The dead hang pull up is no ordinary exercise. It builds you up and it will break you down. It is both nemesis and savior to many for two very important reasons; its simplicity and its difficulty.
The mighty dead hang pull up
Pull ups come in many forms, from standard chin-ups to Australian pull ups all the way up to, of course, the mighty one-armed pull.
Confucious said, "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." This, my friends, is the glory of the dead hang pull up and Confucious may have even contemplated this phrase as he witnessed others mastering the dead hang pull up.
Its glory resides in your ability to do it. Each time you drop you must rise again, stronger than before. But before we start dropping and rising, let's look at the dead hang pull up. Let's see what it is.
What is a dead hang?
In simplest terms, it is a hanging exercise designed to strengthen the muscles in your back and arms but also to stretch and elongate them. It is done by grasping an overhead bar with both hands, palms facing away from you. With your arms about a shoulder's width apart you hang from the bar. Your arms should not be bent and your body should dangle straight and loose over the floor.
This passive pose is held for as long as you can hold yourself there. It creates the dead weight of the dead hang. And this dead hang in itself can be done as a singular exercise.
The dead hang benefits are many and varied and just part of the reason why so many incorporate this into their exercise regimen.
If you are able to hang easily for at least ten seconds you may be ready to use dead hang variations to increase your levels of fitness and strength.
Dead Hang Variations
Once you master the dead hang, you can keep pushing yourself by moving on to other variations.
Dead Hang Pull Ups-Hold your body straight, pull it up to the bar, and smoothly lower yourself back into the passive hang and then repeat.
Under Grip Dead Hang- Turn your palms so they are facing you.
Gymnastic Rings- Or, for a bit of fun, use gymnastics rings to utilize their unstable nature to introduce some additional difficulty.
Challenge yourself. Try a different version each time you step up to the bar or rings and test your limits.
The benefits of the Dead Hang and the Dead Hang Pull Up
But should you do pull up from a dead hang? What are some of the benefits of the dead hang and the dead hang pull up?
As mentioned earlier, the hang on its own, through the use of your own bodyweight, will elongate muscles. It's a great exercise for the decompression of the spine.
If you've got a painful back or if your work requires you to sit a lot, use the hanging position on its own. Simply hang for half a minute, or longer if you can and let the dead weight pull on your vertebrae. Try doing it before a workout and maybe even after.
The hang is good for stretching the arms, your back, and your shoulders. You'll feel it working as you hang there but these muscles are heavily used and giving them a nice stretch is just another part of looking after yourself.
Improves grip strength
Improved strength of grip is another benefit that the dead hang provides. If you can master this exercise you won't need to be worried about getting called out for a weak handshake.
If you participate in other activities which require a good strong grip, such as bouldering, rock climbing, or competitive jar lid opening. This will definitely give you the advantage.
Builds muscles quickly
"Do dead hangs build muscle?" This is the most important one, right?
Yes. The primary muscles used in pull ups are your shoulders, biceps, and muscles in your back. Specifically your lats, or latissimus dorsi, their official name. This is the one that when properly developed looks like wings.
Your lats are the biggest muscle across your back and look like a large V. They connect your arms to your vertebral column and help to stabilize your spine. It also provides strength to your shoulders and arms and so is a great muscle group to develop.
The muscles used for pull ups specifically target your biceps, your back muscles, and your forearms. Pull your legs up and straighten them as you do the pull up and you're exercising your core muscles as well as your abdominals .
If you are just beginning, focus on the pull up muscles worked and from there you can start strengthening other areas of your body as you progress.
What if you can't pull up from the dead hang?
Don't worry. A lot of people struggle with pull ups and the dead hang pull ups are no exception. They look simple but can and do challenge the fittest of us.
The best way to start is with the simple dead hang. Do this each time you work out and soon enough you will feel the results of your hard work.
It's best to build up your muscles and strength safely and solidly. So you should try out assisted pull ups or using a pull up assist band to ensure success without injury.
Assisted pull ups can be done on a machine at the gym or if you don't have access to a machine you can use a low bar and balance a portion of your weight on one foot and pull your weight up to the bar. This method helps you to build up not only your muscle bulk but also your endurance, stamina, and helps with your form.
Assistance bands work really well too. Tie one end to the pull up bar and loop it so you can put either foot through one end (or your knees depending on what you are comfortable with). This reduces the weight you are lifting as its bounce will counterbalance some of your weight and help your momentum.
Keep this up and in a short time, you will be doing pull ups without the need for assistance bands or assisted pull ups. In fact, before long your progress may even take you to a place where you consider utilizing a resistance band to challenge yourself that much more.
The Hanging Workout
So there you have it. A simple yet effective exercise to add to your workout.
The dead hang and all its variations with their diabolical and sometimes torturous nature are just what the doctor ordered. Think about it, if you've got a sore back, take a deep breath, and hang for a bit. Feel your muscles stretch and your vertebrae decompress.
Is that jam jar lid a bit tight? Head out to your chin up bar and improve your grip. That jar lid doesn't stand a chance against your new-found strength.
When you look in the mirror and you strike that bodybuilder pose you've been practicing since you were ten and see your arms need a bit of flex, jump up to that bar and initiate your new hanging routine. Rock those reps, sacrifice no sets, flush with fluids, and grunt with the greats.
Be sure to implement safety. Always be aware of your body, its limitations, and your goals. Whether you're going to the gym or working out at home, the park or down at the beach, take the right mindset with you for your own success. As always, consult with your doctor if you have concerns or questions about your health or your fitness.