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 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.
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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