The dragon flag, a move named after its supposed inventor, Bruce Lee, isn’t just a flashy exercise that got dumped into the Rocky IV training montage because it looked cool.
“It’s intense and very tough on your entire core,” says Jon Chaimberg, a strength coach for some of the world’s top MMA fighters. “The key is to work it slowly.” Despite the obvious advantages most guys still don’t write it into their programs.
Remedy that by grabbing onto a bench and following the simple steps below. You’ll feel like a champ once you’ve finished a few sets. Just be careful. Screaming “Drago!” while you’re doing it will probably get you kicked out of the gym.
1. Lie on a decline or flat bench and grab the edge of it behind your head with both hands. Create tension throughout your body, starting with your traps, lats, and arms, and on down through your core and legs.
2. Swing your feet upward until your body is almost vertical (your shoulder blades will stay planted on the bench).
Keep your core tight and your body as straight as possible while pointing up in the air. Slowly lower your feet under control until they are just above the bench, or as far as you can to start. Lift your legs back up in the air again to complete a rep.
Tip: Increase the difficulty by performing half reps to a 45° angle, which nixes the momentary rest at the top, or by pausing the exercise at various points during the range of motion. Doing so will give a hefty challenge to your stabilizing muscles.
Use these three exercises until you can pull off the dragon flag:
Lying leg raise Lie on the floor with your hands under your hips and raise your feet until they’re perpendicular to the floor. Use a slow negative (about six seconds) to mimic the difficulty of a dragon flag. Increase the difficulty by placing your hands behind your head.
Hanging leg raise Grab a pullup bar, and lift your legs as high as you can without bending your knees or using any momentum.
Bent-knee dragon flag Bending your knees 90° makes these a bit easier than the regular straight-legs variety.