Enter the Dragon: Core Strength on Fire
Bruce Lee popularized and regularly performed this movement, now famously known as the “dragon flag”, to strengthen and condition his core. The technical name for this brutal and serious core building exercise is the body lever. The body lever has its basis in Gymnastic Strength Training (GST) but is utilized in many fitness programs. Read on to learn how to progress towards doing this exercise properly for maximum gains.
Let’s Break It Down
As you guessed, with all process-oriented approaches in GymnasticBodies methodology, we cannot even begin discussing the Dragon Flag/Body Lever without first discussing how to master the two basic progression components that the body lever is made from. GST operates according to certain laws regarding forces like torque, leverage, and gravity. This core shredding move is no exception.
Step 1: Work That Hollow Hold
Without being confident in holding a full hollow hold for a fair benchmark of 60 seconds, there is very little chance of success when progressing up the ladder to more difficult core exercises such as body levers.
Body levers build upon the core strength and midline stability from hollow body work by stressing the abdominals and hip flexors, by adding an upper body pulling component with a huge strength and skill transfer that is necessary for our next movement up the ladder, a step above body levers, the front lever. If you want a front lever, then you will need to master hollow holds first, and body levers second.
Step 2: Get Your Body Lever
To set up for a body lever, lay face-up on the floor with your head next to a vertical bar or pole. Grab the bar behind you with both hands, and keeping your body in a tight tuck position, pull your legs, bent knees and torso up off the ground into a straight, vertical line. From this vertical hollow hold position, slowly lower your entire body down at once, making sure to stay hollow so that you maintain one straight line from your shoulders through your hips all the way to your feet. If you feel an arch in your lower back, you’ve lost your hollow position.
Be sure to move slowly here, so that you fight against gravity while focusing on just the negative range of motion (the top to bottom part of the movement).
Scaling It Down
Most people will not have enough strength for the negative range of motion with their body fully extended straight out in front of them. So, let’s take a step back and scale the movement down with leverage.
First, try to bend one or both knees as much as needed to reduce the overall leverage and work done by the core.
Second, try to really focus on keeping an even tempo throughout the lowering phase of the movement. Many trainees mistakenly “drop” to the floor at the bottom, which completely misses the horizontal body position that will specifically carryover to the front lever, and the most crucial part of the movement.
Learn about this and other midline stability body weight-based strength movements so you can master drills like the body lever and more through the GymnasticBodies Foundations Courses.