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Looking for a beginner bodyweight exercise to add to your strength training or calisthenics program? Then look no further than the infamous dead hang.
The dead hang involves hanging from a pull-up bar with both hands for a period of time, keeping your mind and muscles engaged.
The dead hang may not seem too complex like many other exercises; however, it has proven to be one of the most effective. To ensure you’re able to reap all the rewards from this unique exercise, read this guide on how to do the dead hang.
5 Benefits Of Dead Hangs
There is plenty to gain from doing dead hangs. Below are some of the key benefits of doing this exercise.
Work and Strengthen Multiple Muscle Groups
The dead hang is considered a compound exercise. This is because multiple muscle groups are recruited to successfully perform the movement.
These muscle groups include:
- Core — muscles need to be engaged to keep your body from swinging
- Shoulders — muscles need to be engaged to protect your shoulder ligaments
- Back — muscles involved include the upper back and lats
- Arms — muscles in your forearms and hands work to keep you on the bar
Better Grip Strength
Supporting your bodyweight while hanging from a bar is no easy task. Like many other strength exercises that involve holding heavier amounts of weight, this requires incredible grip strength.
While performing the dead hang pull-ups, you will feel your forearms, wrist flexors, and hands work to keep you from slipping. At first, this may be challenging for some, but over time, your grip strength will improve.
Decompresses Your Spine
Is hanging good for your back? The short answer is yes—and for several reasons. One of these is the decompression of the spine.
Dead hang pull ups are especially useful following heavy deadlifts, overhead presses, squats, and related exercises. This is because these exercises put a lot of stress on your spine, causing your intervertebral disks to compress.
While your vertebrae will return to their original shape over one or two hours, including dead hangs in your workout routine can help speed up the process. When hanging from a bar, the weight of your lower body gently pulls the vertebrae apart, relieving any stiffness or tightness in your back.
Improves Flexibility and Mobility
Like your vertebrae, the muscles in your back also get a pretty good stretch when performing the dead hang. The primary muscles being stretched are the latissimus dorsi muscles.
Many back exercises, including deadlifts, pull ups, and rows, tend to shorten the lats. When these muscles are tight, it can limit your mobility and posture.
Dead hang pull ups provide the lats with a deep and comfortable stretch, allowing you to achieve the full range of motion that your upper body should have.
Helps With Pull Up Progression
While the pull up is a staple in many bodyweight fitness routines, it is by no means easy to do. For those looking to master this exercise, the first step to doing so is the dead hang pull ups.
You must be able to comfortably hang from the bar before trying to perform the pull up. As such, including the dead hang in your routine will help you along your pull-up journey.
How To Do Dead Hang Pull Ups
Dead hangs may seem as simple as hanging from a bar; however, there is a bit more to it. Below are some easy steps to help you perform the dead hang.
1. Grab the Bar
The first step is to grab the horizontal bar with an overhand grip. Ensure that your hands are positioned at shoulder width or slightly wider. If you cannot reach the bar, use a plyometric box, bench, or gym buddy to help you up.
2. Let Your Body Hang
While gripping the bar, you’ll want to let your body hang. Step off the box or bench and allow your legs to fall. When hanging, lengthen your arms while keeping a slight bend in your elbows.
Tuck your pelvis slightly and bring your ribcage down to ensure your spine and pelvis are in a neutral position.
3. Engage Your Muscles
When hanging from the bar, it is important to ensure that the correct muscles are being used. Engage your core muscles while squeezing your quads and glutes.
Also, be sure to tuck your chin in and retract your scapula. This involves rotating your shoulder blades down and towards your spine. You can learn more about scapular retraction here.
4. Maintain Your Grip and Hold the Dead Hang
Once you’ve engaged all the necessary muscles, the final step is to ensure you have a strong grip and hold for the desired duration. For beginners, start by doing several sets of 20-60 seconds and progress from there.
Dead Hang Workout: Variations & Progressions
Once you’ve mastered the dead hang, there are several variations you can do to challenge yourself further. Below are some popular exercises that follow from dead hangs.
An easy way to change up your dead hang pull ups is to vary your grip. By doing so, you’ll be able to work for your forearms and hands differently while achieving all the benefits of hanging from a bar.
Alternative dead hang grips include:
- Neutral grip
- Narrow grip
- Underhand grip
- Mixed grip
- Suicide grip (thumbless)
- Single arm
Hang From Different Equipment
Hanging from something other than your standard pull up bar can make the exercise a lot more challenging.
Some good alternatives include:
- A thicker bar — the wider the bar, the more grip strength it requires
- Gymnastic rings — let your arms and shoulders rotate in a more natural position
Train Your ABS
Dead hangs are the starting position for several core exercises. The exercises listed below are sure to have your abs burning:
- Hanging knee raises
- Hanging leg raises
- Hanging scissors
- Hanging wipers
Dead Hang Pull Ups
The pull up is one of the final progressions of the dead hang. There are various pull up variations, with the dead hang pull up being one of the hardest.
Before progressing to this, it is recommended that you learn scapular pulls. This will teach you how to keep your lat muscles engaged during the dead hang or pull up.
Add Hanging Exercises to Your Workouts
Now that you know how to do the dead hang and understand its benefits and progressions, it’s time to start adding hanging exercises to your workout routines. T
his will provide you with increased mobility, greater strength and endurance, a healthy posture, and more.
Looking to master another bodyweight exercise? Check out this guide on the human flag.
Nadia is a USA-HomeGym.com Senior Editor with 15 years+ experience in the health, supplement and nutrition niches. Nadia became a health & fitness evangelist after rebuilding her gut health in 2008 using the Weston A. Price method. She developed a Facebook group that grew to more than 15,000 members sharing information on diet for allergy reduction, eczema & psoriasis cessation. Since 2011, Nadia has been an avid stair climber, achieving race times in the top 5% of her age group and maintaining average times of 3’40 – 3’55 minutes per 12 floors.