I do really think that playing is the quickest way to getting strong. Trying to achieve a particular outcome in an quick-paced and competitive environment forces you to get creative. Many of our playground catching games saw us racing across the monkey bars, hanging and swinging, taunting the catcher to come get us. Why is it that in the world of fitness and body sculpting, we have neglected the hanging? Isn’t it the first step to performing a pull up – being able to hold your own bodyweight?
Lose the lazy grip
First, grip the bar with the thumb around and under it. This gives you an active hang where you’re using the muscles in your arm to control your movement, and you’re not just left hanging. The active grip also allows also for a more comfortable hold, control over transferable strength, and also is good prevention over potential finger injuries.
Strong, straight arm
Get a strong, straight arm in your hang. You want to have an active hang where your head doesn’t disappear into your shoulders. The straight arm forces you to use your arm muscles to hold up your body instead of just relying on your fingers to do the work. Your shoulders should also be pushed down, away from your ears – to get a strong clean active hang line.
Hang, not swing
Squeeze your glutes to prevent your body from going side to side and swinging frantically. If you are starting out and working your way up to a minute’s long static active hang, find a step that allows you to step up to grip both hands on the pull up bar without having to jump up to the bar. This will prevent the swinging if you are not able to have much static control yet.
How long for?
Work up to a minute, then to two. Start in small sets of 10 seconds, doing 6 of those to get up to a minute each time. Start with a passive hang (relaxing the shoulders) if you don’t feel yet comfortable with an active hang, but remember to keep your thumbs around and under the bar, keep your breathing steady and consciously send the message to keep your body stiff and not swinging.