Dead hangs: Exercise guide & Benefits

Dead hangs – doesn’t sound very exciting does it?

The benefits of this exercise certainly are though. Hanging on a bar is one of the easiest things you can do and the risk to reward ratio is better than any other exercise out there, hands down.

Dead hangs? What’s in it for me?

There’s quite a lot in it for you actually. I have listed some of the top benefits here but the improvements that dead hangs will offer you in the long run are far more detailed than these five points.

Spinal Decompression

The biggest draw when it comes to dead hangs is their proficiency at decompressing the spine. Hanging for just a few minutes per week can help to undo all the compression you put your spine under day in, day out from things like squatting in the gym, sitting all day and carrying heavy backpacks. This is great for spinal strength and can vastly improve your posture.

Man on pull up bar

Grip strength

Another fantastic benefit that dead hangs offer is that they can turbocharge your grip strength. Having to hold onto the bar for far longer than you usually would forces your forearms to work overtime keeping you and the bar acquainted.

Over time as you build up your hang time and eventually add weight to the exercise, you will gain a vice-like grip that will carry over to your big lifts such as deadlifts, chin ups and rows.

Build huge forearms

An often overlooked benefit of dead hangs is that along with building mammoth grip strength, they also blow up your forearms. You’ll realise once you give these a go – doing 4 sets of dead hangs per week will blast your forearms 10x as hard as 10 sets of mindless forearm curls with 15kg barbells.

It’s a much more natural way to build mass and vascularity whilst adding transferable grip strength to your arsenal.

Rotator cuff strength

The rotator cuff is to a lifter what the metatarsal is to a footballer. These puppies are the main culprits when it comes to injuries in their respective practices. The rotator cuff is one of the most vulnerable muscles and is often injured due to an overload of pressing movements.

Because it isn’t a show muscle people tend to overlook it’s importance in favour of 5 extra sets of bench press. By doing a few sets of dead hangs you can stimulate the rotator cuff and proof them against strain and injury in the future – all whilst working a variety of other areas simultaneously.

Un-tightens lats

The final benefit that dead hangs posses is that they can stretch out and un-tighten the lats. The lats are crucial in pulling AND pushing movements so keeping them loose and healthy is key to skyrocketing your pressing exercises like bench press (where your lats do a large portion of the work) and overhead press.

It goes without saying that this will also carry over into your chins, dead lifts and rows. For the sake of a few minutes a week it looks like you’re getting some serious bang for your buck here doesn’t it?


So, how exactly do you complete a dead hang?

Grab a pull up bar, totally disengage every muscle in your body and just hang onto the bar for as long as you can.

dead hangs

For your first go, record your max hang time.

After finding this, work out 70% of your max and use this as your ‘working weight’ to stop fatigue setting in and interfering with your other exercises. So you would do 2 sets of 70% of this time a few times a week after a workout.

Try to then add 5 seconds on to that time every month, retesting your max every 12 weeks.

Make sense?


Dead hangs are the easiest and most efficient exercise you’re not doing. Add them to the end of your workouts three times a week to decompress that spine, blast your forearms and super-strength your rotator cuffs. Try it for 12 weeks and see how much your performance and wellbeing come on.