The dead hang may sound like a scary exercise, but it’s simply the act of hanging from a bar. Remember dangling from the monkey bars as a kid? You were doing a dead hang. This exercise is often used as a way of working up to or improving your pull-up. The dead hang can provide other benefits as well, such as spinal decompression and shoulder strengthening.
How to Perform the Dead Hang
To perform the dead hang, simply use a pull-up bar or join your kids on the playground monkey bars. Hang with both hands, keeping your arms straight and your feet off the ground. Look straight ahead to keep your neck neutral, relax your face and neck, and don’t forget to breathe. Change the direction and width of your grip to target slightly different muscles.
This is a challenging exercise that puts stress on the shoulder joints, so start slowly. A good way to gradually increase intensity is to start with both feet on the ground. As you improve, lift one foot and then the other. From here, add 10 seconds of hanging at a time until you can hang for at least one minute. Even a 10-second dead hang is a great exercise! If you feel any discomfort before or after the exercise, decrease the intensity.
Why dead hang? Here are six convincing benefits that’ll have you hanging in no time.
6 Dead Hang Benefits to Know
1. Grip strength
It isn’t surprising that hanging on for dear life challenges your grip. Dead hangs are a great way to improve grip strength, which is more important than you think! Grip strength is a good determinant of overall health, and in older adults it is strongly correlated to longevity.
2. Shoulder mobility
The dead hang offers a great shoulder stretch! With arms overhead and the help of gravity, you’ll stretch pectoral muscles in front and back muscles such as latissimus dorsi and external rotators. The longer you hold this position the greater the stretch. To avoid injury, slowly increase duration over time.
3. Shoulder strength and stability
The shoulder girdle encompasses many muscles, and each one has a unique role. When performing a dead hang, all of these muscles work together to keep your shoulder in its socket and you off the ground. This builds shoulder stability and muscular balance. Stable shoulders mean less shoulder pain and decreased risk of injuries, like impingement or rotator cuff tears.
4. Core strength
A dead hang activates the abdominals. Working your core muscles in a lengthened position like this is a great way to balance out the core work we do in a crunched or shortened position.
5. Spinal decompression
Similar to how it stretches the shoulder muscles, the pull of gravity allows the vertebrae to separate, reducing compression of the discs and stretching the surrounding muscles. Decompressing the spine helps relieve disc pain and tight or spasming muscles. If you are suffering from an acute back injury like a disc herniation, check with your physical therapist or physician before performing this exercise.
The dead hang stretches, strengthens and decompresses, all of which improve posture. Stretching the pectorals and strengthening the back of the shoulders helps correct forward shoulders and reduces hunched posture. Decompressing the spine and strengthening the core can help you maintain an upright posture and build length.