Human Flag: Patriotic Gains

Written By: Todd Kuslikis
June 14, 2016

As far as holidays go, Flag Day really gets the short end of the stick. Case in point: The fact that today is Flag Day is probably news to you. It’s alright if this is the case; you’re not alone. That’s not to say Flag Day isn’t important — it’s a great way to celebrate the American flag and everything it represents. But aside from a few local parades, it’s missing the pomp and frills of other, flashier holidays.

So there’s no presents, no fireworks, and no dressing up like a pirate. With all that extra time, we thought we would suggest a new tradition for celebrating this most humble holiday. And hey, at least it’s a lot healthier than some other holiday traditions we could mention.

That’s right, this Flag Day we’re going to teach you how to master one of the most difficult maneuvers in calisthenics: the human flag.

Now, let’s qualify that for a second. When we say we’re going to teach you to master it, we by no means are saying it’s going to happen in one day. It takes an incredible amount of body control, and a whole lot of practice. But in just a moment, we will give you the progressions to put you on the right track, so that with hard work and dedication, you can learn one of the coolest tricks in the calisthenics handbook.

If you’re unfamiliar, the human flag consists of an athlete grabbing onto a vertical structure and, with arms completely straight, holding their entire body weight with their body parallel to the ground. In a perfect human flag, the legs are completely closed.

Most people use a pole to grab onto, but this is a true street calisthenics move in that you can try your hand at whatever structure you like. Our friends, the Kavadlo brothers, spent a day using everything from railings to phone booths and even commercial trucks for their human flags. So it really is up to your imagination. And if said imagination takes you almost 1,200 feet in the air to the highest chimney in Europe, more power to you. We’ll stay a little closer to the ground if it’s all the same.

The main areas worked are the shoulders, lats and obliques. But make no mistake, this is a complete body workout. That means you’re going to need a solid foundation of bodyweight strength. Again, if you’re new to calisthenics, don’t be discouraged when you don’t find yourself enjoying life at 90 degrees on the first day.

In fact, the human flag is so difficult that the world record is just over one minute five seconds. Wang Zhonghua from China exercised several hours a day specifically practicing maneuvers to get him to the necessary level of strength and control for the flag.

That’s not meant to discourage you. Because if you’ve got the drive, we’ve got the know-how to help you stick this amazingly impressive trick. So without further ado, take a look at these progressions. If you’re actively working on the human flag and think we missed something that has helped you, let us know in the comments!



5) Tuck Human Flag


4) Vertical Human Flag


3) Negative Human Flag


2) Straddle Human Flag


1) Full Human Flag

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