to get a feel for holding yourself sideways against a vertical pole without having to overcome your entire body weight.
Grasp the pole as described earlier, then jump and kick your legs to lift your hips in the air. It’s helpful to aim to overshoot the kick up when starting out, as it’s higher than it often seems.
Press into the pole with your bottom arm while simultaneously pulling from your top arm, keeping your knees tucked close to your body.
Hold this position for 30 sec, keeping both arms fully extended. Remember that your hips should remain just above shoulder height.

Step Three: Vertical Flag

After establishing a solid 10-second chamber hold, you can begin lengthening your legs to prepare for what it will feel like to move toward a full press flag.

For this variant, you’ll aim to keep your body closer to vertical than horizontal, almost like a crooked handstand. The vertical flag requires less strength than the horizontal version but starts to give you a taste for the full expression of the move.
From the chamber hold position, carefully extend your legs in the air and hold for 30 seconds.
Aim to stay as vertical as possible in the beginning, eventually working toward more of a diagonal angle. Remember, the closer your legs and torso are to the pole, the better your leverage will be.

Step Four: Bent Knee Flag

human flag progression

Once you can hold the vertical flag for 20 seconds, you can work towards lowering your hips down with one or both legs in a tucked position.

Feel free to experiment with different leg positions to find what works best for you. Remember, any modification that improves the leverage is a good way to work towards the full human flag.

Step Five: Full Human Flag

Human flag progression
There are essentially two ways of getting into position for your human flag: from the top down or from the bottom up.
Top-Down: The idea behind the top-down method is to gradually increase the load on your body so that you can prime your neurological system. Start from a vertical flag, then lower yourself into the full human flag position, gradually transitioning in order to maintain control and ease yourself into the full hold.
Bottom-Up: The bottom-up method is generally more difficult, as it involves pressing yourself up into the horizontal position from the floor.

For either method, you will need to press into the pole as hard as possible with your bottom arm while squeezing and pulling from your top arm. You will also need to focus on keeping your entire body tense.

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