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The Dragon Flag: Benefits, How to Do It, Muscles Worked, and Progressions

If you’re an advanced athlete, dragon flags are a sure-fire way to pop your abs.

The dragon flag not only requires unsurpassed core strength but considerable full-body strength as well.

Dragon flags are one of the hardest core exercises around.

Created by Martial Artist Bruce Lee, the dragon flag is an advanced bodyweight core exercise popular within the calisthenics and strength communities.

What is a dragon flag?

Dragon flags are an advanced bodyweight movement that target the core muscles and require significant full-body strength.

In involves an athlete lying on their backs and pivot from their upper back to lift their feet as high as possible with their body on a straight line, then lowering themselves slowly until hovering just over the floor.

How to do a dragon flag?

You can perform a dragon flag lying directly on the ground with a solid surface to grab onto by the top of your head or using a bench.

  1. Lie flat on your back and bring your hands to the top of your head, grabbing onto the side edges of a bench or a solid surface behind your head.
  2. Bring your weight towards your shoulders and drive your legs up as high as possible while keeping your body in a straight line. Ensure not to bend at the waist as you bring your body to a near vertical line.
  3. Lower your body until it’s right above the bench, keeping a straight back between your upper back and toes. With exception of your upper back, no part of your body should touch the bench or floor.
  4. Repeat for around 5 sets of 5 repetitions.
athletes stretchingSource: RODNAE Productions on Pexels


Try the following exercises to progress to dragon flags. You start with the most simple leg raises and progress onto negatives and single leg variations. Work on each progression in order until you can reach the target before moving on to the next one, this will help you build the necessary strength to perform the full dragon flag.

  • Leg raises (aim for 10 clean reps)
  • Leg and hip raise (aim for 10 clean reps)
  • Candlestick (aim for 60 seconds)
  • Single leg negatives (aim for 5 clean reps per side)
  • Dragon flag negatives (aim for 5 clean reps)
  • Single leg dragon flags (aim for 5 clean reps per side)
  • Half range of motion dragon flags (aim for 5 clean reps)

Work on these dragon flag progressions two to three times a week, depending on how fast you recover, and aim to be consistent (this is the most important step in the progression).

Dragon flag common mistakes

Because the dragon flag is an advanced movement, it is especially common to see athletes commit mistakes when attempting it. Watch out for the following:

  • Not keeping the body in one line: it’s an easy mistake to commit and one that shows that maybe you don’t yet have enough core strength to perform this exercise effectively. Arching the lower back is usually a sign you’re not yet ready for the dragon flag.
  • Putting your weight onto your neck: to avoid injury, your body’s weight should remain on your upper back and shoulders, avoid putting it on your neck.
  • Rushing to get the exercise: you shouldn’t rush your training if you can’t yet perform dragon flags. Instead, work consistently to gain the strength necessary to do dragon flags with clean technique. Don’t push yourself too fast or too hard, mastering this exercise can take a few months.

Dragon flags benefits

If you’re an advanced enough athlete to master dragon flags this exercise comes with many benefits.

As a compound movement, it targets your entire torso and works the muscles in your core, upper body, hip flexors, and lower back, while also strengthening your shoulders.

This exercise is great for building overall core strength and building a six-pack. A strong core will also support any compound lifts and exercises requiring pulling, pushing, throwing.

Dragon flags are incredibly versatile. As a bodyweight movement, you can perform this exercise anywhere without additional equipment.

Dragon flag muscles worked

The dragon flag is a core exercise but works many muscles in your body. Specifically, dragon flags target your:

  • Rectus abdominus
  • Internal and external obliques
  • Transversus abdominis
  • Multifidus
  • Rectus abdominis
  • Erector spinae
  • Longissimus thoracis
  • Diaphragm
  • Hip flexors  

Dragon Flags FAQs

Are Dragon Flags dangerous?

Dragon flags are not dangerous, but they are an advanced bodyweight exercise and one of the hardest core movements around. Before you attempt it, consider whether it’s the right exercise for you and if you have the necessary strength to include it in your training routine, as it can place a lot of stress on your joints.
Performing the dragon flag with good form is critical not only for efficiency but to reduce your risk of injury.

Who created dragon flags?

Dragon flags are credited to Bruce Lee. They are one of his signature exercises and were further popularised by Sylvester Stallone as he performed them in the film Rocky IV.

How long does it take to master dragon flags?

Depending on your level of experience and baseline strength, it can take anywhere between a couple of weeks to a few months to master the dragon flag. The most important aspect of working towards achieving them is to be consistent in your training.

When is it best to do dragon flags?

It is often recommended to do dragon flags towards the end of your training session, as your whole body will be warmed up by then and it can take a good while to recover from the exercise. However, you can also perform them at the start of your workout after a good warm-up to work them with full intensity before your muscles get tired.

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