Does it feel like your workouts are going nowhere? Hang in there… we’ve got 8 reasons why you might want to incorporate hanging exercises into your fitness routine.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or experienced in the gym, we’ll also explain how to get the most out of these types of exercises as well as common mistakes to avoid.
At a Glance – Hanging Exercise Benefits
- Grip Strength and Endurance
- Decompress Spine
- Upper Back Strength
- Stretch the Upper Back
- Core Activation
- Shoulder Health
- Improves Posture
- Prime the Body for Pull-Ups and Other Exercises
Types of Hanging Exercises
Hanging exercises are a fantastic way to build strength and improve your overall fitness. They’re simple (albeit, challenging), effective, and can be done almost anywhere you have access to a sturdy bar.
There’s basically two fundamental ways to hang… either with one hand, or both hands.
Single Arm Hang
The single arm hang is exactly what it sounds like – you hang from a bar using just one arm.
This exercise is more challenging than a two-handed hang because it requires more strength, stability and balance. Your shoulder, back, arms and grip, will need to support twice the load (i.e., your bodyweight) compared to using both hands.
Double Arm Hang
The double arm hang is the most common type of hanging exercise. You simply grab onto a bar with both hands and let your body hang.
This exercise is great for beginners because it’s straightforward and helps build up strength for more advanced exercises.
Start with Both Hands
Dead Hang vs Active Hang
Although it might sound like a subtle difference, the way you hang will change how the muscles are engaged.
You can either do a passive/dead hang, or an active hang.
A dead hang is when you hang from a bar with your arms fully extended with your muscles relaxed.
This exercise is great for stretching your muscles and decompressing your spine. It’s like giving your body a nice, gentle stretch. You can do a dead hang when you’re warming up for a workout or cooling down after one.
An active hang, on the other hand, is when you engage your muscles while hanging.
In an active hang, you pull your shoulders down and back, engaging your back and shoulder muscles. This exercise is excellent for building strength and preparing your body for more advanced exercises like pull-ups. You can do an active hang as part of your main workout routine.
Hanging Exercise Benefits
Grip Strength and Endurance
When you hang from a bar, your hands and fingers are the only things keeping you from falling. This forces your grip to work hard, which over time, strengthens your hands, fingers, and forearms.
Why is this important? Well, grip strength is not just for opening stubborn jars or shaking hands firmly. It’s important in all sorts of daily activities like carrying groceries, opening doors, or even writing.
A strong grip can improve your performance in other exercises and sports too.
Scientific research has also highlighted a correlation between grip strength and longevity… stating it is “an dispensable biomarker for older adults.”
If you want to improve grip stretch, our guide on the best forearm equipment and grip strengtheners is worth checking out.
Imagine your spine is like a spring. Throughout the day, gravity and various activities compress this spring. Hanging exercises act like a decompression tool, helping to stretch and elongate your spine.
This is important because it can relieve back pain and improve your posture. It’s like giving your back a mini massage, helping you to stand taller and feel better.
Upper Back Strength
In an active hang, you engage your upper back muscles.
It’s almost like doing a mini pull-up.
Over time, this can strengthen your upper back, making it easier to do other exercises and activities.
A strong upper back is essential for good posture and can help prevent back pain. It’s also important for tasks that require pulling or lifting, like opening a heavy door or picking up a child.
Stretch the Upper Back
Hanging from a bar allows your upper back to stretch out naturally. This can help relieve tension and tightness in your upper back and shoulders.
Especially for those who spend a lot of the day sat at a desk or driving, tightness and discomfort can build up in the upper back. A good stretch can help alleviate this discomfort, making you feel more relaxed and comfortable.
When you hang from a bar, especially during an active hang, your core muscles automatically kick in to help stabilize your body. It’s like your body’s natural reaction to keep you from swinging back and forth.
This is important because a strong core is the foundation of a fit and healthy body. It helps in maintaining good posture, improving balance, and reducing the risk of injuries. Plus, it can make everyday activities like bending, turning, and even sitting, more comfortable.
Hanging exercises are a great way to improve shoulder health. They stretch and strengthen the shoulder muscles and tendons, increasing their flexibility and range of motion.
Healthy shoulders are important for performing a wide range of movements and exercises. They also play a key role in many daily activities like reaching, lifting, and carrying. So, taking care of your shoulders can make your life easier and more comfortable.
Check out our guide on Powell raises as another great way to boost shoulder health.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Hanging exercises can help correct your posture. They strengthen your upper back and core, and decompress your spine, all of which contribute to a straighter, taller posture.
Good posture is not just about looking confident. It’s essential for overall health. It can reduce the risk of back pain, improve breathing, and even boost your mood.
Prime the Body for Pull-Ups and Other Exercises
Hanging exercises are a great way to prepare your body for more advanced exercises like pull-ups. They strengthen the necessary muscles and improve your grip, making it easier to progress to more challenging exercises.
If your goal is to do a pull-up, doing active hangs and assisted pull-ups are two great starting points.
Being able to do more advanced exercises can make your workouts more varied and enjoyable, and opens the door to new exercises like negative pull ups too.
Things to Consider
The way you grip the bar will influence the exercise. An overhand grip (palms facing away from you) will work your muscles differently than an underhand grip (palms facing towards you).
Without over simplifying things, an underhand grip will tend to engage the arms and biceps more.
(We really like Angles90 Grips, as a way to allow the shoulders and arms to naturally rotate during pulling/hanging exercises).
Try different grips to add variety to your workouts and to challenge your muscles in different ways.
You’ll need a sturdy bar to hang from. This could be a pull-up bar at a gym, a playground bar, or even a sturdy tree branch. Just make sure it’s strong enough to support your weight and high enough that your feet don’t touch the ground when you hang.
Making it Easier
If you’re new to hanging exercises, you might find it hard to hang for more than a few seconds. That’s okay! You can make the exercise easier by keeping one or both feet on the ground. As your strength improves, you can start to lift your feet off the ground for longer periods.
Making it Harder
If you find hanging exercises relatively easy, you can make them harder by adding weights or performing movements while hanging, like leg raises or pull-ups.
We would tend to opt for adding weight (such as a weighted vest, or holding a dumbbell between your legs) as opposed to just continuously increasing the duration of your hangs indefinitely… but this is personal preference.
From improving your grip strength and decompressing your spine to enhancing your shoulder health and priming your body for more advanced exercises, the benefits of hanging exercises are vast.
But remember, like any exercise, it’s important to start slow and listen to your body. If you’re new to hanging exercises, start with a both hands hang and gradually increase your hanging time as your strength improves.
As you become more comfortable, you can try more challenging variations like the single arm hang, adding extra weight, or add movements like leg raises.