Rolling back the years, we go way back to April of 2016, three months after launching the School of Calisthenics. We had finished our first ever course that was seven weeks long, teaching the students the human flag…
And at the end of the seven weeks we had our three first graduates ever, redefining their impossible of the human flag. ‘But how did they do it?’ you might ask.
They followed and trusted a process!
Embarking on the journey to redefine your impossible of something like the human flag always starts in your mind. It seems so impossible, but something inside of you thinks, ‘Maybe just maybe, I could do it… I’ve seen others do it, so why can’t I?’
At that point you’ve done a lot of the hard work in the mind. There is plenty of physically hard work in the road ahead, but the mental challenge to believe that you CAN do it is a huge first hurdle to get over.
You have the belief, and now you need the process. Working hard isn’t go to be enough because the new skill is very complex and demanding. Learning the human flag is not impossible, but it involves a new movement patterning that your brain doesn’t know yet and also has some very specific strength requirements.
When the brain doesn’t know or hasn’t experienced the movement, body shape, skill, or position you’re trying to learn, it’s difficult for it to know where to start. When you try the human flag for the first time, your brain doesn’t know how to push and pull maximally with opposite arms in an overhead position and create the lateral trunk connection needed to hold your body out horizontally like a human flag. It’s never done it before and never tried anything similar that it can relate it to.
So, part of the process is giving the brain the experience and ‘feeling’ that it needs to create a shape related to the human flag. Doing this helps the brain understand how to produce the same movement patterning and neuromuscular control required for the movement.
We do this by breaking down the complex human flag into its three simpler component parts: straight arm push (bottom arm), straight arm pull (top arm), and lateral trunk connection between the shoulder and the hip on the top side.
We can train these simpler components with things like single arm active hangs, T-push ups, and side plank positions. This gives the brain the chance to piece together the parts of the movement pattern it understands, because it has created these before in standard side planks and pull ups; it just needs to understand how to put them all together.
The magic happens when you create the environment that allows us to piece the three simpler components together with some assistance or reduction in force requirement. Exercises we’ve developed like the stability ball flag and the tucked angle flag allow us to experience what the full movement pattern feels like, just under lower effective loads and strength demands.
Once you’ve taught the brain the new movement patterning, the final part is the body getting STRONG! We’re not going to lie or sugar coat it for you; the human flag takes a lot of strength. But the good news is, if you follow the process like the three graduates below did, you can create a lot more strength and progress in only a matter of weeks!
They say a picture tells a thousand words…well, this video below shows our first ever students three months after starting the School of Calisthenics back in 2016. The progress made from week 1 to 7 blew our minds!!!
Hope you have been both inspired by those 3 graduates as well as understand a little more about the process to learning something new like the human flag. We hope it helps you on your quest to redefine your impossible, whatever that might look like for you!
Thanks again for reading (if you found this helpful and a friend is working on their human flag be sure to share it with them too!)
Head of Human Flags
If you’d like some help and a full course to follow with the whole process designed out in a week by week programme to follow with video tutorials you can follow right in front of you at the gym on your phone, then check out the Human Flag course in the Virtual Classroom. Find out more here!