Hanging for Health: Why You Should Hold a Hang
I first became intrigued with the hang while reading Glenn Doman's work, including How Smart is Your Baby. While that book impacted how I look at child development in many ways, his approach to the hang is incredible. He initially used the technique to help develop lung capacity in children with cerebral palsy, asthma and other breathing or rib cage problems. I now use it in my practice for both children and adults for many reasons. Here is why you should practice and master hanging on the bar for 40 seconds.
There are many reasons why testing your ability to hang is important. It shows whether or not you have full range of motion of your shoulders. You might be amazed at how many patients I have who do not have this critical ability. The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body and very prone to injury. We use them all of the time! Maintaining range of motion is imperative for health. But, range of motion is only one piece of the puzzle. Strength is also very important. And hanging forces you to utilize both at the same time. It is also an easy way to improve grip strength. Grip strength seems to correlate with overall health. Even more interestingly, grip strength has been shown to be inversely associated with depression in people over 60. Amazing!
Hanging can also relieve low back pain. Similar to the use of an inversion table to allow gravity to create space in the spine, hanging does the same. In fact, if you have lot back pain, it might trigger some pain at first (be careful!).
Hanging for an extended time forces you to really use your diaphragm and rib cage to breathe. Most of us are shallow breathers. When you hang, breathe through your nose and try to relax. You will feel your rib cage and diaphragm expand.
While you will find lots of articles and anecdotal evidence for hanging and shoulder rehab and low back pain reduction, the research isn't really there yet - at least I couldn't find much. However, there is this book by orthopedic surgeon, Dr. John Kirsch. I do see the benefits of it in children and adults every week in my practice. You can start with simply stretching overhead on the wall or hooking your fingers on the top of a door frame and stretching there. Once you're ready to hang, start slooooow. One second, 10 seconds, etc and work your way to 40 seconds over time. You can hang at the park, at the gym or snag yourself one of the bars for a doorway in your house.
This skill is also part of my 5 Measurable Fitness Tests to Determine Your Health. 40 seconds is what the Brockport Physical Fitness Test recommends.
For more info on this and to learn how to successfully ease into the full hang, go check out Katy Bowman's article Hanging and Swinging 101. She's one of my faves when it comes to functional movement.