Bad Back? Hang in There: The Secret Benefits of Simply Hanging
15/07/2022 | Andrew Tracey
Andrew Tracey is a long time collaborator with Bulldog Gear. A coach, writer and current fitness editor of Men’s Health Magazine, he has been in and around the fitness industry for the past 16 years. Having enjoyed and endured a number of disciplines from endurance racing, to strongman, to Crossfit AT enjoys getting neck deep in the practice just as much as the theory.
Pull-ups are cool, but have you tried jumping on the bar and just… hanging?
There are an absolute abundance of benefits to taking sometime each week (or even every day) to simply hang from a bar, not least of which is using gravity to help to decompress your spine for once- especially important if you spend a lot of time with weight on your back.
In fact, whether you’re hitting heavy back squat PB’s or sat at a desk all day, your spine is always experiencing some form of compression, taking some time to take that load off isn’t just therapeutic- helping to ease the pain of back injuries or general wear and tear- the ‘traction’ created will open up space between the vertebrae, increasing vascular flow to the area and delivering nutrient rich blood.
Just ‘dead hanging’, freely from the bar will increase your grip strength, help to improve your mobility and may aid in improving your posture, but if you take it to the next level by including ‘active hangs’- actively depressing your shoulders downwards- you’ll also build strength and stability around your shoulder girdle and upper back, helping with everything from your bench press to your front squat!
If you want to double down on the shoulder strengthening effects of hanging, then (ironically) you'll want to half the amount arms in play. Put simply- let go with one hand.
Hanging with a single arm won’t just double your grip strength building efforts as your full weight is now held in place by one hand, but without a second ‘anchor point’ to hold you steady, your shoulder joint is now free to move in all directions. Or, more accurately- it now has to actively work to hold fast and avoid the rest of your body rotating through the air like a spinning top.
Practicing holding yourself steady in space with one hand, or even actively rotating yourself round and then back again, under control, is a phenomenal way to build strength, integrity and proprioception in the shoulders.
HANG IN THERE
Want to quickly an easily build a hefty dose of hanging into your training?
Incorporate a simple hang routine into your warm-up and cool-down, and slip it into your morning routine on non-training days for extra recovery.
Give this protocol a shot-
Start a running clock and hop up on a bar or set of rings, getting a good grip and supporting your full bodyweight with straight arms in a dead hang.
Immediately let go with one hand, hanging freely with the remaining arm for thirty seconds. At the thirty second mark, switch arms and repeat, hanging from the opposite arm. At the one minute mark, re-grip and hang with both arms for a further thirty seconds. Now at around the ninety second mark- drop from the bar shake it off and rest for thirty seconds, before repeating for another round.
Complete this protocol both before and after your workout, and twice through on non-training days for a total of six minutes of hanging tough, daily.
The barbell is the quintessential tool of weight training- perhaps only superseded by the humble dumbbell- but unlike the dumbbell there are a lot of options when it comes to picking the right bar. Let us run you through some of our offerings, so you can make the right decision for your needs.