Strength & Conditioning - Al Kavadlo: Week 3, Day 3
This four-week program is designed by calisthenics expert and author Al Kavadlo. Three workouts are posted each week and cover a total of twelve bodyweight exercise progressions and tutorials, including everything from pull ups, to pistols, to the infamous human flag. If you're joining late in the game, feel free to jump right in!
Week 3, Day 3: The Human Flag
The human flag is one of the greatest bodyweight challenges of all time. When someone can hold a full human flag, it always attracts the attention and admiration of onlookers! Lots of people are strong, but the human flag demonstrates a high level of total bodyweight mastery. Before you embark on this road, make sure you've perfected the clutch flag and can do lots of pull-ups and handstand push-ups.
There are basically two different methods to performing a human flag. The one most people tend to picture involves a vertical pole, both hands grasping the pole with an overhand or mixed grip. This is the textbook human flag position.
The second approach is to perform the human flag between two parallel bars. Not the type of parallel bars that you would use for a dip, but rather bars that are stacked vertically in a parallel fashion. This allows you to put your hands into a neutral grip, with your palms facing each other (as seen in the photo).
The key to working toward a full flag is gradual progressing by practicing similar positions where you’ll have better leverage. Part of what makes the full human flag so challenging is that you’re using a relatively short lever (your arm) to hold up a very long object (your body). Since you can’t really make your arms longer, you need to find ways to make your body shorter in order to make the flag more manageable.
Try doing a variation where your body is closer to being vertical than horizontal - almost like a crooked handstand (handstands, by the way, are a great way to supplement your human flag training). Besides being easier on your arms, this puts a lot less stress on the oblique, lower back, and abdominal muscles, allowing you to get a feel for having your body up in the air while you build up the strength to fully extend your legs horizontally.
Once you can get the vertical flag, you can work towards lowering your hips down with your legs still up. Then progress to putting out one leg, and over time both legs. Practicing with your knees bent also works well as a precursory way of working up to the full human flag. Remember, any modification that gives you better leverage is a good way to work towards this skill. The important thing is consistent practice.
Watch the video below for more:
For more information on the human flag, check out Al's demonstrations in Convict Conditioning 2.