Category Archives: Al Kavadlo

The Dragon Flag

The Dragon Flag Core Exercise
Back in high school I was hung up on getting a six-pack. In fact, other than wanting to “bulk up,” achieving a chiseled set of abs was probably my number one “fitness” goal.
Though I probably spent as much time looking in the mirror and fantasizing about my soon-to-be-attained six pack as I did actually training (not to say anything of the foolishness of wanting to bulk up and get abs simultaneously), when I did work on my abs, it was crunches, crunches, and more crunches.
I was doing hundreds every day – and only had two abs at the top of my stomach to show for it. It wasn’t until years later when I stopped doing isolation exercises (and cleaned up my eating) that I finally started to make significant progress with my core training.

Hard “Core” Exercises

So what makes for an effective abs exercise? To answer that question, you must first understand the role the abs play in the musculoskeletal system.
The rectus abdominis function primarily as a stabilizer muscle – they keep your torso upright while you’re standing, walking, or performing other movements.
For this reason, the best way to work your abs is to use them to stabilize your trunk in difficult positions. The less leverage you have when supporting yourself in these situations, the harder the abs must work to keep the body aligned.
A basic plank is one of the simplest examples of this type of exercise, but that’s only the beginning.

Enter The Dragon (Flag)

The Dragon Flag Core Exercise
While best known as a trademark move of legendary martial artist Bruce Lee, the dragon flag has become a popular training tool amongst bodyweight training enthusiasts as well as hardcore lifters in the know.
A dragon flag is typically performed lying face-up on a bench or on the ground with your hands grasping a sturdy object behind you for support.
From here, the objective is to lift your entire body up in a straight line, stacking it vertically over your shoulders, then slowly lower back down until parallel to the ground and repeat.
The aim is to keep your body straight, so do your best to avoid bending at the hips. Your abs will have to provide extreme stabilization to do so. In fact, you’ll also need to engage your lower back, glutes, and other trunk musculature to maintain your form.
Though the dragon flag emphasizes the abs, it’s really a full-body exercise.

Dragon Slayer

Like many great exercises, performing a proper dragon flag takes practice. You might even need to do some remedial work before you’re ready for it. I recommend you begin by working on straight leg raises while lying on your back. Go slowly and don’t swing your legs or allow your lower back to arch.
When you reach the point where you can do multiple reps without losing form, you’re ready to work on the dragon flag. Start by practicing the negative (lowering) phase of the dragon flag first. Kick up into the vertical position, and then try to lower your body down as slowly as possible.
Once you get confident with negatives, try doing a static hold at the bottom with your body hovering an inch or two over the bench. When you can hold this position for 2-3 seconds, you’re ready to start working on full dragon flags.
The progression should look something like this:
Lying leg raises –Lying leg raises –Dragon flag negatives –Dragon flag negatives with static hold at the bottom –Full dragon flags –
Week 6: Full dragon flags – 
While some will be ready to jump in at week 5 or 6, others will need to stick with each phase for longer than two weeks. Progress doesn’t occur at the same rate for everyone, but if you’re patient and persistent, your day will come.

Protect Ya Neck

The Dragon Flag Core Exercise

Instead, use your core strength to roll up onto your shoulders. Otherwise you might find yourself “dragging” the next day from a stiff cervical spine.
Once you get the hang of performing dragon flags for reps, you can continue to find new challenges. Performing a dragon flag with just a vertical pole behind you instead of on the ground or on a bench is one such challenge.
Of course, there’s also the dreaded front lever, as well as the lateral chain version of the dragon flag, more commonly known as the human flag. No matter how strong you get, there are always new ways to shock your body into further growth.
Watch the video below for more:

Have fun training the dragon flag and as always, leave your questions and comments in the LiveSpill below!

The One Arm Push-up

The One Arm Push-up

During my teens and early twenties, my workouts revolved around lifting heavy weights and trying to get swole. To me, the only thing that mattered more than how much I could bench was the size of my guns.
It was only after I became a personal trainer that I started to realize there was more to fitness than just being jacked. Oddly enough, most of my clientele didn’t have any interest in gaining mass. Most of the time, it was just the opposite – they wanted to be thin. Go figure.

Defining Moments

Despite starting my career with a stereotypical bodybuilding mindset, my experiences led me to explore other training modalities. There have been several major turning points in my fitness journey that caused me to reevaluate my workout regimen and, in fact, my very definition of fitness.
A major one was the first time I ever saw a legit one arm push-up.
The guy who did it? A 70 year-old U.S. Navy veteran who many gym regulars thought to be a bit, let’s say, eccentric. While he didn’t look too impressive in his street clothes, when you saw this dude in a tank-top, he was clearly not your average senior citizen.
At the time, I’d just turned 24, weighed around 180 pounds, and was benching 245 for reps. Surely if this little old geezer could do a one arm push-up, I should be able to bang out a few without much trouble, I thought. When I got down to test my theory, however, I quickly found out I’d vastly underestimated the difficulty of such a skill.

Let’s Be Specific

The One Arm Push-up

One of the simplest (and most obvious) fitness principles is what’s called the specificity principle. It basically means that you get good at what you practice. Bodyweight strength is a unique animal and while the brute strength of a heavy bench press can have some carryover, if you want to perform a one arm push-up, you’ll need to work specifically towards that objective.

Progressing Toward a One Arm Push-up

Obviously you should first have the strength to perform many regular push-ups – at least 30 consecutively – before even thinking about trying a one arm push-up. It’s also helpful to practice other push-up variations, like the close-grip (diamond) push-up. A man who can perform 30 straight diamonds can usually progress to a one arm push-up quickly.

What’s Your Angle?

The One Arm Push-up

The best way to start is to practice an angled one arm push-up against a wall. The resistance will be easy, so just focus on keeping your body tight and stable. This will help you get a feel for the movement pattern.
Soon you’ll be ready to lower yourself down onto a bench or rail. Find something around waist height; the lower it is, the harder it’s going to be, so start fairly high and work your way down.
The next step is to practice a self-assisted one arm push-up on the ground with your free arm outstretched and resting on a nearby object. Keep the reps low at first, as you’re just looking to get the skill down before you do higher reps – I recommend 5 sets of 5 reps as a reference point.
Practicing the negative phase of the one arm push-up (OAP) should be added once you can perform the self-assisted OAP for 5 sets of 5 reps.
The Progression looks something like this:
Two weeks per phase is just a guideline – stay on any given level as long as needed until you can complete all sets with good form.
You can also create half-steps between phases two and three by using benches of different heights. When practicing towards this move, remember that a strong midsection helps to get the whole body to work together. Make sure you keep your abs tight throughout the range of motion.
You also need to think about your opposite leg – if you’re doing a one arm push-up on your right arm, your left leg needs to be braced and vice versa. In short, keep your whole body tight!
Watch this video clip to see demonstrations of these exercises along with a couple of other interesting variations:

Points of Contact

It should be noted that the form of a one arm push-up is a bit different from the standard two arm version. Your legs will need to be wider than in a regular push-up and your hand should be directly under your body, rather than off to the side. The three points of contact with the ground (foot, foot, hand) will make a triangular formation.
Once you get the hang of full one arm push-ups with your feet wide, gradually work on bringing your feet closer to each other. You can even go back and repeat the procedure described earlier starting with your feet together.
Performing a one arm push-up with your feet touching each other is the hardest variation because you’ll only have two contact points. It’s the Ultimate One Arm Push-up:

Single Serving

Single limb movements can also help correct imbalances and improve coordination. While a certain amount of asymmetry might be unavoidable (a right handed person is almost always going to be right dominant), training movements like the one arm push-up can go a long way towards building a strong, balanced body.
Granted, you could just perform dumbbell bench presses if you wanted to hit each side independently, but the core aspect of a one arm push-up makes it a much more difficult exercise.
Also, keep in mind that when you do a bench press, your body has five contact points – each foot, the lower back, the upper back, and head. The more contact points, the more stability. In the one arm push-up there’s only two or three contact points, which means you’ll have to provide more stability from your muscles.

Depth Perception

The One Arm Push-up

In any type of push-up, a full range of motion is mandatory. This requires a minimum of 90 degrees of flexion as measured along the of the elbow (ideally lower).
Sadly, out of ignorance or arrogance, I frequently see people trying to pass off half reps as the real deal. Stop it. If you aren’t sure how low you’re getting, have someone else watch you. Sometimes it’s hard to know where your body is in space when you exercise. You might be surprised by what you see.

One Hand/Lots of Feats

Once you get the hang of standard one arm push-ups there’s still new challenges ahead, like the one arm/one leg push-up, plyometric one arm push-ups, and the one-handed fingertip push-up. I’ve even recently learned to do a one arm push-up on the back of my hand! With so many ways to vary this amazing exercise you can always keep your workouts fresh and fun.
Any lifter who fancies himself strong should be able to master this move. After all, if a guy like me can do a one arm push-up on the back of his hand, surely you should be able to do one on the palm of yours?


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