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The human flag pole is among the toughest calisthenics exercises. It involves having your body suspended sideways and parallel to the ground. The only points of contact are your hands gripping the vertical pole.
As you can imagine, the gravity-defying display requires an incredible amount of strength and mental fortitude. For this reason, achieving the human flag tends to take time.
To help you master this unique movement, this guide will detail how to do the human flag pole. Once you’ve got this down, you’re sure to make some heads turn next time you’re at the gym or local park.
3 Benefits of the Human Flag Pole
Should you be doing the human flag? Here are some benefits of flagpole workouts.
Human Flag Workouts Target Multiple Muscles
One of the key benefits of the human flag pole is the number of primary muscles involved in successfully performing the movement. After all, the human flag requires incredible strength and stabilization throughout your entire body.
The primary muscles used to perform the human flag pole include:
- Core muscles — this consists of the abdominal and lower back muscles. These muscles work to stabilize your torso.
- Pull muscles — this includes your biceps and back muscles, particularly your lats. When doing the human flag pose, your top hand is involved in a vertical pull.
- Push muscles — this includes your shoulders or deltoids, triceps, and parts of your pecs. While your top hand pulls vertically, your bottom hand pushes.
Improves Grip Strength
The human flag exercise demands remarkable grip strength. Without this, you’ll find yourself slipping before you’ve even had the chance to stabilize. By performing the movement, you’re bound to develop a stronger grip.
If you do not have the grip strength required to maintain a firm grip, here are some potential fixes:
- Wear gym gloves — this helps to protect your fingers and hands when gripping.
- Use liquid chalk — this keeps your hands protected while enhancing your grip.
- Look for a thinner pole — generally, the greater the diameter of the pole, the harder it is to grip. Experts recommend using a pole with a diameter of 2 inches.
Human Flag Training Can Be Done Anywhere
Like many other calisthenics exercises, the human flag pole can be performed anywhere. For the movement, all you need is a stable surface that allows you to get a good grip.
A gym pole, fireman’s pole (often found in your local park), or something vertical like a signpost is ideal—especially when trying to create that “flag pole” effect. However, other sturdy surfaces like a sturdy rack, a stall bar, or a rock climbing wall can suffice, too.
How to Do Human Flags: 3 Easy Steps
Like most advanced calisthenics movements, training for the human flag can be a slow journey. To many, it can seem intimidating at first. However, with the steps listed below, you’ll be able to come to grips with the human flag in no time.
1. How to Flagpole: Hand Placement
One of the most critical components of the human flag pole is your hand placement. The movement is typically performed by gripping a vertical pole.
Your top hand will assume an overhand grip and will pull at the vertical bar. Then, place your bottom hand on the lower end of the pole using an underhand grip. This hand will push against the bar, and together, these two movements will gradually bring your torso upward off the ground.
2. How to Do a Human Flag: the Swing
Once you’ve got the hand position down, it’s time to master the swing. With your hands firmly placed on the bar, pull with the top arm and push with the bottom arm while locking your elbows.
Following this, lean in towards the bar and swing out the leg that will be on top. While using this momentum, push off the ground with the other leg and complete the swing. Provided you have the strength and a good grip; you will find your torso in a horizontal position above the floor.
3. Maintain the Human Flag Hold
The final step is to maintain the flag position. To do so, you will need to focus on each of the primary muscles involved in the movement. This includes the muscles in your arms, shoulders, and core.
While bracing your core, squeeze your glutes, keeping your body as stable as possible. At the same time, your hands and arms will keep your body elevated above the ground. The goal is to keep your body, as much as possible, in a straight line. This is the optimal human flag position.
5-step Human Flag Progression
While there aren’t many steps to performing the human flag pole, the exercise is still daunting to most. Many athletes or beginners may not have the strength or strength-to-weight ratio needed to keep their bodies off the ground.
If this is you, below are a few progressions to help you work your way up towards doing a full human flag.
1. Support Press
One of the easier variations of the human flag is the support press. To do the exercise, you will need a pull-up bar with a vertical support beside it. Grab the two bars with a mixed grip and lift your feet. While tensing your body, you will maintain a 45-degree angle above the ground. In some cases, horizontal bars can also be used for preparation training.
2. Chamber Hold
Once you can hold the support press for 30 seconds you have achieved your first progression point and you are ready for the next step – the chamber hold. This is similar to the human flag pole. The difference is that your knees are tucked, and your hips are a bit higher. This is easier as you will not need to focus on keeping your torso straight.
3. Vertical Human Flag
Next, you’ll progress to the vertical human flag pole. While keeping your feet together, extend your legs upwards towards the sky. The vertical position provides easier leverage but gives you a feel of what the complete human flag would feel like.
4. Horizontal Human Flag (Knee Bent)
The next step is to become familiar with keeping your body horizontal to the ground. This movement is exactly the same as the human flag pole; however, you will have one leg tucked in.
5. Human Flag
The final step is to extend both legs out while in the horizontal position. This is the ultimate goal as it demands the most work from each of the primary muscles involved. It’s also the variation that looks the coolest!
Start Your Flagpole Calisthenics Journey
The secret to performing and maintaining a full human flag, is in achieving the optimal body position and then having the high level of strength required to pull it off. Most of the strength has to be in the upper body and the abdominal muscles.
They will allow you to keep your upper arm and lower arm in the correct position while getting your body vertical. To perform this gravity-defying skill, you will need to develop the calisthenics skills that it requires. Some good training options include resistance band training, handstand push-ups, and the side plank flag.
Now that you know how to perform the human flag pole, all that’s left is to start training for it. Start by understanding the movement and muscles involved. Then, put together a calisthenics program that will allow you to progress towards performing the exercise gradually.
New to calisthenics? Check out this guide on the best calisthenics equipment for your home gym.
Nadia is a USA-HomeGym.com Senior Editor with 15 years+ experience in the health, supplement and nutrition niches. Nadia became a health & fitness evangelist after rebuilding her gut health in 2008 using the Weston A. Price method. She developed a Facebook group that grew to more than 15,000 members sharing information on diet for allergy reduction, eczema & psoriasis cessation. Since 2011, Nadia has been an avid stair climber, achieving race times in the top 5% of her age group and maintaining average times of 3’40 – 3’55 minutes per 12 floors.