Nearly every Sunday at the Santa Monica Rings, Paul Scott (61y.o.) can be found holding the human flag for a very long time. And invariably so, people flock towards him and want to try it. And that’s when he starts to explain a very nice way for beginners to learn how to do it.
This method is excellent for helping you build the strength and get the feel for it. Instead of kicking up for the flag, you use the parallel bars to get vertical and then lower down slowly. So it’s basically an eccentric flag. This is how I’ve also taught you to learn Dragon Flags and Pull Ups. Let’s do a quick pictorial recap of the progressions:
Progression Exercise #1: Vertical Flag
I would recommend you get comfortable with just staying vertical and feeling what it’s like to hold that position. This helps build the basic upper body strength to help lock you into a flag. When you’re vertical, the lever (your body) is really short, so you have lots of leverage.
If you want a good goal, work up to a 20-30second hold with straight arms and the legs not touching the top bar. But remember, you could rely on the top bar for support in the early stages to help you find your balance. This is why this technique is so great for beginners! Also, please practice both sides! The symmetrical disparity is huge for most people when it comes to this exercise, so please don’t make it even worse by neglecting your weak side. Strive to be ambidextrous in all things. Besides, your weaker side is the side that needs MORE attention, not less.
Progression Exercise #2: One Legged Flag
As you build up that basic arm strength and comfort in the vertical flag, you could start lowering yourself down into the flag and finding yourself able to hold it for more than a fraction of a second. If you tuck one knee in, it again, helps you maintain a little more leverage than going for an all out full flag. This is also great because with the straight leg, you could practice pointing the toes and flexing the glutes.
The Full Flag
Prerequisite Recommendation: In my bodyweight training guide, under the pulling section is where I have Human Flag training listed. And you’ll see I have placed a prerequisite of 3×5 wall HSPU’s because it’s very helpful to have that overhead pressing strength to have more success with the flag. The flag is basically requiring both your arms to be overhead and straight, just like a handstand. But instead of being upside down, you’re sideways. And instead of pushing both arms up like you do in a handstand, you push the bottom arm and pull the top arm. So if you could do some handstand push ups, you could potentially get more quality practice. However, if you really want to work on the flag and you can’t do HSPU’s, not to worry, if you follow the video tutorial and these progressions, they work like a charm as well!
And again… always remember to switch sides so you can work both evenly.