How to do Dragon Flags: Progression & Benefits

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Dragon flags is one of the most impressive abs workouts popularised by Bruce Lee. This is an advanced core workout that demands the trainee to be at the top physical form in order to do it.

Everybody dreams about the washboard abs and trains rigorously for that and also not to forget, stuffing down lettuce from time to time or spinach or broccoli or whatever that green thing that may be.

It is one thing to have an aesthetic figure and it’s totally different to have a solid physique that has endurance and is able to do something. Having enough core strength is not enough to do this dragon flag workout but you need overall body strength and stabilization.

Now, let’s just keep aside the dream about carving washboard abs and building the dragon flag abs. This is no easy walk-in-the-park movement. People with extreme commitment and discipline in fitness can see this through.

Dragon Flag Exercise Benefits

This workout strengthens your core muscles but also involves your entire body from head to toe. Although it may primarily focus on core muscles, your hip flexors, glutes, and lower back are greatly involved.

Dragon flag workout requires very stable eccentric movements which is the same reason why this workout is better on core and abs than any other isolated core exercise.

The movement can be closely related to hanging leg raises but the level of difficulty is extreme in the Dragon flags exercise. The movement in hanging leg raises is hinged mostly at the hip but in the case of dragon flags, you need to make movements with your entire body kept straight against gravity while using your overhead hold and shoulders as the single base.

Muscles involved during Dragon Flags

This workout focuses on your core muscles with support from your whole body.

Primary:

  1. Rectus Abdominis
  2. Transverse Abdominis
  3. Obliques

Secondary

  1. Hip flexors
  2. Glutes
  3. Lower back
  4. Shoulders

Common Mistakes

  1. Bending at the hips

Your body has to maintain a stable straight-line position during the entire movement. If you observe a dip in your hips, then you need to tighten your hip flexors and glutes to stabilize it. This will bring us to the next point…

  1. Weak Glutes

Weak glutes will not let your lower body engage correctly with your upper body. You can literally see this, your glutes are the junction of your body and around your hips and pelvis region. 

If you perform this workout with weak glutes, it will lead to cramps in your hamstrings and abs. Glutes provide a huge amount of support in the Dragon flags exercise.

  1. Moving too quickly

If your movement is not steady and you are rushing, then your body is just swinging back and forth instead of working on your core muscles. Keep your body in a controlled movement and don’t rush or throw your body with jerky movements.

If you are struggling with this exercise, below we have provided you with a progression guide that will help you to master the dragon flags workout.

This workout works on your core stabilization muscles using the eccentric movements, as slow and controlled your movement is, the more benefit you gain from each rep.

  1. Arching the back

Too much pressure on the spine can create an arch and even not keeping your legs straight with your torso can cause this as well. This can eventually lead to lower back pain.

  1. Poor Warm-up

Dragon flags exercise is hard and requires your entire body to work. A proper warm-up is necessary to let your body engage in the entire movement. Use a Dynamic warm-up routine and work your way into the exercise rather than just rushing to get the thing done. This might lead to injuries or a hernia since your core is tested at the maximum level.

Each of these mistakes is inter-linked, one can be a cause for the other. We can clearly understand this, although dragon flags work on abs, you still need your entire body to have the strength and control over its movement.

Dragon Flags Progression

Only advance to the next level of progression if you are able to perform at least 3 sets of 8-9 reps with proper form.

Tuck Dragon Flag ( Bent Knees & Hip)

This is the first stage of the beginner level of progression, you won’t be putting too much work into your body. We are going to practice upper body movement in a controlled manner.

Step-1: Lay flat on the floor on your back and hold something overhead to act as a hinge. This will be the focal point and your body has to rotate using this as an axis.

Step-2: Tuck your knees and hips which means simply, to bend your knees and hips. This will minimize the effect of the lower body on the movement.

Step-3: Now lift your body by keeping your torso straight and bring it back close to the floor but do not touch the floor. Repeat this movement back and forth for at least 3 sets of 5 reps and gradually increase the reps until 8-9 with a good form.

Bent Knees Dragon Flag

This is the second stage of the beginner level.

In this position, you will gradually straighten the hip and still keep your legs bent. Repeat the same movement in a controlled manner. Now, as the hips are extended there will be a little stress on your muscles and you must be able to handle it.

Single-leg Dragon Flag

This is the first stage of the intermediate level.

We will start to gradually fall into the dragon flag form but just not yet. You are required to extend one leg and keep the other bent. Now keep rocking the same motion.

Key points to keep in Mind

  1. Keep your hips straight
  2. Do not drop your hips during the movement
  3. Keep your leg straight during the entire movement.
  4. Do not tile to the side of straight leg
  5. Keep your entire body in a straight line from head-to-toe
  6. Do not drop to the floor in the middle of the movement.

Negative Dragon Flag

This is the second stage of the intermediate level.

Step-1: Lay your back on the floor with both feet extended and kept close to each other.

Step-2: Use your hands as a hinge to lift your body straight up in a free manner. Your shoulders and upper back must be the only point of contact to the floor.

Step-3: Now gradually lower yourself from the top position and this time, you can actually drop to the floor or Pause when you are close to the floor.

Step-4: Now lift your body again to the top position and repeat this movement.

Dragon Flags – Final

Finally, we have reached the stage of advanced level of progression.

This is no easy workout, the reason it can give you special dragon flag abs is that it can work up your core brutally.

Step-1: Drop your back on the floor with hands held to some support overhead.

Step-2: Lift your body just a foot above the floor and only your shoulder and upper back must be the point of contact. This is the starting position of this workout.

Step-3: Gradually in a controlled motion, lift your entire body in a straight line to the top and then bring it back to the initial position. Do not drop to the floor.

Step-4: Repeat this movement without dropping your hips and not bending your hips or knees.

Start by doing at least 3 sets of 5 reps and then periodically increase this to 8 reps or 10 reps.

The below video has demonstrated all the progression levels 

How to Integrate Dragon Flags into your Workout?

Since it is an Advanced Workout working on your core muscles along with your whole body. You need to develop your body with full-body workouts on all muscle groups which will build good strength.

FAQ’s

Are Dragon flags bad for your back?

That depends on your back health. This workout is going to test your entire body regardless of its focus on core muscles. It will demand you to engage your whole body in the workout.

In this process, you need to use your back muscles to keep your torso straight and upright. Otherwise, you can see an arch in your lower back or a dip near your diaphragm signaling that your back cannot take the load.

Even you can feel extreme pain in your shoulder muscles as this is the only point of contact on the floor to base your body.

Like I have mentioned in this article a number of times, you need to build proper whole-body strength to get prepared for this movement. You can go here for back workouts.

Is the Dragon flag easier than the human flag?

Both exercises test your body on a high level. The dragon flag is more of a movement and the human flag is a hold. Both are a display of great calisthenics repertoire, you need full-body training to achieve any of both workouts.

In the Dragon flag, you can base your body on shoulder blades and upper back to the most. This gives you support to make the required eccentric movements.

While in the human flag, you need to keep your body mid air with your arms grabbing onto a vertical bar. Pushing with one arm and pulling with the other, when your entire body is hanging in the air horizontally without any other support or base.

People who can perform these 2 exercises have high calisthenics skill levels and are revered to have such discipline. In our detail, the Dragon flag can be a slightly easier workout than the human flag.

Is Dragon Flag easier than Front Lever?

The front lever is another brutal workout, you need to hold on to your arms in a horizontal position but there is a slight difference from the human flag.

Instead of holding a vertical bar, you can hold a horizontal bar (like pull up bar) which will make it a bit easier when compared to the human flag, with the assumption that the individual has invested well enough effort in pull training like pull-ups, rows, chin-ups, etc… which builds the muscle strength to perform front lever.

When comparing the dragon flag and front lever, both movements are tough but can be easier for the individual depending on his / her skill. Both are built based on body movement, unlike the human flag.