The human flag is one of the most difficult upper body exercises to do—without strong arm, shoulder, back, and core muscles, it is nearly impossible. But the challenge of the pose is also what makes it satisfying. With strength training and practice, completing a human flag is attainable. Start by practicing a vertical human flag, which requires the least strength, then work your way into completing the classic human flag pose.
Practicing Your Hold
- Grab the pull-up bar with one hand. Rest the other hand on one of the vertical side bars. Keep both arms as straight as so your upper body muscles stay engaged. Upper body strength is of utmost importance when doing a human flag.
- Lift your feet off the ground. Press into the support beam with your bottom hand, then pull your upper body and legs up with your top hand. Avoid bending your elbows, as your form will be much stronger if your arms remain straight.
- Raise your hips in the air. Kick your legs forward to lift your hips further in the air. Pull away from your top arm while pressing your bottom arm into the side pole. Tuck your knees close into your body to prevent them from dragging your hips downward.
- Hold this pose for as long as you can to strengthen your upper body. This is the first phase of a human flag—from here, you can do the vertical or classic human flag pose. If you notice your hips drooping downward, lift them up and align them with your shoulders.
- Aim to maintain this position for at least 30 seconds before you attempt a vertical or classic human flag.
Trying a Vertical Human Flag
- Do a vertical human flag before attempting the classic human flag. The vertical human flag is both an easier version of the position and the second step in doing the classic human flag. It requires less upper body strength to hold. Practice the vertical human flag a few times before transitioning into the full-on human flag.
- Extend your legs into the air from the tucked position. Lift your legs slowly above your shoulders until you’re able to reach a diagonal position. Keep your legs straight to maintain the ideal form, as bent legs look crooked.
- Lift your legs until they are as vertical as possible. Aim to make your legs parallel to the side pole. Hold this position to achieve the vertical human flag, which you can then lower into a classic human flag from.
- Bend your knees to ease weight off of your body. If you cannot hold the vertical human flag position for long, try bending your knees. This can make your pressure more centered and prevent you from losing your balance.
Doing a Classic Human Flag
- Lower your legs from the vertical flag position. Keep one knee bent while straightening out the other and move your hips downward until they and your legs are parallel to the ground. Lower your hips slowly so any more pressure on your body is added gradually.
- Straighten out both of your legs. This will increase pressure on your upper body, especially your core. Try to maintain this position as long as possible—if you feel your grip weakening, tuck one leg into your chest again for an easier “bent” human flag position.
- Let go of the bar if you start to fall. If you can feel your grip slipping, let go of both poles. This will allow you to land safely on your feet. Holding onto the pole while you’re slipping increases your chance of tearing a shoulder muscle, which can cause long-term damage.
Improving Upper Body Strength
- Do an oblique tip to strengthen your biceps. Lie on your side with your legs completely straight. Prop your body up with your bottom arm to put the pressure on your bicep. Raise your hips until your body forms an even diagonal line.
- Practice oblique tips on both side of your body.
- Try handstand pushups to exercise your shoulders. Lift yourself into a handstand, then bend your hands until your head is almost touching the floor. Lower yourself down as far to the ground as possible without hitting your head, then rise back up to complete one handstand pushup.
- Keep your neck straight to prevent contorting your spine.
- If you have a hard time maintaining your balance, practice handstand pushups against a wall.
- Practice pull-ups to work your arm, shoulder, and back muscles. Grab your pull-up bar and pull your upper body up until your chin is just above the bar line. Then, lower yourself to the ground until your arms are completely extended.
- Do sit-ups to build your core muscles. To maintain stability in a human flag pose, you need strong abdominal muscles. Practice sit-ups by yourself or with a spotter to hold your legs down for a firmer core.
- Try deadlifting to strengthen your core if you have trouble maintaining a human flag.
- Hire a personal trainer if you do not have as much upper body strength or struggle with keeping proper form while doing a human flag.