Ready to claim your super powers and finally join the ranks of the elite?
If the previous moves looked cool enough and will have people take notice, this one will really bring your game to a whole new level. When you’ll perform the Human Flag, it’ll seem like you’re defying the laws of gravity. Like you’re suspended in the air like some majestic bird of prey. “Look up in the sky. It’s a bird? It’s a plane? No, it’s Superman!”
But working towards the Human Flag will not only up your radness quotient, it will also hit your obliques and lower back hard, and guarantee a full bulletproof core.
Remember that you’re only as strong as your weakest link, so we want your lumbar muscles to be as tough as your abdominals. That’s why our first few exercises will focus on bringing that side up to par.
Progression I: the Superman
Before you get overly excited, reading the name of this exercise, let me warn you right away that it sounds much neater than it really is.
Compared to the final progression, it’ll appear almost ridiculous… but drilling the Superman is an absolute must if you are to reach the later stages of the Human Flag.
Lying down on your belly, with your arms extended overhead:
- Lift your legs, arms and head at the same time;
- Hold the contraction for a second, really feeling it in the back and the butt;
- Return to your starting position.
If you perform the move like you should and lift your limbs high enough, it’ll make you look like a rather tame version of Superman dashing through the sky, hence the name.
Progression II: the Lower Back Raise
For the next progression, you will need someone to hold down your legs or find a way to block your feet under something as you lie down a few feet from the ground. More lower back training here where you will be lifting your trunk up as it hangs freely in the air.
Only your legs should be in contact with the bench/table. Both your chest and abdomen will be providing the resistance to overcome. For your reps to count, you need to bring your torso all the way up so that it’s now in line with your thighs.
Progression III: the Side Plank
By now, your lower back should have improved enough that we can confidently turn to another weak spot that needs addressing: the obliques. To strengthen your sides, what better way than to use the Side Plank? In the same manner that the regular Plank worked to prepare your rectus abdominis for the more advanced exercises, the Side Plank will ensure your obliques get in sufficient shape for the harder progressions to follow.
And just like the Plank, there are 2 variations to this progression, with either one hand or one forearm in contact with the floor. No time to waste, we’ll go straight for the harder proposition.
Thus, you will lay sideways, your entire weight resting on your forearm and the foot on the same side. Contract the abs so the abdomen is straight in line with the rest of your body with no curve or dip in the hips.
You’ll want to place your elbow right under your shoulder so your arm is perpendicular to the floor. Hold the contraction for 30 seconds before switching sides.
Progression IV: the Lying Windshield Wiper
Let’s be a little more dynamic up in here, shall we? Isometric exercises like planks are very good but we need to introduce some movement to hit the abs under every angle. To perform this progression, lie on the floor with your legs together and your arms spread cross-style to the side. Then:
- Lift your legs to the vertical;
- Using your abs to slow down their fall, bring your legs to the left side while keeping the 90° angle between your thighs and your torso constant;
- Once your feet touch the ground, go back to the vertical;
- Do the same on the right side;
- Congrats, you’ve done 1 rep.
Progression V: the Hanging Horizontal Wiper
This is basically the same move as the last one but with you hanging from a bar rather than lying down. By now, you probably know that this simple change of body position will have a substantial effect on the difficulty of the exercise.
In the previous progression, the weight of our legs was right on top of our center of gravity for a good part of the movement. Here, on the other hand, the tension will be at a maximum the entire time as your legs are extending away from start to end.
I won’t go into much detail as this is basically a hanging L- Sit where you’ll go from side to side with your feet, covering the whole 180°, and never once dropping the knees to get some rest.
Progression VI: the Hanging Vertical Wiper
Not tough enough, you want to bump the difficulty yet another notch? Our legs are already pointing away from our center of gravity… So, how can we modify our position to make it even harder? Answer: by bringing our feet all the way up and having our abs support even more of our bodyweight!
The starting position for this exercise will be similar to the ending position of a toes-to-bar; you will be hanging from a bar, with your arms straight, and your feet will be in contact with that bar.
Now, “all” you have left to do is to draw your half circles with your feet, like you did in the 2 previous progressions. Pay attention to keep the legs close to the body at all times and never let them fall forward. A little bending of the arms at this point is acceptable.
Progression VII: the Knee Flag Drop
Before we get to it, we still need to discuss the specific mechanics of the Human Flag. You see, unlike the previous feats which were easy to grasp and intuitive, how on earth do you position yourself to get your entire body up in the air horizontally?
The trick is in producing forces which go in opposite directions. When you grab the pole, the handles or whatever you’re going to do the move from, your upper hand will pull as strong as it can towards you while your lower hand will push against the support.
This play of forces will have your body rise to the side. Now, it may take some getting used to, but you’ll get plenty of time to practice before you get to the last progression anyway. For the Knee Flag Drop, you will:
- Grab the bar like I said with a greater than shoulder width grip, upper hand over the bar, lower hand under;
- Push and pull to have your torso lift up;
- Bend your legs and use the momentum to bring your knees vertically;
- Slowly return to your starting position by working the eccentric part of the movement from top to bottom.
Once again, pay attention to your arms which must remain straight the whole time.
Also, you will need a certain level of strength in the arms to be able to pull this off. That’s why, if you’re not training those moves already, I would strongly suggest you add push-ups and pull-ups to your training routine. This will help you progress much faster.
Progression VIII: the Flag Drop
Same move but with the legs straight.Start from the top and slowly lower your legs to the bottom.
Progression IX: the Knee Hold
Now and until the final progression, we will only be working in isometry. The Human Flag is essentially a static hold as you want to look like you’re frozen in that eerie and impossible position.
The move isn’t much different from the Knee Flag Drop. When you push and pull, and bring your knees up, instead of letting them drop to the ground you will simply – when your thighs get parallel to the floor – pause and maintain the position.
You want to be able to hold it at least 3×6 seconds before you increase the difficulty.
Progression X: the Straddle Hold
The name says it all; your legs will go into a straddle which will make the hold harder to keep but not as much as with the legs together.
The straddle (whether it’s used in the planche, the flags or any other calisthenics move) may sometimes look even cooler than the progression with the legs close, but the space we put between those legs serves to improve our mechanical advantage – as we reduce the length of the lever –, thus putting less strain on the core.
Final Progression: the Human Flag
You know what you have to do! You had 10 preparatory exercises to get you here, so just grab that pole, lift that butt off and show us your best Human Flag!
When you’ll have reached this stage, your core will have become so strong and developed that, if you’ve followed the rest of the tips I shared with you earlier, the superhero 6-pack you coveted will have now become a reality.
This does not mean you’ve reached the end of the road, though. Keep pushing yourself and setting new goals. This is merely the beginning of your journey!
Conclusion: from Dream to Reality
Dreams are only as good as they propel you into action. If they don’t fuel your inner fire and get you to move your butt, they’re really no better than cheap B movies you watch at night when you’re bored. They pass time but they’ll never change your life!
Securing a superhero six-pack is within your reach. You can start acting today and have your vision become reality. Or you can leave that image of a superior You in fantasy land where it’ll slowly wither and die. Like all those other dreams you never acted upon.
The choice is ultimately yours. No matter how much I’d love to be able to reach through this book with a virtual hand, grab you by the shoulders and shake you stupid when you need it the most… I’m afraid my job stops here.
I’ve shared everything you needed to know to slim down, develop a monster core and regain both your health and self-confidence. The theory now has to lead to practice! Referring back to the information we covered:
- Write down your goals;
- Choose which type of diet you’ll be following;
- Determine on which days of the week you’ll be training;
- For each session, warm yourself up, work your abs using the right progressions, and finish off with some cardio.
How easier could it really get?
Now, go and make a difference in your life. Wake up and get busy. You’ve been dreaming long enough!