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Do you want to increase your upper body strength but don’t have time to hit the gym? Are you hoping to one day be able to do a pull up, but you don’t know where to start? Start with the active hang! By actively engaging your muscles while hanging from a bar or a tree branch, you will get amazing benefits, and it only needs take seconds out of your day!. Learn the benefits of the active hang, the difference between a dead and an active hang, and how to incorporate hanging into your daily life.
What is an Active Hang?
An active hang is when you are hanging from something, a pull up bar, a tree branch, the monkey bars in the playground, while actively engaging your body body.
How to do an active hang:
- Grip the bar or branch with an overhand grip (fingers forward)
- Hang with your body relaxed
- Draw your shoulder blades down and together
- This brings your shoulders down and away from your ears
- Stop when your ears are at the same level as your elbows
- Tense all your muscles, including your abs, legs and glutes (not mandatory but gives you a bonus full body workout!)
- Make sure you keep your chest up
- Hang on for as long as you can!
Dead Hang vs Active Hang
In a dead hang, your body is completely relaxed which is causing a great many muscles, tendons and ligaments to stretch. This is the starting point for the active hang as listed above, however, if your shoulders are tight, this can be quite uncomfortable. If this is you, it may actually be easier to start with an active hang, that engages the muscles in the shoulder and upper back, rather than stretching them. In time, you will be able to slowly relax into the dead hang.
Read More: 9 Surprising Benefits of the Dead Hang
Benefits of the Active Hang
1. Working the Muscles in Your Shoulders
This is probably where you will feel the active hang the most, especially if you have practised the dead hang previously. By engaging your shoulders, you get a great shoulder workout that will significantly increase your shoulder strength.
2. Working the Muscles in Your Back
As you engage the muscles in your shoulders, you will also engage the ones in your back to support the movement.
3. Active Hang for Grip Strength
Do you ever have trouble opening a jar or a bottle? You probably don’t have good grip strength, and you are not alone. A study has shown that younger women have significantly less grip strength than previous generations.
This is something we should care about as grip strength isn’t just used to open jars. It can also help prevent things like tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon) and carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as help you being able to lift heavier things and generally be less prone to injuries in the hands, wrist, and forearms.
4. Hang Your Way to a Pull Up
If your goal is to be able to do a (or more!) pull ups, start with the dead hang and when you can hang for about 30 seconds, start incorporating the active hang into your routine.
Play around with different grips, try swinging or moving your hands on the bar. Maybe even hang in one arm one day??
5. Forces in Different Directions
In almost everything we do, both when we exercise and in our everyday movements, we work in the same direction. We stand, sit and lift things up. We can’t change the way gravity pulls us, but by gripping onto something over our head our muscles feel the pull of gravity from another direction from what it’s used to, helping us to develop healthy muscles and a healthy range of movements.
6. Active Hang for Skin Strength
Ok, skin can’t build strength in the same way a muscle can, however, to be able to build strength we need the skin on our hands to be resilient and flexible enough to support what we want to do with our bodies.
The main reason for people to use gloves when they lift weights is because they haven’t worked to improve their skin strength. That may work well in the gym, however, if this person then decides to use their strength in real life, they risk injuries to their hands as their skin has not been worked as heavily as the muscles.
7. Stronger Forearms with the Active Hang
Forearms are an often-neglected part of strength training and in addition to support your grip strength, stronger forearms will also help you be able to lift things – and if you are regularly doing strength training, by improving your forearm strength you will likely help you perform better in a number of upper body exercises.
How to Get the Benefits of Hanging
To really get the benefits of hanging it’s important to do it regularly, preferably every day. In the beginning you won’t be able to hang for long (you may not even be able to lift your feet!) but by doing a little every day you will soon start improving, getting all the amazing benefits of hanging regularly.
Where Will You Hang?
Convinced you want to incorporate hanging into your routine? Great! Let’s decide when and where to do it.
The first step is to decide where you will be hanging and what you will be hanging from:
- Do you have access to a pull up bar daily? In your house or at the gym? If you don’t go to the gym daily, don’t consider this as you won’t want to go to the gym every day just to hang for a few seconds.
- Is there a tree branch you can hang from that you pass by every day? Maybe when walking your dog or going to work?
- Is there a playground or outdoor gym nearby with some kind of bars you can hang from?
- If there really isn’t anywhere you can hang, or you just feel too self-conscious to hang in a tree where everyone can see you, you can buy a cheep pull up bar and fit it in a door opening – no screws of fixtures required.
When Will You Hang?
The next step to build any new habit is to decide when you will be doing it. Remember, hanging doesn’t need to take long, so the best thing to do is to incorporate it at some time during the day when you are walking past the bar or branch you will be hanging from.
- On your way to and from work?
- When walking your dog?
- Taking the kids to the playground?
- Or if you have a pull up bar at home, can you hang from it every time you pass that specific door opening?
How Will You Keep Up Your Habit?
Starting a new habit is great, but to really make it a habit you need to make sure you actually do it every day. A great way to do this is to use a habit tracker. You can put it on your fridge and give yourself a gold star for every day you do your hanging. Or, if you feel a bit more private, put it on the inside of your wardrobe door.
If you prefer a more technological approach, there are many great habit tracker apps available, and many of them are free!
How Can I Hang if I Can’t Lift My Feet?
Not to worry, if you are not exercising regularly, it’s completely normal not to be able to lift your feet from the ground on your first try. Luckily there are things you can do to work your way up to the day you can lift your feet from the ground:
- Hold onto something, like a pole, and lean away in a different direction. This will help with your grip and forearm strength, your skin strength and get your shoulders and back used to having forces pulling from different directions
- Hang with your feet still on the ground, gradually reducing the weight you put on your feet.
Get the Amazing Benefits of the Active Hang
As with everything in life, reading about the benefits of hagning won’t make any difference at all to your physical body. You need to actually get up and start hanging around to get all the amazing benefits we have discussed. And remember, you will not be able to hang for long initially so this will literally just take seconds out of your day.
Make a commitment now to try this habit. Decide where to hang, when it will fit into your schedule, and make sure you track your progress, that way you can be sure that you keep up your new habit when life, inevitable, comes in the way.
If you are interested in the benefits and learn how to move more, and move better, check out Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman.
For more tips, check out the Resources for Personal Development page.