What You Need to Know About the Dead Hang TikTok Fitness Trend
If you've browsed TikTok lately, you've likely seen dozens of fitness influencers doing the common hanging move. Wondering what caused this move to go viral? Hanging from a bar might not seem like it would do much for you. But as it turns out, there are many benefits to performing a stationary hang - including improving your grip strength, challenging your shoulder muscles, and even providing a much-needed stretch for your back.
"Fitness trends come and go; some are just a passing fad and then disappear, but others are worth paying attention to, like suspension," says Mike Julom, ACE-certified personal trainer, CrossFit athlete and founder of ThisIsWhyImFit.com. "It's a staple in my training routine, especially for clients who are looking to improve their upper body strength and flexibility."
But before following this fitness trend, there are a few things you should know about who should and shouldn't attempt static hangs and how to determine proper form to avoid injury. Below, certified personal trainers share the benefits of static suspension for your body, as well as some pro tips and tricks to keep in mind when attempting static suspension.
What Is a Dead Hang?
As the name implies, a stationary hang is a hang from the bar under "dead weight". Think of the position you hold before doing a pull-up: you grab the barbell above your head, arms outstretched, feet off the ground.
Benefits of a Dead Hang
This static movement is somewhere between an exercise and a stretch, which means you can get the benefits of both at the same time. Here are some of the potential benefits that come from performing this maneuver:
- Decompresses the spine
If you sit at a desk five days a week, hanging over a bar is one of the best things you can do for your back.
Johnny Loreti, a certified physical trainer and owner of Back Bay Fit and BTT Back Bay, says that static suspension helps lengthen the spine under gravity.
"This can temporarily relieve stress and tension that may arise during sitting or standing activities," he tells AskMen. "It can even reduce back pain and improve spinal health."
Joshua Clay, a certified physical trainer and owner of WeTrain MNM, points out that static suspension is also especially helpful if you do a lot of weighted barbell back exercises, such as deep squats.
"You're putting a lot of stress on the spine," he explains. "Static suspension can be great for providing some temporary relief."
- Improve shoulder strength and mobility
Stationary suspensions may seem relaxing, but they actually work the upper body more than you might think-that is, if you do them right.
Clay says, "Stationary hangs are performed with more active compression by pulling the shoulders down and away from the ears to engage the lower latissimus dorsi and obliques, which helps improve shoulder stability and strength."
In fact, according to Loretti, static hanging mobilizes multiple muscles in the upper body, including the forearms, shoulders, biceps and upper back.
"This exercise can help strengthen these muscles and improve overall upper body strength and stability," he explains. "Hanging from a barbell also allows you to stretch and extend your shoulders, which improves their range of motion. This is beneficial for most athletes, especially those for whom overhead movements are an integral part of their game."
- Increase Grip Strength
Without a doubt, experts agree that one of the biggest benefits of performing static hangs is improving your grip strength. As Loreti explains, this is because static suspension requires you to support all of your bodyweight using only your grip strength.
"This type of training is great for weightlifting environments that require a lot of pulling and grip training," adds Jake Boly, certified physical trainer and founder of That Fit Friend.
Grip strength plays a crucial role in many weightlifting movements, including pull-ups, chin-ups and hard pulls.
"It's also especially beneficial for athletes who participate in sports that require a strong grip, such as rock climbing or gymnastics," says Jurom.
- activate the core
Loretti points out that while static hanging is primarily an upper-body exercise, it can also go a long way toward activating your core. That's because your core muscles are needed to stabilize your body during suspension to prevent you from swaying.
"Focusing on the hollow hold position of pulling your chest down can do wonders for strengthening your core," says Clay. "Pulling your knees up to waist height is also great for strengthening your hip flexors-which is important for anyone who enjoys running or sprinting."
Fun Fact: Studies have shown that a good grip is also linked to longevity.
Are There Any Risks?
While fixed suspension obviously has many benefits, it's not for everyone.
According to Boly, Julom, and Loreti, you may want to think twice about performing this exercise if you meet the following conditions:
- Shoulder Injury: "Shoulder Injury: those with shoulder impingement, rotator cuff injuries, or any other related issues should approach the dead hang with caution," says Loreti. "Because of the stress on the shoulder, it's critical to get guidance from a healthcare professional to determine if the exercise is appropriate." If the shoulder joint or surrounding muscles have been injured or weakened, the stress from a static hang can lead to further injury, Jurom says.
- Have an elbow or wrist injury: if you suffer from tendonitis, carpal tunnel or other forearm injuries, too much stress on the elbow and wrist could be a problem, Loretti notes.
- Suffering from a spinal condition: if you suffer from certain spinal conditions, such as herniated discs or spinal stenosis, Loretti recommends performing static suspension only under professional supervision to minimize the risk of injury. "While the exercise can provide a beneficial stretch to the spine, the downward pressure can also worsen certain back problems," adds Jurom.
- Overhead movements are rare: "If you find it painful to do things like pull-ups and other overhead movements, then you may want to give up on the static suspension challenge," Boley says.
How to Do a Dead Hang
The correct form of static suspension is critical to gaining gains and minimizing potential risks.
According to Loreti, Julom, and Boly, here's how to perform this classic movement:
- Standing directly underneath the barbell, reach upward and grasp the barbell in a positive grip - palms back toward you, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Lift your feet off the ground, allowing your body to hang freely. If the barbell is high enough, your feet can dangle, and if the barbell is low, you can bend your knees, says Jurom. Your arms should be fully extended and your spine extended and relaxed. Keep your head and neck in a neutral position, look straight ahead, and remember to maintain a normal breathing rate.
- Mobilize your core to stabilize you and prevent your body from swinging from side to side. Pull your shoulders back and down while working your glutes. To activate your upper body even more, Clay suggests imagining you're squeezing an orange under your armpits. To further challenge your core muscles, Clay suggests stretching your legs directly in front of you. "The closer your knees are to waist height, the more you'll start using your hip flexors," he explains.
- Hold this position for 10 to 90 seconds. Then, lower your feet to the floor.
- If a static hang aggravates your shoulders-or you just can't hold them for long-try hopping on an assisted pull-up machine, which will take some of the pressure off by taking some of the weight off.
Ready to take it to the next level? Jurom suggests trying one-arm dips - a more challenging variation that helps improve unilateral strength and balance.