If you want ripped abs, here’s an exercise for you. The dragon flag is a killer core exercise that also works your hips, back, and butt. Here’s how to do a dragon flag, plus a rundown of all the best benefits 🐉 .
The dragon flag primarily works core muscles like your:
- rectus abdominis
- transverse abdominis
- obliques (internal and external)
It also engages your:
- erector spinae
- gluteal complex
- hip flexors
- latissimus dorsi
Here’s a step-by-step guide to dragon flag like a pro:
- Lie faceup on a bench or the floor.
- Reach your arms behind your head.
- Grab a bench, column, or pole to help you brace yourself.
- Activate your entire torso as you lift your hips and shift your weight to your shoulders.
- Drive your legs up, similar to the movement you’d use to do a reverse crunch, until they’re almost vertical.
- Keep your core tight and body straight, and try not to bend at your hips.
- Slowly lower your legs to create a straight line from shoulders to hips and toes.
- Balance your body weight on your shoulders as you hold the position.
Pro tip: If you’re doing the dragon flag as a static hold, hold your legs as low as you can until you lose form. Then rest for 1–3 minutes before repeating the exercise.
The dragon flag can take a long time to perfect. Here are some tips to help you avoid an injury.
Be sure to give your muscles enough time to warm up before you slay your dragon flag. A 10-minute cardio sesh usually does the trick, but it might take longer for some folks. Also, don’t forget to stretch!
Don’t push past your limits
Your body needs time to recover after each sweat session. So don’t force yourself to do an extra set of dragon flags, especially if you can’t maintain proper form. And if it hurts, stop!
Don’t arch your lower back
Your spine should be aligned as you hold the pose. Arching your back puts pressure on your lower back, and that can lead to a strain.
Keep it tight
Here are some ways to pump up the volume on your dragon flags. And don’t worry, we also have some tips for how to make them a bit easier.
Try scissor or flutter kicks
Ready to take things to the next level? Incorporate some scissor (horizontal) or flutter (vertical) kicks. Just make sure to keep your movements tight and controlled.
Add ankle weights
You can up the intensity by strapping on some ankle weights, but don’t go buck wild. Improper form can be a one-way ticket to Ouch Town.
Bend your knees
Maintaining a straight line from shoulders to toes isn’t easy. You can bend your knees to take some pressure off your abs. You can also alternate between straight legs and bent knees — again, just try to keep your movements slow and controlled.
You might not be able to go from 0 to Bruce Lee in a day. And that’s OK! Here are some modifications to help you ease into the dragon flag.
Plank (and variations)
Muscles worked: deltoids, rectus abdominis, external and internal obliques, transverse abdominis, erector spinae, serratus anterior and posterior inferior, quads, gluteal complex, tibialis anterior
Level: beginner to advanced (depending on the variation)
- Start on your hands and knees.
- Align wrists directly under shoulders.
- Engage your core as you press hands into the floor and step feet back.
- Rise up onto your toes.
- Keep a straight line from shoulders to hips and knees.
- Tuck chin into chest and maintain a neutral spine.
- Don’t curve your back or let your hips rise above your shoulders.
- Hold for 15 seconds.
Pro tip: Add 10–15 seconds to your hold time until you can maintain a plank for 1 minute. You can also try plank variations to keep challenging yourself.
Muscles worked: quadriceps, iliopsoas and other hip flexors, rectus abdominis
- Lie faceup with your arms at your sides, palms down. (If your lower back or hamstrings are tight, you can place your hands under your hips.)
- Activate your abdominal muscles.
- Keep legs straight as you use your abs to lift legs and feet straight toward the ceiling or sky to create a 90-degree angle.
- Press your lower back into the floor or mat to fully activate your abs and take the pressure out of your lower back.
- Slowly lower your legs as much as you can before lifting them slowly back to a 90-degree angle.
- Do 3 sets of 10–15 reps.
Pro tip: Don’t lower your legs so far that your lower back buckles. As you build stamina, you’ll be able to lower your legs farther without breaking form.
Hanging leg raise
Muscles worked: rectus abdominis (particularly lower abdominals), obliques, rectus femoris, hip flexors
- Using an overhand grip, securely hold a chin-up bar or an equivalent piece of equipment and let your body hang straight. Try not to let your toes touch the floor.
- Activate your core and raise your legs to a 90-degree angle, keeping your legs together and straight.
- Slowly return your legs to the starting position.
- Continue for 3 sets of 10–15 reps.
Pro tip: If you don’t have access to a chin-up bar, you can use rings or a dip bar. Beginners can do hanging knee raises to work up to a full hanging leg raise.
Muscles worked: triceps, biceps, pectoralis major, transverse abdominals, erector spinae, multifidus, psoas major, hip flexors, quadriceps, adductors, gastrocnemius
- Lie faceup on a yoga mat.
- Bend your knees and place feet on the mat, ankles directly under knees.
- Walk your shoulders under your upper back. Your chest should slowly rise toward the ceiling.
- Flex your glutes to lift hips off the mat until you’re in a Bridge Pose.
- Bend elbows and place your hands on the small of your back.
- Extend left leg toward the ceiling.
- Slowly raise right leg toward the ceiling.
- Push hips forward to straighten your body.
- Hold for up to 30 seconds.
- Slowly lower your hips onto the mat, then your legs.
Pro tip: Shoulder Stand can help you build up the balance needed to perform a dragon flag. But if you’re struggling to stay upright, do this pose close to a wall.
Hollow body position
Muscles worked: rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, biceps femoris
Level: beginner to intermediate
- Lie faceup with your arms at your sides.
- Tuck chin into chest.
- Lift your arms off the mat, with fingers extended toward feet.
- Point your toes and extend both legs toward the ceiling, creating a 90-degree angle.
- Raise arms overhead, with biceps next to ears.
- Keep your lower back pressed into the floor and slowly lower your legs.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds and release.
Pro tip: As you progress, you’ll be able to lower your legs farther while keeping your lower back pressed into the mat. But this takes some practice.
It’s time to talk safety tips:
- Warm up with some light cardio, and don’t forget to stretch.
- Dragon flag might not be your vibe if you have back or neck pain. You’re prob better off with a less demanding core workout.
- Protect your neck and keep your elbows pressed into your sides and your chin tucking into your chest.
- Put your weight on your shoulders, not your neck.
- Maintain a straight back. If you can’t, you should do a modification, like a knee bend.
- Cool down after each workout and give your bod time to bounce back before you work out again.
Here are the answers to all your burning dragon flag questions.
Are dragon flags bad for your back?
Dragon flags are not bad for your back as long as you maintain the correct form. Bowing of your back due to insufficient strength can strain your lower back. If you feel yourself starting to lose form, release your dragon flag.
Is dragon flag hard?
Yes. The dragon flag is a very advanced move. It can take months or even years to perform it correctly. So be patient with the process and don’t force it if it doesn’t feel right.
Is dragon flag harder than human flag?
TBH, a lot of peeps say dragon flags are easier than human flags. The human flag requires holding the body horizontally off the floor while grasping a pole. But everyone is different.
Are dragon flags good for abs?
Dragon flags get a 10/10 for toning and building abs. They’re also a great way to challenge your entire body.
If you think you’re ready for dragon flag, congrats on reaching this point in your fitness journey. Just keep in mind, this exercise is HARD. Even seriously strong athletes might have trouble. So give yourself enough time to develop the strength and stamina to get it right, get it tight.