With Flag Day quickly approaching and Independence Day shortly after that, Old Glory will be proudly displayed most all summer long. Here’s a little write up about how you can build up to displaying your “human flag”. Now depending on your current level of strength, achieving this goal by summers end may not be obtainable, but with a lot of practice and patience, it’s certainly a goal that can eventually be reached.
Many people view a flag as a party trick. If only it were that simple, a lot more people out there would be doing “tricks”. A flag takes a LOT of strength and coordination. Pressing and pulling simultaneously while holding your core tightly tensed is very difficult. Having recently achieved a “close enough to official” flag, let me share some tips and exercises to help you fly your flag. In addition to specific flag progress training, there are some accessory exercises that I feel are critical to building the strength required for this maneuver. Any and all core work is useful for help in preparing to hold a flag, especially things that work laterally.
Hand stand holds- These do not have to be free standing, but you certainly want to build up to being able to hold at least a minute against the wall. Don’t be afraid to play with your balance by rocking side to side and even getting a shoulder tap or 2. Progressing to the point of doing a few HSPU’s would certainly be helpful as well.
Pull ups and single arm hangs- This may be the more critical of the push/pull balance. Much of your bodyweight is pulling on that top hand. If your grip strength is lacking, or you aren’t comfortably doing 8-10 pull ups, then it’s going to be very difficult to maintain a hold with that top hand.
Side planks- Work these in whenever you can. As a warm up or cool down to your normal workouts or just watching tv. Focus on tensing your entire body, your core, your glutes, everything. Doing them with your feet elevated will make them more challenging, even adding a dynamic aspect to them with raising and lowering your hips, holding and squeezing at the top for a second or two.
So now that we have a group of exercises to work on that will directly add to benefit to the human flag, let’s work on simultaneously putting it all together and working on the actual move. For this you will need a horizontal bar meeting at a 90 degree angle with a vertical post. Stand an arm’s length from the vertical post, and reach up to grab the horizontal bar. Now with one hand on each bar, attempt to extend your body sideways, by pulling on your top hand and pressing away with your bottom one. Focus on keeping the rest of your body completely tensed.
Work each side equally, building up to 20 seconds of accumulated hold time under tension in as few sets as required. As you progress, and are able to hold a solid 5-7 seconds for a set, slide your top hand closer and closer to the vertical post. Experiment with doing full extended holds, one leg tucked holds, and both legs tucked holds.
Parting tips- The thickness and orientation of the poles/bars that you work with can affect the difficulty of the move. Don’t be afraid to play around with changing your grip and the angle at which your arms are aligned until you find something comfortable. A thicker bar will make the movement more difficult, especially for the pulling hand. Additionally using some momentum and swinging up almost vertical before extending and lowering yourself down into the flag position can be more favorable compared to rising up from below.
Ryan Williams became certified through the National Federation of Professional Trainers (NFPT) in June 2014 and obtained his PCC in July 2014. Drawing from his own experience and PCC instruction, he now looks to guide people with their strength and fitness goals as a certified personal trainer specializing in calisthenics.If you have questions about calisthenic training or woudl like to do calisthenic training, please feel free to email Ryan Williams, PCC at firstname.lastname@example.org