Training for the Human Flag pt.2
I believe there are three key progressions to go through befor attempting a full flag. This is not just for safety and injury prevention but each stage teaches you specific aspects of the flag whilst developing strength in the required muscles. This is an incredibly stressful exercise so take your time with your practice be patient and work through the stages.
First things First Hand Position
Correct hand position is vital in performing the flag as it’s what controls rotation around the pole. The bottom hand is the base and as such needs to be in the most advantageous position.
Setting hand position
1. Place your bottom or basing hand on the pole with your palm facing up.
2. Wrap your fingers and thumb around the pole pulling the palm of the hand tight and flat against the pole.
3. With the top or pulling hand use a over hand or false grip, meaning the thumb dose not wrap around the pole but says tight to the fingers. Important to note the palm of the top hand faces in front of you.
Step 1 Feet Lifts
The aim of this phase is to lift your feet off the floor just an inch. In this phase you are learning to control the rotation around the pole as well as building strength in the shoulders and lats. Before you start chalk up your hands, climbing chalk is usually available in any outdoor sports shop. Start your hands in the correct position for the side you are training and your feet start about two shoulder widths away from the pole. Lean against the pole Straighten your bottom arm and “push” hard, simultaneously “pull” with the top hand lifting the feet off the floor the smallest amount. The aim of this phase is to reach a 20’s hold on both sides, practice every day for just two to three sets, perform both sides, always start with your less strong side, and rest 2 mins between sets. Record your practice and aim to beat the previous time every single practice session.
Stage 2 Tuck Flag
Now you have a feel for the movement and have learnt to control rotation, its time for the fun stuff! From the feet lift bring your knees to your chest push down into the bottom hand and pull with the top, remember it’s a balancing act, both arms work together don’t let the top arm do all the work. Pull the torso to a horizontal position. Note the horizontal position is the point where the body is under the most stress, in the early days of training its advisable to pull past the horizontal position with the body pointing up at an angle. Once you feel comfortable progress to the horizontal position. Again the aim is 20s holds both sides in the horizontal position.
Step 3 Tuck Flag with Frog Kicks and double leg drops.
These two drills are used to prepare the body for the huge forces that are placed upon it when the legs are fully extended. The first drill is the same as the drill for the planche. In a tuck flag position you are going to kick the legs out as far as you can then bring them back in. use slightly more control than you did in the planche drill as you do not want to jar the back. Again the aim is to do two 10 second reps ( 5 seconds out, 5 seconds in) practice both sides in a row with a short rest between sides. I personally stayed on this phase until I could do 6 reps.
In this drill you are taking advantage of a type of training known as eccentric training. It is in the eccentric (Lowering) phase of any movement where the greatest strength gains can be made. From a tuck flag pull past horizontal all the way to the top of the pole, extend your legs straight and split them apart and as slow as you can drop the body down all the way to the floor, tuck the feet and repeat once more. Do not do any more than two eccentric reps. It’s advisable to rest 1 – 2 mins between each side. The aim is to do 2, 10 second drops.
Full Flag Time!
Now you have developed the necessary strength its time to start training the full flag position. Initially start from a tuck flag position and extend the legs hold for as long as you can then return to a start position. Pull the core tight and try to keep the back straight as it will tend to arch. Now you have got the position play around practice pressing and drops, look at Domminic Lacasse for inspiration, he’s a huge influence and an incredible athlete. When practicing I would advise you do not practice full flags every day, stick with every other, this is just my preference, record your practice and if you notice a significant drop in your time from the previous session this indicates over training, if this is the case stop and rest for 3 – 4 days. Rest 2 mins between sides and always start with your less strong side.
Writing this article has made me, want to practice what I preach, so I am setting myself the goal of beating the Human Flag World Record this year. I will blog in detail my practice sessions, in the comments section for this article. I hope you have found this article useful, post your practice sessions on this site as S.O.M was created for us all to communicate, shear ideas and motivate each other.
Student of Movement