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Dead Hang: How To, Benefits, Muscles Worked & Variations

dead hang exercise

Ever do an exercise without moving? Sounds appealing, right? 

With the dead hang exercise, by literally just hanging from a pull-up bar, you can get loads of benefits, such as: 

- Decompressing the spine 

- Stretching your lats 

- Improving your grip strength 

 Today, I’ll cover: 

- How to perform a dead hang

- All the amazing benefits 

- Muscles worked during a dead hang 

- Variations

- FAQs about the dead hang exercise 

Okay, let’s hang. 


Dead Hang How To 

The dead hang is simple. You won’t need a ton of workout or gym equipment. 

Here’s how to dead hang in 7 steps: 

1) Place a box or bench underneath a pull-up bar. 

2) Step up onto the box or bench, and with your hands shoulder-width apart, grab the pull-up bar with an overhand grip. 

3) Take your feet off the box or bench underneath you. You can just bend your legs up, or you can use your feet to slide the box or bench away from you. 

4) Now, with your feet off the support beneath you, allow your body to hang–fully supported by your hands on the bar. 

5) Your arms should be fully extended, and your core and glutes should engage for support. 

6) Hold for 10-90 seconds–depending on your comfort level. 

7) Release, and repeat for 2-3 sets. 

Dead Hang How To: Pro Tips! 

dead hang how to

I told you it was simple. That’s the beauty of the dead hang. Without having to move a ton, you’re still really getting a great stretch in your back and working on your grip strength! 

But just because it’s simple doesn’t mean you can ignore form. 

Here are some pro tips to help you get the most bang for your buck when you perform a dead hang exercise. 

Don’t Jump! 

Kind of the whole point of a dead hang is taking it easy. So, if you jump up to grab the pull-up bar like you would when doing a pull-up, you actually prevent some of the spinal decompressing benefits from kicking in. That’s because jumping will actually tense up your spine and back instead of helping it relaaaxxxx

Instead, use a box or bench to help assist you on the way up. 

Chill Out

You may be used to going hard and pushing it at the gym, but wouldn’t it be nice to just chill out for a bit? With the dead hang, you can calm the f down while still taking care of your body. It’s a win-win. 

BUT in order to make this happen, you’re gonna want to physically relax your body and literally let it hang. The magic with the dead hang exercise happens when you physically relax into the stretch. 

Keep Your Feet Up

If you’re too tall, and your feet end up touching the ground as you hang from the pull-up bar, this will also minimize some of the stretching benefits you’ll get from a dead hang. 

Keep those feet up no matter what–even if it means bending your knees a bit to keep them off the floor. 

Incrementally Increase the Timing 

When first getting started with the dead hang, just feel it out with timing. If it feels very uncomfortable and your grip strength is weak sauce (no judgment!), just start with 10-second holds

But once you get more comfortable, incrementally increase your timing. Once you’ve made it up to 90 seconds, you can know you’re the dead hang master! 

Use As a Cool Down

Wondering where to add a dead hang into your workout routine? 

Adding dead hangs after a lift can provide a great stretch and relief for the muscles you engaged during the exercise. If there was any compression that happened during the workout, the dead hang can counteract any of those effects. 

8 Dead Hang Benefits 

Now let’s dive in to 8 dead hang benefits and why you should add the dead hang exercise to your workout routine today

Dead Hang Benefits #1: Decompresses Your Spine 

Think of it: is there anything you do during the day that actually stretches out your spine? 

Let’s be honest. Our backs and spines get a ton of wear and tear on them. We’re either on our feet all day at work–or sitting at a computer–and neither option necessarily does our backs any favors. 

Plus, when we go to the gym, many of the exercises we complete–while still good–do serve as compressive forces on our spine–such as: 

- Running

- Squatting

- or Deadlifting

Even walking can serve as a minimal compressive force on the spine. So, how do we take good care of our spines? 

- Deep Tissue Massage: through devices like the QL Claw  

- Back-strengthening exercises: Check out our Back of Steel, Back Strengthening Program HERE

- Stretching the spine out through decompression. 

The dead hang is the perfect exercise to use for spinal decompression because it gives the disks in your spine some room to breathe and get back to their normal status quo AKA their normal, de-compressed length. [1] 

Interested in learning more about back stretches that work? Check out our videos below, and while you’re at it, subscribe to our YouTube channel

Thoracic Spine Mobility Exercises 


3 Stretches For Lower Back Pain Relief INSTANTLY (3 Hacks)

Dead Hang Benefits #2: Improve Your Grip Strength 

It’s like in the movies when the main character falls off a cliff and gets caught at the last minute by their friend–or maybe even their enemy. 

In that moment, they struggle to hang on, and you think: Geeze, could it really be that hard

Well, my friend: Try a dead hang, and you might stop judging those movie characters. Although, we could probably still judge them for how easily they tend to fall off cliffs. 

Grip strength is hard. 

And if you’d like to improve it, it’ll take some practice of purposeful moves, such as the dead hang

Grip strength has been shown to be an indicator of someone’s overall health, linking to other factors, such as upper limb function, bone mineral density, and risk for fractures. [2] [3] 

And not only that–having a stronger grip strength will help you with those lifts during the week–strengthening you to lift to your max! 

Dead Hang Benefits #3: Get Bigger Forearms 

Speaking of grip, when you hang on to that pull-up bar during a dead hang exercise, you are working those forearm muscles–potentially gaining mass in this area of your body without having to lift a thing. 

Dead Hang Benefits #4: Strengthen Your Lower Traps 

This often-forgotten muscle gets ignored in the gym, but it has a lot to do with neck posture, strength, and stability–especially in your shoulders. Strengthening your lower traps has a ton of benefits, including: 

- Muscular balance 

- Avoiding rounded shoulders & shoulder impingement 

- Getting a Thicker Back 

Dead Hang Benefits #5: Stretch Those Lats 

Unlike lower traps, lats are a go-to for back exercises, and they’re great because they can really add thickness and definition to the sides of your back. 

All that work can tend to put a strain on the muscle. The dead hang really gives your lats a good stretch–perfect for after a good back workout. 

Dead Hang Benefits #6: Improve Your Posture

Check your posture right now. 

Chances are–you’re leaning forward to look at either your computer screen or your mobile phone. 

That’s no judgment against you. It’s literally what happens to everyone as we go about our days: 

- looking at our phones

- checking our emails

- sitting at desks

- slouching on the couch

Gravity works against us, and as we already established, our spines get compressed. 

A dead hang does the exact opposite to your body: it stretches and elongates the spine–promoting better posture! 

Dead Hang Benefits #7: Relieve Shoulder Pain 

Got a little pinch in your shoulder? 

I already mentioned that the dead hang helps strengthen your lower traps, which is a muscle that often gets ignored during workouts. But the thing is: Weak lower traps can cause shoulder pain. 

Strengthen your lower traps, and you fortify yourself against shoulder pain.

Dead hangs can even help with rotator cuff injuries!  

Dead Hang Benefits #8: Go Ape With Your Pull-Ups 

We already discussed that grip strength is hard. 

Add some movement to that, and you’ve got the challenging exercise that is the pull-up. When I first started doing pull-ups, I felt like I could keep pushing, but it was my grip strength that stopped me from continuing the exercise. 

So building up grip strength with exercises like the dead hang is a perfect way to prime yourself for killer pull-ups! 

On top of that, the dead hang exercise and pull-up work very similar muscles. 

Dead Hang Muscles Worked 

dead hang benefits

Speaking of muscles worked, let’s get into the specifics of which muscles you’ll feel working as you hang out on your favorite pull-up bar. 

- Forearms 

- Hand and Wrist Flexors 

- Shoulders 

- Traps 

- Lats 

- Anterior Deltoids 

- Posterior Deltoids 

- Rhomboids 

- Core   

- Glutes 

- Quads 

Dead Hang Variations 

Need a larger goal in mind? These variations might make you cry a little, but accomplish these and you’ll really feel how far you came–from not knowing anything about dead hangs to mastering these challenging variations.  

Active Hang 

In technical terms, we’ve been talking about the passive dead hang. And that’s because it’s a passive move, emphasizing stretching rather than muscle activation. 

But if you’re looking to switch it up or get a little crazy, you might consider the active hang! 

This move is another great prep exercise for getting in good pull-ups. 

How to Perform the Active Dead Hang: 

1) Same start as the regular, passive dead hang. Grab on to a pull-up bar with a neutral grip. 

2) Then, just like you would in a passive dead hang, allow your body to fully hang and stretch from the bar. 

3) After this, retract and activate your shoulders, pulling your shoulder blades down. When you do this, your arms should remain fully extended, but your shoulders will no longer be up by your ears. Instead, they’ll move down as you engage them. 

One-Handed Dead Hang 

This one’s really moving it up a level! If you’re feeling strong from all the dead hangs you’ve added in to your routine, try it one-handed! 

This puts extra emphasis on the lats, giving the specific lat you’re targeting an even more focused stretch!  

Suicide Grip Dead Hang 

Feel like you’ve mastered grip strength? 

Take it up a notch by changing your grip to a suicide grip–which just means thumbless. You’ll instantly feel the move get more difficult, and your grip strength will continue to improve! 


Massage Your Back While Hanging At Home 

Let’s face it: We could all do a better job taking care of our backs and spines. 

If daily back pain nags you during the day, decompressing your back through dead hangs is just one way you can prioritize keeping a healthy spine. There are several ways to prioritize your back health, and one of the most effective methods is deep tissue massage. 

But if your back tends to act up like mine does, going for massages every time your back feels wonky could potentially break the bank. 

That’s why we created the QL Claw

It’s the only at-home massage device that: 

- Eliminates pain-causing trigger points from all 5 muscles responsible for lower back pain. 

- Provides full-muscle therapeutic lower-back massage right from your home. 

- Releases knots and trigger points in your:  

          Lower back


          Hip flexors 

See what people are saying about the QL Claw: 

back massage device
QL Claw
QL Claw

Check out more info about the QL Claw in the video below:


Or to see what this thing is capable of, click HERE for product info! 

Dead Hang FAQs

What does dead hang do to your body?

The dead hang decompresses your spine, stretching out your spine and providing room for your intervertebral disks to return to their normal shape. It also counteracts many of the compressive forces of our everyday lives, such as walking, running, sitting, and lifting. 

How long should I do a dead hang for?

Start with whatever feels comfortable to you–trying to hang on for at least 10 seconds. Then, slowly increase your time to holding for 60-90 seconds. 

Is a 1 minute dead hang good?

Yep! You can even go longer–90 seconds is advanced! 

Do dead hangs improve posture?

Absolutely, the dead hang helps improve your posture by stretching and elongating the spine, working against poor postural habits that happen with sitting at a desk or craning your neck forward to look at your phone. 

Do dead hangs actually decompress your spine?

Yes, the dead hang is no joke! It’s a great spinal decompression exercise, and the best part is–you don’t even have to move to perform this exercise. 


Now that you've learned how to do dead hangs, check out our page on vertical pull exercises!





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