This is a challenging exercise popularized initially by Bruce Lee. According to the Chinese zodiac, Bruce Lee was born in both the hour and the year of the Dragon and he called these “Flags of the Dragon.” Apparently he would hold himself static in the horizontal position for 30 minutes as an exercise! This exercise also appears in Rocky 4, so I put that video clip in the beginning for kicks.
Important safety cue not mentioned in the video
Your entire weight should be supported by your shoulders and upper back. There should be NO strain on your neck. And make sure you use something sturdy. If you use a bed post or sofa, you will probably end up lifting those items through the power of your leverage. Find a pole or tree or a flat bench!
Help! I can’t even do a tenth of the decline movement
That’s how it begins! First it’s a tenth then if you try it again tomorrow it may be a little more than a tenth. These fractional improvements ARE improvements. This is how we improve: with baby steps you could climb any mountain. Enjoy the journey because this stuff is ENDLESS. Also, when you first do a new exercise, it’s not really all about just the lack of strength. The neural pathways that deal with the motor coordination are also trying to figure out this new engagement pattern. Your muscles and nerves are intertwined together. Rapid “noob gains” are neuromuscular related as much as pure strength. When I first started I could barely do one or two negative versions, but I just kept doing them every day or two and sure enough they got easier so don’t be discouraged if they are difficult. It’s one of the most difficult bodyweight core exercises!
How could I make this harder?
Simply wear heavy shoes and/or add ankle weights and BOOM, it will be significantly harder because you’re adding weight at the very end of the lever. This exercise can keep you busy for a very long time.
Other benefits of this exercise
I initially learned this to get a feel for what it’s like to hold a completely straight body for the front-lever. It inadvertently made the roll to candlesticks gymnastics exercise very easy. And then one day when I was practicing shoulder stands in yoga, I realized I could remove my hands off my lower back and maintain an unsupported shoulder stand.