Bruce Lee's Dragon Flag Advanced Core Exercise

Dragon Flag exercise
Dragon Flag core exercise. gilaxia / Getty Images

One of the most advanced core exercises you can do is credited to the martial arts master, Bruce Lee. Called the dragon flag, this extremely difficult core exercise is known as one of the more advanced bodyweight exercises Lee used in his physical training.

Why Perform Dragon Flags

This advanced move works the entire torso from head to toe. It's hard to find one exercise that can engage so many muscles at one time. This move works all the core stabilizers, and because it requires a controlled eccentric movement, it builds strength more quickly than isolated core exercises. The longer you hold the dragon flag, and the longer you take to complete each repetition, the more you get out of the exercise.

Safety Tips 

The dragon flag is an advanced bodyweight exercise that can help build great overall core strength and incredibly strong, defined, six-pack abs (also known as dragon flag abs). However, because it is not only difficult but places a lot of strain on your joints, it should only be attempted by more advanced exercisers and athletes with a high level of overall body strength. This has a high risk of injury if performed incorrectly or by those without appropriate strength.

Before attempting the dragon flag, make sure you have worked your way up to advanced core training. You should be able to complete the core strength and stability test to completion. You should also be able to do reverse crunches, hip lifts and V-sits with little difficulty.

How to Do the Dragon Flag

Watch a video of the dragon flag for a visual reference. Here are the steps:

  1. You need to be able to brace your arms and shoulders with your body flat on a hard surface.
  2. Get into proper position by locking your arms in a fixed overhead position as shown in the photo.You can do this on a bench, with your hand next to your head and gripping the sides of the bench, or you can grip a stable object overhead. Some people use kettlebells or a barbell, but using something fixed and stable is a bit more practical, and quite a bit safer.
  3. Contract your torso and drive your legs up as if you are performing a reverse crunch, but keep your body rigid from your shoulders to toes, and avoid bending the hips.
  4. Once lifted, you will slowly lower your legs in a controlled motion without letting any part of your body touch the bench other than the upper back and shoulder.
  5. If you cave in, drop your hips, or arch your back, you don't have the strength yet and you should not continue the exercise.
  6. Lower your body until it is hovering just over the bench.
  7. Lower and repeat as possible. Once you break form, you are done.


    Make sure you are warmed up before doing the dragon flag. Make sure you rest completely between sets. Point your toes to help maintain proper body alignment. Use a spotter if you are not quite able to do the movement without sagging, or arching your back.


    If you can't do the dragon flag, you can build up to it by performing a dragonfly with your torso rigid only from the shoulders to the knees, with the knees bent at 90 degrees and allowing your feet to hang down and reduce some of the weight being lifted. Here is how to do the dragonfly:

    1. Get into position on a bench with your hands next to your head, gripping the edges of the bench.
    2. Bend your knees and bring your thighs to 90 degrees, and then in one full effort, contract and pull your torso up towards the ceiling. You should have a partial dragon flag with your knees bent at 90 degrees.
    3. Hold the position for a few seconds and then slowly lower your torso until just slight hovering above the bench.

    Once you can do this movement, you can gradually work towards extending your legs until you can do the dragon flag with your legs completely straight.

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