Human Flag Training and Tips
Getting Your Flag On!
Hi! That`s me in the picture doing my best attempt at the human flag after about 2 and a half months worth of training. It all came about after my kids kinda challenged me to learn it so that they could paint me in the Australian flag colours on Australia day and have me "fly" from a pole. So being the awesome Dad that I am :), I said "sure I`m up for that!"
What followed was a fair bit of research, trial and error, as well as some fantastic "aha!" moments as I discovered some keys to the training and techniques required for an average Joe to perform this cool move.
In this lens I`ll lay all the details out for you on the flag specific training I did as well as the tips that I learnt along the way to get to the flag faster.
The Bits That You`ve Just Got To Do
Each training day is designed to be performed at least 2 times per week, so a minimum of 4 sessions in total.
So for example you may do Mon training 1, Tues training 2, Wed off, Thurs Training1, Fri off, Sat training 2 etc..
You may even want to do 6 days per week, feel free, I don`t believe in over training. If your body feels up to it, knock yourself out!
Each training day I give you some progressions for each exercise. For example if you`re not up to doing full pull ups you can do half pull ups. Not up to halves? do Aussie pull ups, and so on. As long as you`re progressing each time, you`re getting somewhere, with the goal being to get to the hardest exercise on each group.
At the end of each training session you`re going to be attempting the flag in some form. Check out Flag technique steps below. Once you`ve mastered a flag step, head to the next step. Keep going in this way and you`ll find you`ll be flying the flag in no time!
OK here`s the training-
Start with Aussie pull ups- 2 sets of 15 reps each
-Hang below a bar at approx waist height, legs out stright resting on ground, pull up until chest touches bar.
If you can`t complete 2 sets of 15, do 3 sets of your maximum and at the next training session your goal will be to beat it.
If you can complete 2 by 15 aussie pulls ups, this is your warm up- move onto the next exercise.
-Half Pull Ups (performed like a full pull up but arms coming down halfway or to right angles only)- 2 sets of 10 reps
This is where things start to get hard, even if you can't get 2 sets of 10 try 1 set of the full pull up next.
Try to increase your reps each session
Full Pull Ups (arms extended to almost full stretch)- 1 set of max reps if still working on half pull ups, 2 sets of 10 if completed all previous sets.
When you start feeling comfortable with pull ups, start playing around with varied grips and hand widths, adding something different each session. This will help when flagging on different structures. (poles, ladders etc..)
45 degree/ table push ups (as the name suggests- support yourself against table or similar at approx 45 degree angle in push-up position with hands slightly more than shoulder width apart)- 2 sets of 15
if you can`t get to 15 do your max reps, but don`t stop there- attempt the next exercise (full push up) but on knees instead of toes.
If you have no trouble with 45 degree push ups- this is your warm up, move onto the next exercise.
Standard (full) Push ups 2Ã15 (supported on toes unless unable to complete 45 degree push ups, in which case go on knees)
as with 45s, if you can`t get to 15 reps, go to your max but do 3 sets instead of just 2 - your push ups are now complete!
if you can get all 15 move on to next exercise
Narrow/ diamond push ups 2Ã10 or max (hands under chest fingers point in slightly to touch, makes a diamond with index fingers and thumbs)
most people will find this a lot harder than normal push-ups due to the angle of the arms.
this exercise is a great lead in to 1 arm push-ups and other variations and I find it terrific for shoulder and core strength.
The flag involves a lot of core strength and we`ll be doing some form of core work on each training day. Feel free to mix it up a bit and have some fun with it!
Hanging knee raises (hang from bar, bring knees up to right angles pause, let down and repeat) 2Ã10
I try to work the back out a bit with this at the same time by not just hanging but pulling up very slightly, retracting the shoulder blades.
got the hang of these? try the straight leg version
Straight leg raises 2Ã10 (same as knee raises but keep legs straight)
really going well with these? try window wipers- straight leg raise until legs above parallel, hold and rotate them from left to right like a window wiper on a car.
There are loads of core exercises out there so feel free to add your own and make it fun. These are just the ones I did and found most beneficial. We`ll add some more on day 2 as well.
At the end of each session have a crack at the flag.
Try each progression until you get to a step you can`t do- that`s your benchmark for next time.
Even after I had progressed passed the clutch flag, I would usually start with that as a warm-up for the next steps.
Try to do both sides, you`ll find 1 side better than the other but doing both will keep your body balanced.
Here are the progressions I used, check out the technique page for details on what each one is.
1.Clutch flag 45 degrees
2.Clutch flag horizontal
3.Hanging Bar/Pole push
4.Bent knee flag
Try each step at least 3 times for each side.
Congratulate yourself on how far you`ve come and get ready for the next days training.
The flag involves being able to tighten every muscle and that includes legs. So while I don`t do a lot of leg work in this program, I do like to include squats.
Start with wide (just outside shoulder width) stance 2 x 15
Keep heels on the ground all the way down and up and make sure you go as low as possible (bum to calves)
Next Narrow/ feet together 2 x 15 or max
this really challenges your balance and engages your core.
Feel free to take it up a notch and attempt the difficult 1 legged or pistol squat.
Handstands are a vital element in getting the strength to hold the flag.
Go against a wall for balance if you need.
Handstand Hold 3 x 30 secs or max time (kick up into handstand and just hold that position)
This gets you used to being upside down and develops shoulder strength. Once you can achieve at least 15 secs in the hold position move to handstand push ups.
Handstand half push ups 3 x max reps
or, if possible
Handstand full push ups (head down to floor and up again) 2-3 x max reps
A great forearm and, surprisingly, trap builder, I use 3 progressions for grip strength.
Bar Hang 2 x 1 min
Grab horizontal bar and hang from it
Pull up very slightly contracting shoulder blades together.
Vertical bar hang 2 x 30 secs
It can be difficult to find vertical bars at the right width to be able to do this but it is a great grip strength builder.
Try local playgrounds for awesome equipment
Towel Hang 2 X 30 SECS
Similar to the vert bar hang but done by slinging towels over a bar and simply gripping hard and hanging on.
Again pull up very slightly so you`re not just hanging.
Hanging Obliques 2 x 10 each side
Hang from bar, pull up very slightly, swing legs to side from torso using abs only.
"my seat`s too hot" L sit 2 x 10
sit on seat and push butt up off seat using hands
push legs out so body forms an L
Same instructions as from Day 1
While I will eventually get photos and video instructions up on this site, if there is any exercise you are unsure of try checking out you tube or simply googling it.
Lets move onto technique!
These are the progression steps I used, you may find you can skip a step or that you need to add a step in to get to the next level. That`s ok, everyone`s different, do whatever you need to progress!
Ok, let`s start with the-
45 degree clutch flag
For this step I reverse up to the pole (in other words facing away from it) and place my armpit against the pole with elbow pointing up at around shoulder level.
With the same arm grip the pole with thumb facing the ground.
With the other arm tuck your elbow into your side or stomach and grip the pole (again keep thumb directed towards the ground)
Keeping your body straight (don`t collapse or fold around the pole), grip tight and raise both feet off the ground so that your body is on a 45 degree angle .
Keep your grip and your core tight, hold for 5 secs if you can then lower your feet down and try the other side.
Horizontal Clutch Flag
This is exactly the same technique as the 45 degree clutch but kick your legs higher and your head lower until you are completely horizontal with the ground.
You may find this easier to keep your knees bent at first and work towards getting them out straight.
I found that my idea of horizontal wasn`t always horizontal. Get someone to take a photo of you so you can see where you`re at and adjust accordingly.
Hanging Bar/Pole push
I love this exercise, I think it gives you the real first taste of what the flag "feels" like.
Hang from bar by one hand, put other hand with fingers facing the ground on the upright bar.
Keep body stright and push away from the upright.
As you get better at this, start bringing your hand on the horizontal bar closer to the upright.
Now we`re almost there. From here on you can use vertical poles with bottom hand fingers pointing towards ground and top hand gripped around pole, palm of hand facing away from your face or try using horizontal grips on structures like ladders at parks. But feel free to mix it up and find out what works best for you.
Bent knee flag
Lean in sideways towards pole with appropriate grip. Now kick your legs up into the flag position with knees bent, bracing yourself with the bottom arm whilst pulling into the pole slightly with the top arm.
Keeping the knees bent will require less strength to hold.
How you get your legs up is up to you. I tried jumping them up sideways, putting one up into position then kicking the other up and various other methods. I found the easiest way for me was to give a small jump into horizontal.
Note- there are other progressions in between the hanging flag and this point (with legs raised higher than horizontal then lowering them into position) this is simply the progressions I found simpler. If you want to check out in more detail these and other progressions, check out the book Convict Conditioning 2 available from Amazon .
Convict Conditioning- absolutely the best books for learning the flag!
If you`ve managed to get this far, now all you need to do is straighten your legs from the bent position!
Try one at a time or both together. Now start experimenting with different structure, grips and hand widths!
........still struggling? check out the tips section next, you may just find that "aha" moment that makes everything click into place:)
Tips and Tricks
So here are some of the key things I discovered along the way that really helped speed things along.
Sounds simple, but you`ve got to be consistent with your training, try the flag or pull ups every chance you get, and NEVER give up!
The position you put your hands in will determine how well you can brace yourself with the bottom hand and pull into the pole with your top hand.
I like starting on ladders at playgrounds as the hand positioning is easier (both palms facing each other) than on a pole (fingers facing down towards ground on the bottom, palm facing away from face at the top)
Arm Width and Lean
My "aha" moment! This, in my opinion, is the biggest key to getting the flag quicker. I was attempting the flag at a local park and decided to try using a ladder there. Now this ladder had it`s rungs at a different spacing than what I had been using for my training and it forced me not only to widen my arms further than shoulder width but also to lean over more. In that one moment I popped straight up into the flag and knew I`d discovered my key! ( I only managed to hold it for half a second but I was there!)
So experiment with different widths and find your "sweet spot", with the lean I find the more you bend your torso toward the pole the easier it is to come up into the flag as it is the more "natural" position for your body to be in (albeit horizontal to the ground)
This seems obvious but I still struggle with it!
Concentrate on not just your feet going up, but also your head going down. It`s hard to get horizontal if your head isn`t in the same plane.
Brace and Pull
Your bottom arm is your brace, it should be straight and strong.
The top arm can be used to pull yourself in and up (think pull up)
For motivation and technique tips you simply cannot go past you tube. It`s free and you can pick up so much by watching others. My technique may not work for you, someone elses might.
I learnt the most from Al Kavadlo and the other two ebooks I have put on this site, Convict Conditioning 1 and 2. They are an absolutely invaluable tool for not only getting the flag, but for also doing several other really cool moves like planks, muscle ups, one arm push ups etc..
Well that`s about it. I hope this lens has helped and maybe even inspired.
Best of Luck.
...and remember to make it fun!