The dragon flag, unique bodyweight exercises difficulty rating for one rep – 8 out of 10
Average time to master 3 months
The dragon flag made famous by Bruce Lee is one of the three best abdominal exercises that you can do (the other two being the full hanging leg raise and the abs wheel roll out). This exercise on its own can build amazingly strong and defined abs as well as great overall core strength so it is a must do exercise for anyone wanting to master the most difficult bodyweight exercises, having said that, it should only be attempted by people who have trained for some time and already posses a good level of overall body strength as it does have a high risk injury factor if you attempt it before you are ready.
Method of progression
As stated above this is a very difficult exercise and what adds to the difficulty is there are not many options for methods of progression, however, the technique I used was to bend my legs at the knees and therefore considerably reduce the leverage offered by the legs.
So the first stage of progression is to lie with your back flat against a bench, your arms behind your head and your hands gripping the edge of the bench. Then bring your knees in to your waist so that your thighs are at 90 degrees and in one coordinated effort pull up with your hands keeping your whole body rigid until it rises up and your torso points directly towards the ceiling. Once there hold the position for a second or two and then lower your body back down under control until your buttocks are just a couple of inches from the bench.
Note, as your body rises to begin the rep, slowly breath out and keep your whole body tensed , as you begin to descend again slowly breath in with the abdomen and repeat the sequence.
If you find that even with your legs bent you cannot lift yourself of the bench under control you can simply perform partial negatives by lowering yourself down from the end of the movement until you reach as low as you can safely go and then pulling your body back up.
The next stage of progression is to gradually extend the legs over a period of time as you get stronger until you can finally do the dragon flag with your legs completely straight.
Bent knee dragon flag
Bottom position of standard version
Top position of standard version
Make sure your shoulders and head are in contact with the bench at all times.
Pointing your toes helps to keep your body correctly aligned.
Good muscular coordination is essential to do the dragon flag so a good drill is to stand in front of a mirror and practice tensing as many muscles as possible at the same time.