November 2014

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Bodybuilding: The Human Flag

Bodyweight fitness guru Brandon Carter teaches you how to rise to the challenge for one of the most difficult isometric moves: the human flag.

Some well-trained guys make the human flag look easy, but if you’ve ever tried this move, there’s a good chance you’ve come crashing down like a sack of potatoes. It requires a beastly amount of core strength, but for an extreme functional move that turns heads, it’s hard to top the human flag. All you need is a sturdy post (emphasis on sturdy!) and you’re ready to start.


Start out with a few sets of light crunches and oblique crunches to get your core muscles warmed up. Don’t push it too hard, though, because you don’t want to tire out those muscles. You’re going to need them, big-time, once you start working on your flag.

Hand position

If you’re doing the flag on a straight pole, place the hand that’ll be above your head in an overhand, pull-up position, and your bottom hand in an underhand, chin-up grip.If you’re using a pole that levels off on top (see photo), use a neutral grip for the top hand.


Once your hands are in place, hold the grip firmly and start out with your knees tucked, hips stacked vertically and the side of your lower foot resting on the ground. Engage your abdominals and obliques, shoulders and back muscles as you lean in toward the pole.

The flag

Rather than popping up explosively into the horizontal flag position, use your hip flexors and core muscles to get off the ground as high as you can. Beginners should keep their knees bent, as this
will ease the stress on the core muscles.

As you progress, you can start the flag raise with straight legs, or kick right into it with a sideways jump.


The Flag Workout

At the start, you may not be able to hold the flag for more than half a second, even with bent knees, but don’t get discouraged — it takes practice.

Do four sets of human flag raises with bent knees, 8–10 reps per side, with 30–45 seconds’ rest between sets, alternating sides after each set to make sure you work your muscles evenly.

Incorporate this workout into your abs routine three times per week and you’ll be flagging in no time.

For advanced human flag variations, watch Hit Richards in action:

Bar Gloves

Richards strongly urges using a good set of gloves when doing bar work. Gloves provide better overall grip, they absorb palm sweat that can cause slippage, and most importantly they prevent blisters.