How To Perform The Human Flag

Human Flag

What is the human flag? Have you ever been watching television and, during the program, an individual climbed up a pole and then fully extended his or her body sothey are parallel with the ground?

In a way, they make themselves look like a human flag? You may wonder how to perform such a move. 

You don’t need to be a massive bodybuilder or professional athlete to perform this move, but you do need to have some general strength and balance.

It also takes a bit of practice. However, it is possible to master this move and show off in front of your friends, because thankfully, there’s almost always going to be a pole somewhere around.

You Don’t Need Brute Strength

When seeing someone perform a human flag you may initially assume they have extreme upper body strength. While having strong arms and shoulders is important, it isn’t the entire determining factor. You can compare it in some ways to mountain climbing. 

The best mountain climbers in the world are not massive individuals with arms the size of tree trunks. Instead, many of these individuals are on the smaller side.

You will need to train your muscles to stabilize your body when performing the human flag, but in reality, you don’t need the extreme strength to perform this move. 

Muscle Groups The Human Flag Targets

Muscle Groups The Human Flag Targets

Your shoulders, arms, and forearms are all targeted here during the move. There’s no doubt about it. You will need to have a strong grip to perform this move. 

However, the majority of strength doesn’t actually come from your upper body. Your shoulders are not stabilizing your body. In fact, these muscles are basically only holding onto the bar and providing the strength for your ribs up. 

The vast majority of strength comes from your abs. Your abs will need to tighten in order to hold your legs out. These muscles will need to be able to support the weight of your lower body. 

Due to this, it is important to have a strong core. If you don’t have a strong core you’ll need to begin an abdominal routine right away. It’s best to work your core muscles every day (unlike other muscle groups where you’ll want to work just once every few days). 

Optimal Body Type

In order to perform the human flag, you’ll need a high strength to body weight ratio. Basically, the stronger you are and the lighter you weigh, the better off you’re going to be. 

In other words, if you have a high body fat percentage you’ll be better off focusing on burning fat and lowering your body fat percentage than attempting to perform the human flag. 

This is because you use a very short “lever”to lift yourself up and to perform the human flag. The lever for this move is your arms. In comparison, your arms are much shorter than the rest of your body, and yet this part of your body is what is used to lift up the rest of your body. 

So yes, you do need to be able to support your entire body weight with your arms. 

Exercises To Help You Perform The Human Flag

One of the best ways to build strength for this is to work on your pull-up and chin-up. While you are using a horizontal bar instead of a vertical bar, increasing your strength with these moves will help you gain the right muscle used in the human flag.

Chin-ups and pull-ups focus on the muscles in your back, shoulders, and chest that are used during the human flag.

A great way to increase your training is, when you are at the top of your lift, pull yourself one way, then the other. For example, when you are at the height of your lift and your chin is above the bar, while keeping your chest parallel to the bar, move your torso to the side, as if you’re trying to look around something in front of you. 

Repeat this and move to the other side. This lateral movement will increase the strength training on all the heads in your shoulders while also targeting your traps. Working your muscles in this way will help prepare yourself for the human flag. 

Strengthening Your Core

As you need to work on your shoulders and upper back, you’ll also need to work on your abs. Your abs need to be strong to support your lower body weight. To do this you’ll need to use your body weight (or weight in general) to train your abs.

You may not always perform resistance training with your abs, but to improve your ability to perform (and sustain) the human flag, this will be important. 

If you go to a gym that has weighted crunch and ab machines these are good to incorporate into your ab workout a few times a week. The additional resistance training will not only improve the definition of your abs but the overall strength.

However, you’ll also want to focus on getting your lower body off the ground as this will replicate some of thestrain placed onto your abs when performing the human flag. 

A great way to do this is to head back to the pull-up bar. While hanging, lift your legs up while keeping them straight. This will target your abs (especially your lower abs) while placing extra strain on your muscles because the legs are fully extended. You can also do this on the dip bar (although if you’re already using the pull-up bar you might as well do your abs at the same time). 

Another great move to perform if you don’t have access to the crunch machines at the local gym is to perform a V-sit with a medicine ball. With this, place a medicine ball between your feet and squeeze. Now, lift your legs straight off the ground as well as your torso.

Don’t go above a 45-degree angle for both (in fact, a 20 to 30-degree angle will put the maximum strain on your abs).

You can perform the V-sit for a second, lower yourself back down, and repeat when first starting off. As your core becomes stronger you’ll want to extend the length of time you have your abs contracted. Aim for hitting 15 seconds.

Working Up To The Human Flag

You don’t want to go straight into the human flag. This is a good way to hurting yourself. Instead, you want to make sure you have the best grip first, and to do this you should perform the vertical human flag.

The vertical variation is where you’re parallel with the vertical bar. Basically, you’ll have your upper body engaged but you won’t yet be bringing your core into it. The reason you want to do this first is to practice your grip. 

You want to have a reverse grip for this move. One hand will have an outer grip on the bar while the other will have an inner grip. This prevents you from swinging one way or another while on the bar. It also helps break up some of the strain on your upper body. Because your grip is split you’ll have some strain on your back and shoulders while some of the strain will be placed onto your chest.

With this, you can start close to the ground (in fact, it is best to start with your lower grip close to the ground when starting off. Take hold of the bar and lift your legs up off the ground so you’re parallel with the vertical bar. You may find it is more comfortable for you to grip the bar with your top hand first or the bottom hand.

There’s no right way to do this, so do what is more comfortable. Once you are able to perform this vertical flag for several seconds without falling you will be ready to move on to the traditional human flag. 

Performing The Human Flag

To perform the human flag, you’ll want to begin in the vertical flag position. Keep your hips tight and your knees tucked together. Your knees should be bent upward into your chest. This way you are not fully engaging your core yet (and there will be less strain on your upper body by keeping your knees bent and into your chest). 

Slowly, lower your body down so instead of being parallel with the bar your upper body will be parallel with the ground, but keep your knees tucked into your chest as you do this. You’ll eventually lower yourself down so your torso is parallel but your knees are still tucked in. When you have reached this point and you are still comfortable with your position (or at least can maintain your grip on the bar) begin to extend out your legs. 

Don’t extend your legs too fast as this may put too much counterweight onto your arms and abs too quickly. You want to go slowly as you extend your legs. 

This move will take some practice. Even if you have a strong core and upper body, this is a move your body is not accustomed to, and your muscles are not adjusted to being used in this kind of way. So, in many ways, you’re not targeting your strength but instead, you’re adjusting how your muscles are used during the human flag. 

It is important to focus on successfully accomplishing an individual move before moving forward.

So, master the vertical flag, then master lowering your torso while keeping your legs tucked into your chest. Then slowly extend your legs out and, when you can, extend your legs out straight so you’re performing the full flag. 

Avoiding Injury

As long as you pay attention to what your body is doing you shouldn’t have a problem avoiding injury. This is not a move where you suddenly drop down to the ground.

You can usually begin to feel your grip slip on you. Perhaps your forearms are giving out or your hands are no longer able to support your weight. You will have warning signs prior to falling. 

It is important to listen to these signs. If you feel your arms or grip giving out you need to let go of the bar. As long as you practice the human flag with your bottom hand close to the ground you won’t have far to go and you’ll be able to easily catch yourself. 

Injuries happen when you try to fight through the slipping grip. If you try to maintain a grip even though it’s failing you increase the chance of hitting your head on the bar. You also increase the chance of pulling a muscle in your arms. A pulled muscle in your shoulder can take weeks, if not months to fully recover. 

Thankfully, all of this can be easily avoided by listening to your body and allowing yourself to drop when muscles begin to fail. 

Don’t Give Up

It takes time to perfect the human flag.

However, by focusing on your core and upper body strength while also practicing the move, you’ll find you master this impressive demonstration of strength in no time.

By doing this, you’ll be able to instantly show off in front of friends, family, and perfect strangers. 

Human Flag


The human flag is impressive. There isn’t any other way to describe it. When performing the human flag others will instantly stop and watch and awe at your strength. 

The great thing about this move is you don’t need to be a massive bodybuilder. You just need to have a sturdy, strong core, and upper body strength that can support your lower body. 

With a bit of practice and training, so your stabilizing muscles understand what you’re trying to accomplish, you’ll be able to bust the human flag out whenever you want. 

In fact, you won’t even need a vertical pole to perform the move. You’ll be able to do it with anything you can grab hold of, ranging from street signs to blue postal boxes. 

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Terry Asher

Owner & Founder at Gym Junkies LLC
After changing his best friend’s life by helping him lose over 70lbs, dropping him down to an amazing 7% body fat, Terry was inspired to be a full-time internet trainer knowing he could do the same for many more. In 2010, Terry published his own diet and fitness e-book that can be purchased on this website. Let Terry help you change your body for the better!
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