EXERCISE BREAKDOWN: DEAD HANG – MONTH 1
HOW TO DO IT
This month, you actually have the choice about whether you progress with ‘Body Emphasis’ or ‘Grip Emphasis’, as laid out in the Hanging Progression Ladder, BUUUT only if you’re already an accomplished hanger. First though, we use this to seriously build endurance: to try and get your Dead Hang to 2 minutes!
Anyway, here are the basics:
LOCATE A CHIN UP BAR — or something nice to hang on.
GRIP IT, THUMB AROUND THE BAR – We want to build real, usable grip strength with this – including the muscles that control the thumb. Without this, the strength we build won’t be half as transferable.
SLOWLY TAKE YOUR WEIGHT – go through the steps below as slow checkpoints, don’t just dive in, life your feet and hope for the best.
FEEL YOUR SHOULDER BLADES ELEVATE – We are here to train, temporarily at least you’re not chained to a desk, so we must move our shoulder blades through their full range before we lose the ability to do so. Sooo, when you get round to hanging, get those shoulder blades mocking and feel then elevate.
GET YOUR ARMS COMPLETELY STRAIGHT – This catches many out. Don’t build strength until your arms are stretched and completely locked out at the elbow joint.
SQUEEZE YOUR KNEES AND FEET TOGETHER – Not hard. Just gently so we don’t have any leg crossing nonsense. It will help you here, and it will help you with some progressions down the road.
JUST HANG – don’t fidget, don’t look around, don’t check your phone, just hang!
FEEL THE DISH – Bonus marks: you’ve done The Dish right? Please say yes (you need this!), go for a slight posterior tilt of the pelvis, suck your belly button in and gently feel your ‘Dish Musculature’. Other than that, no fidgeting though.
Firstly, as with a few exercises in The Strength Sessions Programme, you will need equipment for this — well, a Pull Up bar or something of that ilk.
If you don’t have a bar where you train, I strongly suggest you get one, even if it’s just a classic doorway Chin-Up bar. I’m a big fan of needing next-to no kit to train, but something to hang and pull on is very, very advisable.
But if you can’t or don’t, for this month’s programme, my recommended alternatives would be:
1) EXTRA TIME ON THE OTHER STUFF
2) EXTRA HORIZONTAL ROWS
3) SOMETHING RANDOM
HOW IT GOES WRONG & HOW TO FIX IT
How can a simple hang go wrong??? Lots of ways!…
GRIP – Don’t hold on any longer when your fingers start to slip, you’re flirting with a nasty finger injury if you don’t control your contact with the bar. Don’t use the lazy grip discussed above. Naughty!
The Fix… do as I told you to do above! Do more sets of less time if you’re struggling to adapt. Do yourself a huge favour and buy some chalk, it will really, really, really, really, really, really, really help your grip. Like 20-40 percent better.
ARMS NOT STRAIGHT – Very common! It looks like you’re guarding against what’s to come. It could be because you’re too weak. It could be because your biceps and shoulders are too tight, or it could just be because you’re not used to being in this position. If this is the case, just be patient – you’ll need to work into it more gently.
If you’re too tight, the fix can be complex or simple, but a lot of stretching and if necessary seeing a specialist that can give you the gift of returned movement would be wise.
If you’re too weak, or just not used to being here, we have the luxury of a simpler solution. Practice lots of short sets, or find a way to work on it with your feet down. Keep half the weight on your feet, get in perfect position for a few seconds and then release. Gradually switch more and more weight into your upper body until you can achieve lift off with straighter arms.
SHOULDER BLADES NOT ELEVATED – All the same as above can go wrong here. Plus it’s very common to struggle with this if you have rounded upper-back posture. The fix is to work on your posture and practice, practice, practice until your comfortable with this position. I’ve taught this to a number of personal trainers; even many of them do it wrong at first. Even many experienced trainers need to be reminded at least a few times before they get it right. Use the ‘push the bar away’ cue below and practice with focus, and you’ll get it right and life will be better (although temporarily more torturous ).
HEAD ALL OVER THE PLACE – we want our neutral spine position, chin down slightly, and then our neck should ‘disappear’ (don’t worry, it comes back). The fix is to tuck the chin, and then get perfect shoulder blade position as I typed about above.
LEGS ALL OVER THE PLACE – don’t kick your legs like a big baby, don’t cross them like you’re here to relax and don’t dangle them like you’re just chilling. Squeeze them together and get your body feeling like one unit. It will then be easier to control your body, easier to get your Abs engaged, and you will get a better stretch (and more strength) through your Lats.
T-SPINE ROUNDED – Common! People don’t move enough —> people get bad posture. Be careful if this is you. One can easily anger one’s shoulder joint while reaching one’s arms over yer ‘ead. Work on your posture, learn The Skill of Thoracic Extension and practice these very carefully.
LESS THAN A MINUTE – I usually resist mentioning standards and scale as a requirement in these, because we are all different. But, I couldn’t resist on this occasion because, for some reason, people don’t see hanging as a real exercise and tend to move on too soon. But you mustn’t as the benefits can be profound, far reaching and life changing (body changing at least). So, this month work your way all the way to one minute (or preferably 2) and then, and only then make it harder or move to the next progression.
SINK THE PELVIS – Imagine your pelvis is being sucked towards the floor by a giant hoover, or slowly downward by quicksand. This will help you to keep stretching for the duration of the hang.
PUSH THE BAR AWAY – Think your arms are straight?..Often people do, when they are not!! (THE HORROR!). If you actively push yourself away from the bar, you will get a better position – just don’t let go…
SHOW OFF YOUR ARMPITS..MASSIVE LATS! – To do this right we will be externally rotated at the shoulder joint and our Lats will look as BIG and W I D E ask they can. Show them off, and you’ll get a better position. If they are not big and wide, just pretend! Most guys do anyway, so we might as well take advantage of it! Girls, just humour me: just imagine you are showing off how tall and slim you are.
MASSIVE FOREARMS!! – Let the forearms burn – it can feel particularly ‘burnsome’ and ‘crampy’ at first, (OK, all the time) but that’s the whole point. You need strong forearms, get that mind muscle connection going, embrace the work and don’t let go.
First get to 2 minutes, then progress in any of the ways laid out in the Hanging Progression Ladder.
EVERYTHING WE DO IS DESIGNED TO GET YOU ABS!! — If you have limited time to train, but want a great body, the BEST thing you can do with your time is to work hard on a minimalist full-body strength routine, then eat for fat loss. Taking hanging seriously is an important part of that!
HANGING WILL MAKE YOU STRONG – hang well and your grip, your forearms, your Lats and your Abs will all be stimulated to adapt.
They will help your flexibility, it’s a loaded shoulder stretch, a T-Spine extender, and a chest stretcher. It will help your posture and remind you that your shoulders are designed to have a lot of flexibility and go over your head every now and then.
The Human Body Likes a hang. We evolved doing this, if we stop doing this, we may lose the capacity!
Most people are SO poor at Chin Ups. So poor it’s untrue. Sadly though, it is true. A good Chin Up takes full range of motion, real strength, shoulder blade control and quite a bit of practice. Most folk can’t do them well. If you hang around (pun unintended) near a Chin-Up bar in a busy commercial gym all day, you’ll see very few good chin ups — good Chin-Ups, sadly, are rather rare.
If you struggle with them, a good step in the right direction is to get STRONG at hanging. That strength will carry over nicely into your Chin-Ups.