How to Do a Dragon Flag Workout | Sculpt & Torch Your Abs

Man doing dragon flag on a bench

If you’re looking for an amazing way to strengthen your core muscles and improve your balance and stability, look no further than the almighty dragon flag.

This advanced bodyweight exercise is a staple of MMA fighters and those with a calisthenics-formed physique. Speaking of advanced, this is not for someone new to the gym, but with some practice, it’s easily managed.

But before diving into the nitty gritty, let’s take a look at what the dragon flag is, its variations, how to execute it correctly, and why it’s useful.

What Is the Dragon Flag Exercise?

Two men doing a dragon flag workout

We’ve mentioned that the dragon flag workout is an advanced bodyweight exercise, but what exactly does that mean?

These types of exercises are advanced types of strength training where you use only your body weight as resistance against gravity.

With this exercise, you’ll start by lying on your back and curling your upper back upwards so that your feet point straight up to the sky. Then, you gradually lower your legs and torso to a hovering position just above the ground.

It may sound simple (yes, it’s straightforward), but it’s not easy. Trust us on this one.

Now, let’s take a look at how to achieve Bruce Lee’s abs with this workout.

(Interesting fact: Bruce Lee created the dragon flag.)

How to Do Dragon Flags

Man showing sculpted upper body

Dragon flags may appear complicated at first, but we’ve outlined these steps to make them less complex for you.

Here’s how to do a dragon flag:

  1. You’ll start with the basic dragon flag progression. Here, you’ll either position yourself face up on a bench or the floor.
  2. Lift your arms above your head, and steady yourself with the bench (if you’re on a bench) or column or pole behind you (if you’re on the floor).
  3. Bring your thighs to a 90-degree angle by bending your knees.
  4. Lift your hips off the ground and move your weight to your shoulders, in turn lifting your entire torso in the process.
  5. Using the same motion as a reverse crunch, lift your legs until they’re nearly vertical and your toes are pointed towards the sky.
  6. Avoid slouching or bending at the hips by keeping your core braced and your body rigid.
  7. Slowly lower your legs until your body forms a straight line. This straight line should be from your shoulders to your hips and your toes.
  8. Balance your full weight on your shoulders and hold onto that position for a few seconds.
  9. Release the position and slightly lower your torso until it is barely off the floor or bench and your feet hover above the surface.

You can repeat this for about five sets of five repetitions, depending on your calisthenics routine.

Tip: If you’re doing the workout on the floor, use a yoga mat for comfort sakes.

Enter the Dragon: Different Dragon Flag Progressions

Dragon Flag up close

Can’t do the exercise quite right to get dragon flag abs? No worries.

Check out these less challenging moves. These body-sculpting progressions are still part of the dragon flag but an easier part of the process.

Reverse crunch

This variation is a much simpler version of the dragon flag. It’s suitable for beginners and works your rectus abdominis for solid abs.

  1. Lie down with your face up and your knees at a 90-degree angle, keeping your feet flat.
  2. With your arms by your sides, keep your palms down.
  3. After exhaling and tightening your core, raise your feet so your thighs are vertical to the ground. Your knees should be at a 90-degree angle throughout.
  4. Without arching your back, bring your knees toward your face. You should raise your hips and lower back off the floor.
  5. Wait a few moments, then bring your feet back down until they touch the ground.
  6. Perform a minimum of about 10–12 sets. You can start with one set, then build up to more as you improve.

The 45-degree dragonfly workout

The 45-degree dragonfly exercise is a slight variation of the OG dragon flag.

  1. Lay back on a bench with your hands next to your head, holding on to the sides of the bench.
  2. Assume the starting position for the dragon flag (discussed above), with your legs and torso straight and your toes pointed towards the ceiling.
  3. Maintain this position for a few seconds before lowering your torso until you reach 45 degrees instead of lowering yourself all the way down.

Dragon Flag Benefits

Close up of defined ab muscles

The dragon’s flag exercise offers you numerous benefits besides a lifeguard’s abs.

It’s often difficult to find a single exercise that works many of your muscles at once. But that’s not the case here. Your entire torso will be turned from flab to fab.

Because Bruce Lee’s dragon flags require a controlled eccentric movement, it engages all of your core stabilizers. This way, it increases your strength much faster than isolated core exercises do.

You’ll benefit more from this compound workout by holding the dragon flag longer and slowing down each repetition.

Dragon flag muscles worked, typically include the:

  • Transverse abdominis;
  • Internal and external obliques; and
  • Rectus abdominis.

Apart from working your core muscles, the dragon exercise engages other areas of your body. These are your gluteal complex for buns of steel, your pelvis-stabilizing adductors, and your erector spinae.

Overall, dragon flags offer you numerous benefits, from improving your strength to increasing flexibility. And, you may even impress people at your gym too.

Are Dragon Flags Worth It?

If you’re a seasoned gym-goer looking to supercharge your strength training, then dragon flags are worth it. You’ll likely find it easier than a fitness newbie would and can add it to your fitness arsenal to improve your overall form.

Adding this to your calisthenics workout is a great way to strengthen your core muscles. While it’s great for building overall strength, make sure you have the physicality to perform dragon flags. It helps to go slowly at first, even if you’re a trained athlete.

Want another challenging bodyweight exercise? Test your mettle with the human flag next.

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