Dead Hang Benefits (And Why Should You Do It)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: July 19, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
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Hanging from an overhead crossbar will benefit your spine, provide a much-needed upper body stretch for your muscles, and reduce your chance of fatal cardiovascular and respiratory ailments. In short, doing a dead hang provides several overall advantages.

As a certified fitness trainer, I always include the dead hang into my and my client's workout routine, and the benefits observed over time were tremendous.

In this article, I will detail my expertise and findings on the benefits of the dead hang, how to perform it, the tips, and variations of the exercise.

Quick Summary

  • Dead hangs provide several benefits, including spinal decompression, upper body stretching, and reduced risk of cardiovascular and respiratory ailments.
  • They effectively develop upper-body strength by engaging muscles in the arms, back, and shoulders.
  • A study from ResearchGate highlights that poor grip strength, which dead hangs improve, may be a risk factor for diminished mobility later in life.
  • In my personal opinion, incorporating dead hangs into fitness routines is an excellent way to enhance overall physical health and performance.

Benefits of The Dead Hang

A buff woman at the gym doing dead hangs

Decompression of the Spine

Dead hangs aid in the decompression of your spine. Most of the actions and motions in our daily lives compress our spine.

Long durations of sitting, carrying heavy objects, crouching, and even sleeping may all compress the spine.

Hanging in the dead hang posture for a few seconds is useful in decompressing the spine, i.e., replenishing the lost space between the bones, discs, and joints in your back. This relieves back pain and strain and aids in injury prevention.

Dead Hangs Develop Upper-Body Strength

Most of the arms, back, and upper body muscles are worked by dead hangs, including the:

  • Abdominal muscles (rectus and transversus abdominis, and the internal and external obliques)
  • Rotator cuff and deltoids the shoulder muscles
  • Rhomboids and trapezius in the upper back
  • Brachioradialis located in the forearms
  • Latissimus dorsi and erector spinae of the back
  • Upper arm biceps and triceps, to some extent

From my perspective as a trainer, strengthening these muscles can enhance your performance in a range of exercises and sports activities, including lifting, rowing, rope jumping, swimming, running, and boxing.

Grip Strength

A person with good grip doing dead hangs

Dead hangs help you increase your grip strength. There are several "band-aid fixes" for grip strength, such as weight-lifting straps, gloves, and hooks.

However, grabbing a good pull-up bar is the only genuine approach to improving your grip strength. You conduct the exercises by holding onto a bar and suspending your body weight.

According to a study from ResearchGate, poor grip strength might be a risk factor for diminished mobility later in life [1].

Dead hangs are certainly the most efficient approach to strengthening your grip.

High grip strength enhances your performance in exercises that need a solid grasp, such as deadlifts, pull-ups, rack pulls, rows, and lever variation workouts.

"If you're performing any sort of strength training, particular training, the grip will help you gain the ability to hold heavier weights."

- Rena Eleázar, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist

Improve Shoulder Stability

Introducing dead hangs into your training program daily will build your scapular muscles, which, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), encircle your shoulder blade and link to the upper arm and shoulder [2].

Tracie Landram, a nutrition coach at BarBend, suggests trying out the dead hang shoulder shrug — a dead hang variation that involves lifting the body, squeezing the shoulder blades, and slowly lowering the body back to a dead hang position.

This exercise focuses on stretching and strengthening the scapula muscles.

Making these muscles stronger can help keep the shoulder joint healthy, which is required for daily activities.

Shoulder Joint Range of Motion

A person with good shoulder muscles and joints

Dead hangs increase the range of motion in your shoulder joints. With your arms aloft, hanging in this inactive position allows the upper body to relax entirely.

Every second in this position improves your shoulder joint motion range and overall shoulder health.

In my experience, many clients focus on building size and strength, which can sometimes lead to reduced mobility and range of motion. Incorporating dead hangs into your routine can counteract this and improve shoulder flexibility.

This exercise improves the range of motion across the shoulder joint capsule, which helps you do overhead actions (overhead squats, presses, and snatches) safely and is also important in preventing injury.

Also Read: Best At-Home Shoulder Workout

Dead Hangs Prepare You for Pull-ups

One of the primary benefits of the dead hang is that it provides a foundation for working toward completing pull-ups.

Because the muscles engaged by dead hanging and pull-ups overlap, dead hangs build grip strength, and the two workouts have comparable body positions, dead hangs can help prepare your body to perform complete pull-ups.

Incorporating dead hangs into your training program regularly, coupled with other exercises that develop the muscles utilized in pull-ups (such as reverse flyes, lat pull-downs, face pulls, and rows), can be an excellent approach to work towards being able to complete pull-ups.

Read More: Best Pull-Up Bar Exercises of All Time

Improve Flexibility and Mobility

A person with good flexibility

The dead-hang exercise also strengthens and stretches the latissimus dorsi muscles.

When the lat muscles, which run down either side of your spine below the shoulder blade, are tight, your capacity to reach overhead may be hindered.

I recommend incorporating dead hangs from the pull-up bar into your routine. This exercise is effective in stretching the latissimus dorsi muscle, which can improve shoulder mobility. Enhanced shoulder mobility is crucial for achieving the full range of motion your body is capable of.

Controlling the shoulder when reaching overhead is a fantastic functional skill to practice.

Corrects Your Posture

Since both arms align with the bar, your body weight is distributed evenly.

This assists in realigning the body, straightening your back, and addressing any imbalances that may have been accidentally produced in the body, such as when working a desk job, when you may lean on one side more than the other or maintain your shoulders stooped.

These practices can harm the body, resulting in uneven knee strength and overpronation of the foot.

This may be remedied by performing the dead hang daily.

What Are Dead Hangs?

A buff male at the gym doing dead hangs

Dead hangs, also known as a dead hanging, are an activity in which you hold on to an overhead pull-up bar with your arms straight while supporting your hanging torso with your grip while your feet are off the ground.

You don't have to push your body over the bar as you do with chin-ups and pull-ups.

Rather, because the dead hang is a stationary hold, it may be compared to an isometric workout like a plank, in which no physical movement occurs, but your muscles continue to function.

How To Perform Dead Hangs

A person doing dead hangs outside

Executing a dead hang is relatively simple.

"If you have little strength, you can start by supporting yourself with both feet on a platform. As you gain strength, remove one foot, then both. The dead hang is the basis for chin-ups, Garhammer raises, pull-ups, and knee raises."

- Justin Jones, Certified Personal Trainer & Founder of Active Choice UK

You can use several grips, including overhand and underhand (palms facing you), mixed grip (right palm facing you, left palm facing forward and vice versa), neutral grip (palms facing one another), and gymnastic rings and scaffolding bars, for variety.

  1. Place a step, box, or bench underneath a sturdy overhead pull-up bar if you cannot reach it without simply raising your arms. You don't want to jump into a hang as you would for pull-ups or chin-ups.
  2. To hold the bar, use a pull-up grip (overhand, palms facing away from you), placing your hands approximately shoulder-width apart.
  3. Take your feet off the step, bench, or box and hang on to the bar with extended arms. Bend the knees so the shins and legs are behind your torso if the bar is too low and your feet touch the floor.
  4. Maintain your legs hanging straight and a calm upper body while engaging your glutes and core for support.
  5. Based on your fitness level, hang for 10–60 seconds or longer, progressively increasing your hang duration as your strength develops.
  6. When finished, carefully jump down or step back onto the step, bench, or box if it's within reach.
  7. Repeat for the desired number of sets.

Tips for Doing Dead Hangs

A person doing dead hangs at a playground

Here are some tips and factors to avoid when doing dead hang exercise to ensure you get the greatest results.

  • Your arms ought to be dead straight, thus the term "dead hang." You're performing it wrong if your elbows are bent.
  • Don't hold any tension in the lats. You must completely relax your upper body muscles to enable this exercise to perform its magic. This relates to the previous point: if you're bending your arms, you're probably activating your lats too.
  • Stay still. If you're swinging or fidgeting your body around, the dead hang is no more a dead hang.
  • Don't hold your breath. Breathing, like any other activity, aids and complements movement. Concentrated breathing will help your body relax fully into the hang and assist blood flow.
  • Overdoing it will cause more harm than benefit. You should not do this workout for as long or as frequently as possible. You are advised to execute the dead hang three or four times weekly for three or four sets at 50% - 75% of your maximum hang time.

The Dead Hang Variations

A person doing dead hang variations

Try some of these variations once you've gotten the "hang" of the conventional version.

  • Under Grip Dead Hang: Under grip dead hangs necessitate your palms to face you.
  • Neutral Grip Dead Hang: Neutral grip dead hangs are performed with your palms facing one another.
  • Suicide Grip Dead Hang: Suicide grip Dead hangs are similar to conventional dead hangs, except that your thumb is over the bar with the rest of the fingers instead of under the bar as in a standard hold.
  • Gymnastic Rings Dead Hang: Gymnastic rings dead hangs employ any of the grips indicated above but on gymnastic rings rather than a fixed bar.
  • Single-arm Dead Hang : You can perform the single-arm dead hang in all the variations mentioned above. You hold and hang from the bar with one hand instead of both.

Andrew Lenau, a senior coach at SET FOR SET, suggests incorporating swinging motions into dead hangs to enhance grip resilience, strength, and core muscles.

This dynamic approach challenges stability and control, making deadhangs more realistic and functional.

Related Posts:

Nutritional Considerations for Supporting Dead Hang Practice

Dead hangs can be further enhanced through targeted nutrition.

  • Consuming protein-rich foods like lean meats, fish, and legumes aids in muscle recovery and growth, crucial for maintaining the strength needed for dead hangs.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and flaxseeds support joint health, reducing inflammation and aiding in joint recovery.
  • Additionally, foods high in magnesium, such as nuts, seeds, and leafy greens, can improve muscle function and grip strength.
  • Hydration is also key, as it helps maintain muscle elasticity and joint lubrication.

FAQs

What Does Dead Hang Do for Your Body?

Dead hangs help the body by relieving back pain or tension. As gravity pushes you down, dead hangs may decompress the spine, and hanging assists in extending and decompressing the vertebral column. Your body weight gradually pulls the vertebrae apart, allowing your discs to stretch and relieving any back discomfort or strain.

How Long Is a Healthy Dead Hang?

A healthy dead hang should be 10 to 60+ seconds long, depending on your physical condition level, slowly increasing the dead hang time as your strength improves.

Can Dead Hangs Cause Injury?

Yes, deadlines can cause injury. For certain people, dead hang can result in the ball popping out of the socket and stretching the passive tissue. They aren't the best exercises for people with hypermobile or unstable shoulders.


References:

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Richard_Bohannon/publication/5360233_
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513255/
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About The Author

Senior Coach
Connor Sellers holds a degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from Rutgers University He is an author and personal trainer with the mission to inspire people to relentlessly pursue their fitness and lifestyle goals. He mantra is that staying fit has an overall positive effect on one’s body, mind, and spirit.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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