The Only Ab Exercise You Need

Everyone wants abs.  From 12 year olds on Instagram (thanks 2019) to your grandmom (probably).  For some reasons a defined midsection has become a status symbol.  It shows people that you are in shape, strong and damn sexy.  It makes your wife happy, and it makes you look more shredded than a julienne salad.

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Too many people spend too much time training their abs, and waste too much time performing exercises that provide little value in terms of strength and aesthetics.  Some core exercises place your spine in a dangerous position, and they can a be harmful over the long run.

To quickly build strong, good looking abs you need movements that force you to brace, stabilize, contract and control your core.  Below is a movement that does all that.

In the spirit of safe, but brutally effective core exercises I’d like to introduce you to an exercise made famous by Bruce Lee.

Enter the Dragon…..Flag.

The Dragon Flag, or flagpole, is done by lying on your back on a bench or the ground and grasping the lip of the bench or an object behind you.  The goal of the dragon flag is to lift your legs straight up towards the ceiling so your entire body forms a vertical(ish) line from head to toes.  From there you slowly lower your legs until they touch the ground. 

The goal is to keep the body as rigid and straight as possible.  You have to engage every stability muscle in your abs, glutes, lats and obliques. 

You need to get your legs above your head using your core, not your neck or back.  A little momentum is fine but you should be concentrating on using that core strength to lift, and straighten your legs and trunk above your head.


This can be a very overwhelming exercise at first.  Once you get your legs into position the most effective way to lower your body down is to concentrate on “releasing” one vertebrae at a time- that is slowly lowering each segment of your spine to the ground.  The other way is to count from 5 and lower yourself at that slow pace. 

The slower you go the more effective this exercise will be.

This is a very hard exercise.  It will take practice to perfect.  If you find it too difficult you need to dial it back and work on some basics.  Leg Raises from the floor and the Garhammer raise will build your abdominal strength, stability and technique in a few weeks time. 

By incorporating smart, challenging and anatomically safe core exercises you can greatly reduce your time spent crunching, planking and wishing for a six pack.  Give this a try twice this week and let me know how sore your lower abs are the next day.

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Patrick Henigan