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Hardest Core Exercise – Part II – Dragon Flags with Bruce Lee Son!

Hardest Core Exercise – Part II

Dragon Flags with Bruce Lee Son!

by Jim Smith, CSCS, RKC

In the first installment of Hardest Core Exercise Ever, you’ll remember we setup a sit-up to press on the GHR bench with two kettlebells.  This variation provided a high intensity, powerful contraction of the rectus abdominis and hip flexors, as well as engagement of the lats.  A contralateral torque was also was also overcome by the internal / external obliques and TA.  More so when the kettlebells were pressed independently.

In this next installment, we will target the same musculature with another high intensity exercise.  It is not called the Hardest Core Exercise Series for nothing!

For our next exercise, we’ll give a shout out to the guy with one of the best known six-packs in the biz – Bruce Lee.  No one can deny his world-class physique.  But unlike most guys, he was not only ripped, he was strong.  And one of the reasons for his strength was some of the advanced bodyweight exercises he used in his training.  One such exercise was the Dragon Flag.

Oh you’re still not convinced, let me throw in Rocky from Rocky IV (even though Rocky III was the best one!)  Sly was at his peak and wanted to show how hard he was training to conquer the evil Russian.  So again, the Dragon Flag was pulled out.

Dragon Flags

Dragon Flags are performed by bracing hard on a bench or hard surface, while locking your arms in a fixed position.  The legs are driven up as if you are performing a reverse crunch.  From there, the lifter will lower themselves down not allowing any part of their body to touch the bench except for their upper back.  This is an important form cue.  This makes the exercise so much harder.  The lifter lowers their body until it is right above the bench.  The other important coaching cue is to make sure when the lifter raises back up, they do NOT bend at the waist, but rather raise their entire body as it was lowered, in a straight line.

Why Are Dragon Flags Good?

Dragon Flags entire the entire torso.  The entire torso is (and should be considered) the core.  Isolated movements attempting to target one muscle group are not effective in the real world.  More torso rigidity for squats, deads, bench press, clean & press, sporting events, athletes, power development, etc…you name it, is developed with Dragon Flags.  Long duration tension (static and engaging strength training movement patterns) along with a full body engagement will always be preferred in the long run.

Where to Incorporate Dragon Flags?

We typically engage them after the workout.  We know that the athletes are warmed up by that time and also that none of their primary lifts will be affected by the recovery from doing the Dragon Flags.  They are a seriously powerful movement and full recovery between sets is a must in order to give an all out effort with each attempt.

If I Can’t Do a Dragon Flag, What Do I Do?

You can modify the Dragon Flags to make them easier if you can’t perform them right away.  It took me a long time to be able to start hitting them on a regular basis.  You can just perform negatives.  Lower as slowly as possible and then drop your feet onto the bench and drive back up to the starting point.  You could lower slowly as far as you can and then tuck your knees to your chest instead of raising back up and keeping your body straight.  This would be considered then next level up.  If you can hit the knee tucks AND control the negative to a stopping point above the bench and with your body in a straight line, you can then move to the full execution.

Dragon Flags

As you’ll see in the video, I hit 5 reps on the first set.  I think I could have hit a couple more with good form.  In the second set, I throw on ONE 10lb ankle weight and try it again.  You’ll have to check out the video to see how I did!

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10 Responses to “Hardest Core Exercise – Part II – Dragon Flags with Bruce Lee Son!”

  1. Trevor Lea-Smith Says:

    Great exercise! I train at 10-20 reps with this one, it always tears my core up. Your form (as usual) is fantastic. Bruce was an amazing athlete, even top rated strength coaches can still pull great ideas from “The Art of Expressing the Human Body”.

  2. Warren Says:

    Killed the dragon flags, nice work. Sorry to say, Smitty, but your article contained some misinformation this time…


    Rocky IV was better!

  3. Kristie Campbell Says:

    Awesome video! I have never seen this exercise before and can’t wait to incorporate it into my workouts.

  4. Scott Says:

    Great exercise! I like doing them on a slight decline. You can get a little more ROM. Also I appreciate how you don’t let your ass hit the bench. Many a people especially in the decline allow their ass to hit.

    A modification that I’ve found slightly easier(able to do higher reps) is to pull/roll your knees in when you are parallel and then straighten them to the perpendicular position. It’s kind of like a reverse crunch to a hip raise ending back in the starting position of the dragon fly. It’s a little easier for the non freaks and/or you are able to get some reps instead of shitting yourself after 10.

  5. Good Reads for the Week « Bret's Blog Says:

    […] Smitty and the Diesel Crew Show Us the Dragon Flag […]

  6. Krazy Kore | STRETCH EXERCISE EAT Says:

    […] let the Diesel Crew teach you how to do dragon flags. The height of cultivation runs to simplicity. -Bruce […]

  7. Kevin - Fitness B&W Says:

    These look awesome – excited to give this a try!

  8. Jon Says:

    Excellent core exercise. Those with reverse crunches and hanging leg raises – what more do you need? OK, side bends too. Back extensions. But Brucey’s dragon flag, awesome.

  9. Monday Musings | Sweet Tooth Runner Says:

    […] 7. Today was a rest day. Partly because I was so tired from running around hospital all day (I have a whole new level of respect for doctors and nurses!) and partly because I did a very tough lifting session yesterday. I did a new core move that was so hard that I couldn’t really do it, and my core hurts from merely ATTEMPTING to do it! I challenge you to try it! It has been dubbed the hardest core exercise…the Dragon Flags move: […]

  10. climblikeman Says:

    If you want to work harder, try this same motion on an incline bench and hold your body parallel to the floor with only your upper back touching the bench. I find this to be a much more difficult hold, and less strain on my neck.

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