Dead Hangs – Benefits, How to, Variations and More

dead hangs

Dead hangs is used as a good introduction to the training of calisthenics and for the development of basic body strength.

In fact, their name just sounds like what they are: You just hang from a pull bar. But hanging from a bar is not an easy task, remember. Even for the best of seriously fit people, a dead hang can be a challenge. It is not easy to lift your whole body with just a bar for support, as it requires muscular arms and core strength. Great basic strength and muscle strength is needed to do this exercise. It’s incredibly hard to last a dead hang for more than a few minutes. However, it is a step that you need to take in order to improve your strength and stamina over time and can be a stepping-stone to a pull up exercise.

Benefits for the dead hang
  • Dead hangs are more than just hanging!

It may look like you are hanging from a bar, but in reality, this exercise has so many benefits. It’s a great exercise to do, no matter your goals and your level of expertise whether you are a beginner or advanced.

The dead hang works the following muscle: the upper back, shoulders, forearms and the core.

Working on these muscle groups will help you achieve a pullup. But, that’s not all a dead hang can do.

  • Improve grip strength

There are many “band-aid” adjustments you can do for grip strength, such as the use of weight lifting gloves, straps, and hooks. But one sure-fire way to improve your grip strength is to perform dead hangs.

Dead hangs are very effective for increasing grip strength, when doing dead hang you holding onto a bar and hanging your whole-body weight off it.

Having good grip strength benefits your performance in all exercises where good grip is required.

  • Stretch the upper body

The dead hang also works the upper body. It is a good exercise that stretches your back, arms, shoulders and abdominal muscles, which is made up of the opposing force of gripping your palms on the bar and gravitational pull of the rest of your body.

It removes any kind of tightness inside the body, which is why playing in monkey bars used to feel good as a child.

Dead hangs are a great way to stretch your shoulders, arms and back. If your body feels tight due to sitting or exercising, you may want to try a dead hangs several times a week as a place to cool off or rest.

  • Spinal decompression

Many of the activities and movements that are involved in our modern-day way of life. Extended seating times, alone! However, such things as heavy loads, bloating, and sleep can strain the spine.

Hanging from a dead hang position even for a few seconds at a time is effective in spine decompression, replacing space between your bones, joints, and discs in your back. This not only eliminates back pain and tension, but is also important in preventing injury.

  • Range of motion in shoulder joint

Hanging in this passive position allows your upper body to fully relax and your arms above your head. Every moment spent in this position works on your shoulder joint and improves your overall shoulder health.

Doing this exercise will help the range of motion through the shoulder joint capsule, which not only allows you to safely perform overhead movements but also helps in preventing injury.

  • It strengthens rotator cuff

Strengthening the rotator cuff can help prevent shoulder injuries and the dead hang exercise helps strengthens this.

  • It builds forearm strength and size

Dead hangs are a great way to build size and strength in your fore-arms, while pulling some benefits at the same time!

Unlike the forearm curl, your forearms are always under tension during a dead hang which will add size to your fore arms.

  • Posture correction

Last, but not least – dead hangs are awesome to fix your posture! Earlier mentioned in the above points are how dead hangs can strengthen, mobilize, loosen and decompress your upper body. All of these factors play a key role in improving a better posture.

  •  Strengthens your core

Core strength is important to do any strength training exercises like push ups, planks or crunches. The dead hang helps to improve your core strength, as it is a complete work that works on all parts of the upper body from the back to the abdominals, from the arms to the shoulders.

  • It works for your lats

Hanging from the pull bar really works the latissimus dorsi also known as the lats because this muscle contributes in your balance as you hang from a bar and it also increases the range of shoulder movements, improves arm strength and flexibility.

How to do the dead hang
  1. Use a secure overhead bar. Use a step or bench to easily access the bar with your hands. Do not jump straight into a dead hang.
  2. Grip the bar using an overhand grip with (palms facing away from you) shoulder width apart.
  3. Remove your feet from the steps or bench to hang from the bar.
  4. Keep your arms straight. Do not bend your arms and stay relaxed.
  5. Hang for 10 seconds if you are new to the dead hang. Then you can progress to a 30 seconds or 1 minute.
  6. Slowly return to the step or bench before releasing your arms. Repeat for desired number of reps.
Variations of dead hang

Once you have tried the traditional dead hang, you can also try some other variations.

Dead hang on overhead rings

Overhead rings are not as stable as the bar, so they add an extra challenge. Here’s

How to do it:
  1. To access the rings, try using a bench or a step to grip the rings.
  2. Hold one ring in each hand as you step off from the bench to hang, or raise your legs so that your knees bent, depending on how high the rings are.
  3. Keep your arms straight as you hang.
  4. Hold on to the rings for 10 to 30 seconds. Work up to 3 sets.
Neutral grip dead hang

It’s just like in a regular dead hang, but the palms of your hands are facing you throughout the exercise.

Under the Grip Dead Hang

Perform the dead hang with your palms facing you.

One hand dead hang

As you get stronger, try to do the dead hang with one arm instead of two. This is a very advanced move.

How do I increase my dead hang time?

One approach you can use to increase your dead hang time is to improve your grip strength. If you have a weak grip your fingers will start to slip out of the bar, which means your dead hang will end before anything else. You can do strength exercises for your fingers and arms to help with this and you can also use chalk when you about to hang onto the bar due to having sweaty palms.

As a guide, we suggest targeting the following time:

  • For beginners: 10 seconds
  • Intermediate: 20 to 30 seconds
  • Advanced: 45+ seconds
Does the dead hang help with pull ups?

Yes, they do. A dead hang is one of the first recommended exercises when learning to do a pull-up exercise. This is because dead hangs improve your grip strength, as you do the dead hang and progress with it to a longer period of time your upper body becomes stronger and your grip improves which helps as a carryover to the pullups.

Once you can hold your dead hang for 10+ seconds in good form you should start training the flexhang in order to continue progressing to a full bodyweight pull-up.

Once you feel confident about your dead hanging ability, you can incorporate other exercises that will also help you get better at the pull up. This can include negative pull ups or chin ups. The chin up is like pull ups but you use an under-hand grip and use your biceps to raise your chin above the bar. Negative pull ups  involves jumping and gripping the bar and lowering yourself down as slowly as possible.

Progressing with weights

To improve forearm strength and grip strength, you need to hang for 1 minute. Gradually, improve your skills and increase your hanging time. When you can hang confidently for 60 seconds on both hands, start incorporating weight.

The first option is to hang a dumbbell or a weight plate on the belt. First add 5 kg, then 10, 15, 20, etc.… For each new weight, try to bring the hanging time to 60 seconds, then increase the weight again.

The second option is to hang on a single arm. First, hang on to the weak hand, then immediately on the strong hand – this is one way. Aim for 60 seconds of hanging on each hand.  If you have a firm grip, you can hang on one arm with an additional load.

How do you incorporate dead hang into your exercise routine?

The first option, this activity can be done one at a time at the end of each training session. Or several alternatives 1-2 times a week. Remember that the forearm muscles, as well as other muscles, must have time to recover, in addition, they are also used in other exercises (pulling), so do not overdo it.

Tips for Doing Dead Hang Exercises (And What Not to Do)

Although a dead hang is an easy exercise to get right, there are still a few mistakes that are often made. Here are a few tips and things to avoid when doing this exercise to make sure you get the best results from it.

  • Your arms should be dead straight from a hanging position, which is why they are called dead hang. If there is a bending of your elbows, you are doing wrong.
  • Don’t keep tension in your lats. You need to completely release your upper body to allow this exercise to do its magic.
  • Always stay still. It’s not going to be doing a dead hang movement if you are constantly shaking or swinging around.
  • Do not hold your breath. As with any exercise, breathing is helpful and assists the movement. In addition to helping blood flow, focused breathing will allow your body to fully relax in a dead hang position.
  • Excess of dead hang will do more harm than good. You should not overdo this exercise for as long as possible and as often as possible. It is recommended that you do the dead hang of 3 or 4 sets at 50% – 75% of your maximum hang time, and up to three times a week.

This exercise is a great way to improve upper body strength and also a great way to train the pull ups. Make sure you do dead hang hangs from a secure bar. Work your time gradually to prevent injury.

Dead hangs are unsafe if you are having any underlying health issues or any injuries. If you have any questions or concerns, you can leave a comment below and we will reach out to you.