Ready to get strong? Then it's time to learn about the dead hang. This simple move provides various benefits, from increased upper body strength to better grip strength. And it's perfect for all fitness levels - so anyone can start reaping the rewards.
So, what exactly is a dead hang? It's simple: grab a pull-up bar or another overhead bar and hang from it with your arms fully extended. That's it! No swinging, no kipping, just hanging there like a...well, like a dead weight.
Don’t let the simplicity of the movement fool you - the dead hang is incredibly effective. By making your muscles work against gravity, you'll quickly see an increase in upper body strength. And since your grip is also working hard to keep you attached to the bar, you'll also notice an improvement in grip strength.
Not only will your muscles get stronger with regular dead hangs, but your joints will get stronger too. The constant tension on your connective tissue will help increase joint stability, reducing your risk of injury in the long run.
So let's dig into the details of this exercise and see how to perform it properly and so much more!
What are Dead Hangs?
A "dead hang" is when you hang from a bar with your arms extended and your feet off the ground. It might not sound like much, but dead hangs are a great way to build upper body strength. When hanging from a bar, your body is forced to support your entire weight.
It puts a lot of strain on your arms and shoulders, which helps build muscle. In addition, dead hangs can also help improve your grip strength. When your hands are gripping the bar, your fingers and forearms must work hard to keep you from falling.
As a result, dead hangs are an excellent way to improve grip strength. Finally, dead hangs can also help improve your posture. When hanging from a bar, your spine is forced into alignment, which can help improve your posture over time.
Differences Between Passive and Active Dead Hangs
When it comes to dead hangs, there are two main types: passive and active. Here's a quick breakdown of the differences between the two:
It's possible to employ the dead hang to increase strength by isometrically tightening your muscles for the duration of the hold, or you may let your body hang there and consider it more as a stretch.
With less emphasis on contraction and considerably more on stretching, the passive dead hang position has your legs hanging straight down. In this variation, your shoulder joints are still engaged, but your other muscles should be lengthening.
The stretch is transformed into a strength-building move by the active dead hang. Concentrate on maintaining a full-body contraction as you hang with your legs slightly in front of you rather than hanging straight down after you are in position. Pulling your shoulder blades down in will help you engage your back and shoulder muscles, as in any latissimus dorsi strengthening exercises.
Concentrating on contracting each muscle creates tension throughout your entire upper arm. Engage your core, hip flexors, glute, quad, hamstring, and calf muscles as you elevate your legs in front of you. Your attention is on keeping your muscles contracted from head to toe throughout the entire movement.
Dead Hang Benefits
The following muscle groups are worked and strengthened by the dead hang:
- Upper back
- Core flexors
You can do a pull-up to target these muscle groups. However, dead hangs can do more than just that.
Improve Grip Strength
Dead hangs can increase grip strength. Not merely for holding your phone, a firm grip is necessary. According to a study, having insufficient grip strength may increase your risk of having less mobility as you age.
Having a firm grasp is necessary whether you want to open a stuck jar or intend to scale a rock face. Try dead hangs to strengthen your grasp several times a week.
The spine may decompress and stretch out during a dead hang. It might be helpful if you spend a lot of time sitting or need to stretch out a sore back.
For the best benefits, try hanging with straight arms for 30 to 60 seconds before or after your workout.
Upper Body Stretch
Even simply imagining the deep stretch from a passive dead hang makes our upper body feel better. The downward pull of gravity helps this technique lengthen muscles that are challenging to target with regular stretching.
When muscles don't receive adequate stretching attention, they tend to shorten and become hyperactive, resulting in muscle imbalances and injury. Your entire back, including your lats, traps, and rhomboids, as well as your shoulder and arm muscles, will experience a deep stretch.
Your posture can suffer from tight back muscles. Thus, the better stretched they are, the better your posture will be. Additionally, sitting for extended periods due to the dreaded but very typical desk job won't be good for our posture either. And to make matters even worse for posture, a compressed spine also contributes to a hunched-over appearance.
With the passive dead hang, all of these effects can be countered, as it decompresses your spine, stretches out all your upper body muscles, and reverses the consequences of prolonged sitting.
Engaging your deep abdominal muscles as much as possible is essential since core strength is required for exercises like pull-ups and chin-ups. In addition to protecting your back during strenuous workouts like the deadlift, a strong core can help you achieve the six-pack of your desires if you combine it with a cutting diet.
How to Perform a Dead Hang
The dead hang is a simple but effective exercise that can be performed almost anywhere. The steps to a dead hang are as follows:
- Make use of a safe overhead bar. Use a step or bench to make it easier for your arms to reach the bar. Avoid diving headfirst into a dead hang.
- Take an overhand hold on the bar (palms facing away from you). Keep your arms at least shoulder-width apart.
- Lift your feet off the step or bench to hang on to the bar.
- Arms should remain straight. Keep your arms straight and relaxed.
- If you've never done the workout before, hang for 10 seconds.
- Release your arms after taking a slow step back onto the step or bench. Repeat up to three times.
After knowing the exercise steps, many of you are probably thinking of the duration of these hangs. So, here are the details:
As with all workouts, it's always advisable to begin slowly and build up as your brain system quickly adapts and your motor units fire, both of which are necessary for coordination and forceful contractions. Try to hang passively for 20 to 30 seconds. You can achieve the same result for the active hang, although you might want to start closer to 10 to 15 seconds.
Passive hangers with some experience lifting weights should be able to hang for more than a minute, ideally closer to 80 to 90 seconds. Set a goal of 1 minute of dead hang time for the active version and increase it each week.
Passive hangers which can complete 90-second hangs with ease are prepared to put in some significant hang time. You can hang for 2 to 5 minutes for both passive and active hangs.
Warning: Even the physically fittest may struggle to maintain an isometric hold in the active dead hang for this long. Hanging as long as you can while increasing your weekly hanging time.
Does Dead Hangs Build Muscle?
The active dead hang is a fantastic exercise for developing muscles. Your forearms will work quite hard. Additionally, as they contract, you can add mass to your biceps, triceps, shoulders, and back, making it a great supplement to any upper body workout. Additionally, your lower body will improve as your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and core work to lift your legs.
Progressions, like other exercises, will keep putting on muscle. Increase your duration, sets, or reps after you no longer find the exercise challenging. You may also choose to add a weighted vest or ankle weights for additional muscle growth-promoting effects. There is also always the possibility of progressing to a pull-up or chin-up.
1. Does dead hang help with back pain?
Dead hangs are an unexpectedly helpful practice. You can lessen back pain and stress by allowing your spine to decompress for a short period in between overhead lifts and squats. Longer hangs can strengthen your grip and improve your posture.
2. Why do dead hangs hurt?
Dead hangs can be painful for a variety of reasons. One possible explanation is that they strain the tendons and ligaments in your hands and wrists, resulting in soreness and inflammation. Additionally, if you are performing dead hangs with poor form or using too much weight, you may be putting too much stress on the muscles and joints of your body, which can also lead to pain and discomfort.
To prevent dead hang pain, it is essential to take care when practicing this exercise. Pay attention to your form and ensure you use an appropriate weight for your body type.
Additionally, try incorporating some stretches or other exercises into your routine to help loosen up tight muscles and joints before performing dead hangs. With consistent practice and good technique, you should be able to reduce any pain or discomfort associated with this exercise over time.
3. What muscles do dead hang work?
The dead hang works primarily on the muscles of the arms and shoulders, including the biceps, triceps, deltoids, and forearms. It can also help strengthen the core muscles of the torso as well as encourage increased flexibility in the joints and tendons of the upper body.
4. Can you dead hang every day?
It is not advised to do dead hangs daily. While there are many advantages, including flexibility and strength gains, exercising in moderation is crucial.
Especially with the passive version, where you're just hanging there, this exercise seems deceptively simple. However, despite the benefits of stretching, your upper body is still under tension. A decreased grip, elbow ache, and shoulder joint tension could result from overdoing it. Get all the advantages and none of the overuse strain by targeting two to three times each week.
The Bottom Line
Now that you know what a dead hang is and how to do it properly, put it into practice and enjoy the benefits! This simple move can help improve your grip strength, posture, and overall upper body strength, build muscles and strengthen your core. Plus, it's a great way to relieve stress.
However, take things slowly. Start from 10-15 seconds and take it to a minute or more. So next time you're feeling tense, try hanging out for a few minutes - you might find that your mood improves along with your muscles!
- Bohannon, Richard W. “Hand-Grip Dynamometry Predicts Future Outcomes in Aging Adults.” Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy (2001), vol. 31, no. 1, 2008, pp. 3–10. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1519/00139143-200831010-00002.
- Concentric Muscle Contraction - an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/concentric-muscle-contraction. Accessed 31 Oct. 2022.