You know the feeling when you’re trying to explain an exercise to someone but either you and/or the other person doesn’t know the name of it. It’s like a game of swinging dick charades. And there’s a good bet that the one least recalled by its proper name is dragon flags.
Lucky for you, it became part of pop culture when Sylvester Stallone was doing them in the Russian barn while training for the Ivan Drago fight in “Rocly IV.” But, believe it or not, Sly was not the inventor of it. Bruce Lee, the late martial artist that put kung fu movies on the map, is said to be the guy responsible and the exercise was named after him.
Dragon flags – sometimes erroneously called the dragon fly – is an abdominal and core exercise that is not for the beginner. The intermediate or advanced person will be able to handle doing these with proper form and deliberate enough to really shred your abs. This will also beat the shit out of your stabilizer muscles, as well as being a quasi-full body workout with you needing to use tension all over to maintain that flat body, i.e.: the flag.
You can do these on a flat or incline bench in the gym and even improvise like Rocky by using sturdy flat planks of wood basically anywhere you can find them. Picture showing off your six-pack on the beach boardwalk by banging out a set of these motherfuckers on a park bench? Pussy magnet, my friends.
Here are some important tips to keep in mind while doing dragon flags:
1 – CREATE A SOLID BASE
Even though you are going to be holding on to the top of the bench with both hands, you are really using your shoulder blades as the main foundation to balance out your bodyweight. As you begin to lift your legs at the start of the rep, your hamstrings and lower back will also slowly rise. That will leave your rear and side delts still making contact with the bench. And then as you return for the negative portion of the rep, your shoulders will again be the ‘holding the fort’ until your lower back and hamstrings come back into the equation.
*IMPORTANT: Do not let your feet hit the bottom and stop just before they do before starting the next rep. This will keep incredible time under tension in your abs.
2 – HALF-ASSED HALF-REPS? HARDLY…
Usually when you do partial reps, it is as additional ones to get a better pump. But with dragon flags, it actually puts more emphasis on the abs. The ‘norm’ is to bring your legs up high enough until you are making a 90-degree angle. But if you stop at 45 degrees, it is a fuckin’ killer! Mix these up and try pausing at different points to feel it hit your upper, middle and lower abs more.
3 – DON’T STICK YOUR NECK OUT
Try to use your shoulders as much as possible to carry your bodyweight during the rep and be careful not to push the back of your head down hard on the bench. This may result in injuring your neck and that can keep you out of the gym for a while. A lot of people even choose to tuck their chin into their sternum as to not have their neck come into play, even inadvertently.