How to Do the Dragon Flag (Bruce Lee’s Signature Exercise)

December 11, 2015 by VAHVA Fitness

Dragon flag is one of the most impressive abs exercises you can do, but dragon flags are also an effective exercise to build strength and size in the abs. 

The dragon flag was popularized by being one of the Bruce Lee's favorite exercises for developing amazing levels of strength in the abdominal muscles. 

Later, Sylvester Stallone in Rocky IV did his own impressive looking sets of dragon flags in his training camp preparing for the fight against Drago.

Dragon flag is an awesome exercise that will build necessary strength in the hollow body position to be able to hold the advanced calisthenics/gymnastic skills like front levers.

The transfer from dragon flags to the front lever is nearly direct, because the hollow body position of front lever is basically the exact same as in dragon flags. Hollow body position just means keeping the lower back straight and abs tight.

Dragon flags also happen to be one of the hardest abdominal exercises you can do - and the benefits in strength and size correlate with the difficulty of the exercise. Mastering the dragon flag will make sure your abs grow big and strong. 

To learn how to do the dragon flag, watch our video below and practice the correct dragon flag progressions. 

Dragon Flag Progressions


Before you jump on the first dragon flag progression (tuck dragon flag), you should first be reasonably strong (preferably a couple of months training background minimum).

Excellent exercises to complete before embarking on your journey towards a full dragon flag: 

  • Lying leg raises
  • Hanging leg raises
  • Hollow body holds and hollow body rocks

Especially the leg raises and hollow body holds will almost directly transfer to dragon flags. Master them first (5x5 solid sets and reps minimum) and then see how your dragon flags start to develop.

Tuck Dragon Flag

tuck dragon flag abs exercise

In the tuck dragon flag you have your knees bent and as a result it's easier to hold the form.

Bend your knees to make the dragon flag easier. Hold a bench or stall bars for support, lift your hips up and try to keep your abs tight and lower back straight. 

The knees can be closer to your chest (easier) or further away like in this illustration (harder).

You can start with the knees close to your chest, but the goal should be to extend your legs.

At first your lower back will be round, but aim to straighten the lower back into a nice hollow body position along with your personal progress. 

One Leg Dragon Flag

dragon flag progression for abs

Straighten one leg and keep one leg bent for this dragon flag progression.

This is the next step from tuck front levers: one leg dragon flags. 

With one leg dragon flags you should already be able to keep the lower back straight and abs tight. If you can't, then you need to move back to the tuck dragon flag. 

Many instructors recommend doing straddle (legs wide) dragon flags after the tuck dragon flag progression, but we find the hip position to be too difficult for majority of people.

With the one leg dragon flag, the difficulty is extremely easy to adjust: in the beginning the other leg is very close to your chest, but eventually you should be able to straighten it and get it closer to your straight leg.

Dragon Flag

dragon flag progressions

Full dragon flag with a straight lower back and a straight line.

The final progression is a full dragon flag with a straight lower back and fully extended legs. 

Many people such as Sylvester Stallone or Bruce Lee bend their legs a bit and arch their lower backs. To get the most bang for your buck, this is not recommended.

The aim of dragon flags is to first and foremost to strengthen the abs - arching the lower back or legs will take the strain from the abs and put it on your lower back instead (which you shouldn't do to avoid injuries).

The goal should be to get a solid straight line from your upper body to your toes. It's just not more aesthetic, but also more effective for your abs. When you lower down and pull back up, you should aim to keep the perfect line.

Focus on Dragon Flag Negatives and Isometric Holds

In the beginning, you likely won't be able to do down and up repetitions with the dragon flag without arching your lower back.

As a result, every progression in this article can be first done as an isometric hold (just holding the dragon flag form in one place) or as a negative repetition (only doing the lowering, eccentric, part of the repetition). 

Especially when you get closer towards the full dragon flag, the negative dragon flags are your best friend. Just pull yourself up, straighten up the body and lower yourself down slowly. That's one negative repetition.

How to Take Dragon Flags to the Next Level 

If you have achieved the full dragon flag - then congratulations, it's a great feat of strength. 

The journey to mastering the dragon flag doesn't stop there. There are many ways to make the dragon flags even harder: 

  • Use a decline bench - you can do dragon flags with a bigger range of motion. A flat bench happens to be significantly easier (which is why you should start with a flat bench).
  • Use ankle weights. Ankle weights are a great way to add resistance to the dragon flag. 
  • More control, more repetitions, more sets. 

You can train dragon flags in the end or beginning of your every workout depending on how yours abs recover.

Dragon Flag Progressions Sets x Reps

Dragon Flag Progression: 5 x 5-10 reps

Take 1-3 minutes of rest between sets.

You can do dragon flags in your every workout or just focus on them specifically 1-3 times per week. 

Train hard, stay safe.


samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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    • Hi James, you need to work on neck, shoulder and back mobility. I got several mobility videos here on this site.

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