Benefits of hanging
Hanging is a truly simple movement pattern that is often overlooked by most people. Despite being simple and easy to do, dead hangs, or hanging in general, can improve your shoulder health significantly.
Hanging has multiple benefits. To start, it stretches your lats and scapula muscles, improving shoulder range of motion, particularly in the overhead position.
It also works your grip strength since your have to fully support your own weight. If you haven’t tried it yet, you may find that dead hangs are a lot more difficult than it seems at the first glance – even 30-60 seconds of hanging can be really challenging on the grip.
Hanging provides some decompression on the spine as well – you can try to release the lower back muscles and let gravity do the rest. Just remember to come out of the hanging position carefully. Try to avoid unnecessary impact on the spine while landing.
How to perform the dead hang exercise
There is not much equipment needed to perform the dead hang – you just need something overhead to hold on to. It can be a pull up bar, gymnastic rings or even a tree branch – just find something that is convenient for you.
To start, stand right below the bar then reach your arms overhead and grab the bar with both of your hands.
Dead hang variations
- Passive hanging refers to a relaxed hang and focuses on stretching and increasing the range of motion. To perform, simply relax the body and try to relieve tension in the shoulders.
- Active hanging is performed by engaging the scapula muscles and holding them under tension. This exercise variation is performed to increase strength instead of range of motion.
To engage the scapula, pull your shoulders down while keeping the arms straight:
You can also engage your abs and try to the keep both of your legs straight and slightly in front of the body.
- Dynamic hanging is a combination of both, passive and active variations. Dynamic motion can be performed by swinging, releasing and catching as opposed to the static hang.
Both active and passive hangs can be performed with a supinated or pronated grip.
You can also experiment with different grip widths. Usually, a closer grip increases the stretching effect in your shoulders.
Dead hang exercise progression
There are multiple ways to add resistance to the dead hang exercise.
The simplest way would to be to incorporate and try all variations listed above – passive, active, dynamic.
In addition, you can also add resistance with a weighted west/belt or simply hold a dumbbell between your legs.
The dead hang can also be performed with one arm which will significantly increase the difficulty. However, this will most likely result in more of a grip training exercise as opposed to a stretching or mobility one, so experiment and choose based on your goals and ability.