How to Do Dead Hangs: Tips & Proper Form

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: November 29, 2023
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Double and single-arm dead hang is one of the best exercises for improving grip strength relative to your body.

They are widely used to develop superior grip strength, decompress your spine, and many other things.

Based on my experience as a certified personal trainer and more than 20 hours of research, I compiled all the information you will need for performing dead hangs correctly and efficiently.

After reading the article, you will know the proper technique for performing a body hang, its primary variations, benefits, and much more.

Quick Summary

  • To perform dead hangs correctly, you must keep your arms straight, straighten your entire body, take an overhand grip, and keep the legs hanging straight.
  • The dead hang is an excellent isometric exercise that uses your body weight to decompress your spine, develop superior grip strength, and stretch necessary muscles such as the latissimus dorsi.
  • Passive dead hang position and active hang are two different things; the first is better for stretching and decompression, and the second for performing different pull-up variations.
  • Read our guide on the best pull-up bars for your doorway of 2023 to pick the one that is high-quality and will serve your needs and goals the best.

How to Perform a Dead Hang

A person doing a dead hang at the gym

Here is the proper technique for performing a dead hang:

  • Hop on to the bar and take an overhead bar pronated grip with your hands.
  • Ensure the width of your grip is wider than shoulder-width apart, and your hand is fully extended in the elbow joint.
  • This is called a passive hang position. Let your body dead hanging while keeping your legs straight and allowing the upper body to stretch.
  • Hang from the bar as much as possible without bending your shoulder or elbows, and ensure your legs align with your hips and spine.
  • When you feel like you can’t hold that bar anymore, drop to the floor and rest for a substantial time before you can do it again.
  • You can perform a couple of sets of dead hangs, or you can spread the workouts throughout the day if you have a possibility of doing them at home.

What Is a Dead Hang?

A person getting ready to do a dead hang

The dead hang is an excellent upper body strengthening and stretching exercise for decompressing your spine and developing forearm grip strength.

Dead hangs can be used for both stretching and strength training sessions. You can perform dead hangs immediately the first time in the morning to decompress your lumbar spine or after the tough lifting workout to achieve the same effect.

They are excellent to perform daily since the benefits are numerous. You can negate many negative effects of back squats if you do them regularly.

Also, if your grip strength is poor, you may want to incorporate dead hangs into your regular workouts since they represent the best bodyweight exercise for developing exactly that.

"The pull-up is a foundational upper body exercise that carries many benefits — namely more back and arm muscle, pulling strength, and full-body control. It’s also straightforward to do."

- Mike Dewar, Certified Personal Trainer

Dead Hang Variations

A person doing dead hang variations at the gym

Numerous dead hang variations exist, but they all try to accomplish the same thing.

The primary aim is to decompress the spine or build grip strength.

The only way to increase your grip strength continually in the following periods of your lifting journey is to incorporate the principle of progressive overload [1].

This means increasing the total volume of the session each following workout.

Also, this has been proven to be the best for developing hypertrophy, essentially growing your muscles between workout sessions [2].

Here are the most notable dead hang variations you may incorporate into your workouts to stretch back and shoulder joints or improve grip strength.

Dead Hang On Overhead Rings

A person doing dead hangs with rings at the gym

Good gymnastics rings are one of the most functional pieces of equipment that can be used in all sorts of places, both indoors and outdoors.

The best thing about dead hangs on overhead rings is they allow your shoulder joint more range of motion, which results in better shoulder joint mobility.

How to Perform Dead Hang On Overhead Rings

  1. Set up overhead rings to hang from them without touching the floor with your feet.
  2. Take an overhead grip and grab both rings with your hands.
  3. Hang freely from the rings while keeping your back straight and legs aligned with your hips and spine.
  4. Hold that position as much as you can, and feel free to internally and externally rotate the shoulder joint.
  5. When you feel you can hold the rings anymore, slowly release the handles and drop yourself to the floor.
  6. Repeat three consecutive sets for as many seconds as possible and rest only as much as you need between the sets.

Neutral Grip Dead Hang

The neutral grip dead hang is the variation of the original pronated dead hang exercises that places your shoulders in the best position with equally internal and external rotation.

This is why it is called the neutral position, and it can only be performed on the parallel pull-up bars, which are often placed as an additional extension to the normal bar.

How to Perform Natural Grip Dead Hangs

  1. Pick a pull-up bar with a neutral parallel bars extension that has sufficient distance in between. This space between the bars shouldn’t be less than the width of your shoulders.
  2. Take a neutral grip on both bars and let your body hang while keeping your spine straight, hips neutral, and legs aligned with the rest of your body parts.
  3. Look straight ahead and let those lats stretch as your forearms start burning from holding the bars.
  4. When you feel like you can’t hold your body in the neutral hanging position anymore, slowly drop to the floor.
  5. Repeat for as many sets as possible with as little rest in between the sets. Hold the neutral hanging position for as many seconds as possible.

One-Handed Dead Hang

A person doing a one handed dead hang

One-handed dead hang is the hardest hanging variation.

It is the best unilateral hanging exercise to build superior grip strength and stretch your lats even further [3].

How to Perform a One-Handed Dead Hang

  1. Take a pronated grip with your right hand on the pull-up bar and hold it strong enough to hold your body in the air.
  2. Slowly start to get your feet from the ground, and test if you have enough strength to hold yourself with one hand.
  3. If you still can’t perform a full version of the one-handed dead hang, you can leave one foot on the ground and slightly lift it to increase the tension of your right forearm.
  4. Lift your feet from the floor and assume a one-handed dead hang position.
  5. Hold the hanging position as much as possible without compensating too much with the rest of your body parts.
  6. When your forearms can’t longer produce the desired grip strength, release the bar and drop yourself to the floor.
  7. Repeat for a couple of sets with both hands and ensure to rest enough between the sets to recover fully.

Benefits of the Dead Hang

A person stretching his spine

Here are the most important dead hang benefits.

Decompress Spine

The dead hangs are excellent stretching exercises that can be used as a separate workout or as a part of the stretching routine at the end of the workout.

In my opinion, the best way to perform dead hangs with the goal of decompressing the spine is to spread the exercise evenly throughout the day.

You should perform the exercise right in the morning, a couple of times during the day, and once before bed.

This is the only way to ensure your spine is never compressed due to the heavy lifting or the nature of your current job.

Many people sit in the office for more than 8 hours daily, which is extremely unhealthy for your posterior chain muscles and spine.

Hanging for at least 2 to 3 minutes a day can solve all these problems, but only if you perform the exercise constantly throughout the week.

Improve Grip Strength

A person with good grip strength working out

Improving your grip strength can be difficult and dead hangs are one of the best exercises for bulletproofing your forearms.

In addition, grip strength is a vital indicator of man’s health and is widely used to assess the current health of your whole locomotor system.

When you see an older man with a firm handshake, you know he is still healthy and has no problems regarding typical heart and cardiorespiratory issues at his age [4].

The best way to improve your grip strength is to start with bilateral dead hangs transitioning to unilateral variations.

One-handed dead hangs are the pinnacle of grip strength development and should be used regularly throughout your workouts to ensure longevity.

Stretch the Upper Body

Dead hangs are an excellent exercise for stretching your latissimus dorsi muscles.

In today’s day and age, all people suffer from tight latissimus dorsi muscles, often resulting in internally rotating your shoulder and rounding your thoracic back.

Many people with rounded upper backs believe they should only strengthen the scapular protractors, but stretching the pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi is also crucial.

Also Read: Best Chest Stretches Before a Workout

Relieve Shoulder Pain

A person with shoulder pain suffering

If you suffer from tight and immobile shoulders, the dead hang might be the exercise for you.

Let's start with the neutral grip dead hangs and slowly progress towards the overhead rings variation.

The rings will allow your shoulders to experience the full range of motion, activating both internal and external rotation.

Your shoulder ligaments, which are most often tight, will be stretched.

This will prolong the health of your shoulders and allow you to participate in shoulder-demanding activities such as basketball, baseball, and similar.

Learn More: 30-Minute Shoulder Workouts

Dead Hangs vs. Pull-Ups: What’s the Difference?

A person doing pull-ups at the gym

The main difference between dead hangs and pull-up exercises is muscle contraction.

Dead hangs belong to the isometric exercises, and pull-ups include all three muscle contraction phases (eccentric, isometric, concentric).

Pull-ups aim to develop necessary upper back pulling strength by strengthening the muscles such as the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and posterior deltoid. Depending on the type of exercise, pull-ups can workout abs too.

The primary goal of dead hangs is to stretch your shoulders and latissimus dorsi, decompress your spine, and develop grip strength.

Both exercises should be used and programmed into the holistic workout program.

"Dead hangs are an amazing exercise and are great for all levels as there are numerous variations. Why do dead-hangs? They have many benefits such as grip strength, shoulder health, and spinal decompression."

- Alice O'Conor, Certified Personal Trainer

How to Work Out Safely and Avoid Injury

A person wiping his sweat at the gym

You must always perform the proper technique to work out safely and avoid injury.

Performing the proper technique is key to avoiding injuries and optimizing your performance to make as much progress as possible.

The next thing is to rest enough intra and post-workout.

This means incorporating proper rest intervals between sets and reps and between individual workouts throughout the week.

Lastly, nothing can replace high-quality sleep and nutrition since those are paramount to preparing muscle growth and development.

Hanging Gymnastic Rings at Home

You can also do dead hangs using gymnastic rings. However, you have to know the best ways to install them for safety.

When hanging gymnastic rings at home, consider the following methods:

  1. Ceiling Mount: Securely attach the rings to ceiling beams or joists using mounting brackets. Ensure the ceiling structure can support your weight.
  2. Wall Mount: Use wall-mounted brackets, ensuring they are fixed into the wall studs for stability.
  3. Door Frame: Use a door-mounted pull-up bar to hang the rings. Ensure the bar is securely fitted and can bear your weight.
  4. Tree Branch: If you have a sturdy tree, you can hang the rings from a strong branch, but make sure the branch is robust and the rings are securely attached.
  5. Swingset: Make sure the swingset or any horizontal bar can withstand your body weight. This will ensure you avoid getting injured.

Always prioritize safety and stability when setting up gymnastic rings at home. Ensure all mounts and supports are secure and regularly check for any signs of wear or damage.


How Long Should You Be Able to Dead Hang?

It depends on your age, fitness level, and gender on how much time you should be able to dead hang. However, a general rule is that beginners should dead hang for 10 seconds, intermediate for 30 seconds, and advanced for 45 seconds.

Is the Dead Hang Difficult?

Yes, the dead hang is difficult. The dead hang from a pull-up bar requires strong upper body muscles, especially the ones in the forearm responsible for the majority of grip strength.

Do Dead Hangs Actually Help?

Yes, dead hangs actually help many things. Some of them include superior grip strength, stability of shoulder muscles, increased dead hang time, and many more.


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