Dead Hang Tutorial: Build Crushing Grip Strength

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What is Dead Hanging?

Dead hanging is a great exercise that requires you to simply hang from a pull-up bar using either a pronated or supinated grip, with your feet elevated off the floor. There will be no pulling, pushing, or motion occurring when performing this exercise. Dead hanging offers many benefits for your body, including decompressing the spine and improving grip strength. Dead hangs are also being studied as a longevity tool.

According to Shoulder Pain The Solution & Prevention, a small book written by John M. Kirsch, M.D., a certified Orthopedic Surgeon, passive hanging is a simple exercise that could prevent rotator cuff tears and impingement syndrome in the shoulder and other shoulder issues. 

What Muscles are Worked

Even though dead hangs are simple, they are very beneficial to your body as it works for many muscle groups. The muscles targeted are the forearms, hand and wrist flexors, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, anterior deltoids, posterior deltoids, and abdominals.

What Level is the Dead Hang?

The dead hang is appropriate for all fitness levels, from beginner to intermediate and to advanced. The only difference is that advanced athletes will be able to hang for longer.

There are many variations of the dead hang that will ensure you get a challenging workout and a good burn in your forearms. This article will cover 4 main variations to make your workouts super fun!

How To Do a Dead Hang

1. Use A Secure Bar

Begin by positioning yourself under a secure bar. You can use a bench or any elevated platform to step onto and reach to bar with your hands. You can also go straight into a dead hang.

2. Grip The Bar

Grip the bar firmly with pronated/overhand grip (palms facing away from you), at shoulder-width apart. Your thumbs should wrap under and around the bar.

3. Hang From The Bar

Lock your arms out and hang from the bar with your body being in a straight line, and your feet off the floor. Don’t bend your arms, and stay relaxed with elevated shoulders. This is a passive hang.

4. Repeat

Hang between 10-60 seconds and repeat this for 4 sets. See the recommended range for your fitness level below.

Dead Hang Workout

  • Beginners should perform between 5-20 seconds, for 4 sets, 3 times a week.
  • Intermediate level athletes should perform between 20-40 seconds, for 4 sets, 3 times a week.
  • Advanced level athletes should perform 45+ seconds reps or more for 4 sets, 3 times a week.

You should move on to harder variations once you have achieved your holding time and set goals.

Dead Hang Benefits

Develop Grip Strength

Dead hang is a forearm and grip strength exercise, and practicing It will help the ability to hold your body weight, the longer you can hold on, the stronger your grip becomes. There are over 20 muscles in your forearms, which include the brachioradialis, wrist flexors, extensors,  forearms flexors, and extensors. They are primarily divided into two groups – flexors and extensors. 

The flexor group enables you to close your hands and bend your wrist downward, whereas the extensor group opens your hand and extends your wrists backward. This exercise will for sure develop your grip strength, and increase the size of your forearms.

Spine Decompression

Many of the activities and movements that occur in our lifestyles often compress our spine. Sitting in front of a desk for many hours a day is sure for one! Moreover, activities such as lifting heavy objects, and squatting compress the spine.

Dead hangs can decompress the spine as gravity pulls you down, and hanging helps to lengthen and decompress your spine. Your body’s weight gently pulls your vertebrae apart, enabling your discs to expand, which can help relieve any back pain or tension you may have.

Improve Your Posture

Poor posture can lead to neck pain, back problems, and other irritating conditions. It also affects how you look. A lot of postural problems are due to sitting for a prolonged period of time – gravity is pulling you down all day long!

You can fix this by practicing dead hangs as it put your body in an expansive position, overturning the effects of gravity and poor posture. It will make you feel more upright.

Stretch Your Upper Body

This will give your shoulders, arms, and back muscles a nice stretch. It will improve your shoulder health by increasing its range of motion. According to John M. Kirsch, an Orthopedic surgeon, passive hanging can repair shoulder impingement, rotator cuff tear, and other shoulder issues.

Moreover, you will feel your lats being stretched out, among other muscles. This will keep your upper body muscles mobile and healthy. Excessively tight lats can have an impact on your posture, and shoulder joint mobility.

Dead Hang Variations

Supinated Grip Dead Hang

This variation will require you to use the underhand grip where your palms are facing towards you. This will give you a nice stretch around the middle back – where the teres major muscle is located. Moreover, your grip strength for the chin-ups will improve. To perform this, you will:

  1. Position your body under a bar. 
  2. Grip the bar firmly using a supinated/underhand grip at shoulder-width apart. Your thumbs should be wrapped under and around the bar.
  3. Hang from the bar with your arms straight, and feet off the ground. 
  4. Hold between 10-60 seconds for 4 sets.

Gymnastics Rings Dead Hang

Gymnastics rings are not as stable as a bar, therefore, they will give you an additional challenge. You can use many grip variations such as the pronated grip, supinated grip, neutral grip, or false grip. To perform this, you will:

  1. Position your body under a pair of gymnastic rings. 
  2. Grip the rings firmly using a supinated grip, underhand grip, neutral grip, or false grip at shoulder-width apart. Your thumbs are wrapped under and around the rings.
  3. Hang from the rings with your arms straight, and feet off the ground.
  4. Hold between 10-60 seconds for 4 sets.

Towel Dead Hang

Towel dead hangs will seriously intensify the grip challenge, making the hold much harder. This will make your forearms thicker and stronger. The rule here is that the thicker the towel, the easier it will be. To perform this, you will:

  1. Position your body under a bar with a towel wrapped over the bar.
  2. Grip both ends of the towel firmly.
  3. Hang from the towel with your arms straight, and feet off the ground.
  4. Hold between 10-60 seconds for 4 sets.

Single Arm Dead Hang

Once you are comfortable with doing a two-arm dead hang, you can progress to a one-arm dead hang. This advanced-level variation will load your entire body weight onto one arm, which will reward you with crushing grip strength. To perform this, you will:

  1. Position your body under a bar. 
  2. Grip the bar with one hand firmly, using a supinated or underhand grip. Your thumb is wrapped under, and around the bar.
  3. Hang from the bar with your arm straight, and feet off the ground. Engage your core to reduce the swing in your body
  4. Hold between 10-60 seconds for 4 sets. Work on both arms in a single set.

The Takeaways: Dead Hang Improves Your Health

If you spend most of your day sitting in front of a desk then hanging is a great way to release tension in your body. Hanging from the bar provides many health benefits: it decompresses your spine, improves grip strength, and posture, and helps to correct your posture. 

In fact, a 2021 study suggests that the rate of decline in cognitive function (e.g., motor and perceptual speed, memory, and spatial functioning) has a positive correlation. to decline in grip strength, especially towards the end of life. Having a strong grip is an important indicator of your health.

I recommend you to add this into your routine and work on being able to hold for a minute. You can use this as a conditioning exercise to improve your pull ups and chin ups. After a solid few weeks of consistent practice, you’ll feel that any pulling exercises will become easier.

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