The dead hang saga continues…
It’s been over a month since starting out on the dead hang protocol.
I originally started out with the intent of altering my shoulder anatomy as a means to “fix” an old shoulder injury of mine. The promises behind the protocol seemed like voodoo, but its logic was promising.
The prospects of having an un-destroyed shoulder was exciting.
In my first week of hanging, I completed 6 sets of minute-long dead hangs from a pull-up bar. By my 4th week, I was hitting 10 minutes daily.
So Far, I’m Unsatisfied with My Dead Hang Results…
After one month I have yet to see any difference whatsoever in how my shoulder feels.
It still clunks around when I bench press or raise it out to the side. Impingement’s still there. I’m still pissed.
I understand that one month is a relatively short amount of time, but I would’ve liked to see some kind of changes – anything, really. But besides much improved grip strength and endurance, and some thicker calluses, I haven’t seen any positive results in my shoulder.
Even today, which is 6-7 weeks since starting out, there’s still no difference in my shoulders.
A Potential Problem: Many Shoulder Issues Are Not Addressed by Dead Hangs
So, the whole deal with hanging from a bar is that it presses your arm bone against your acromion, supposedly flattening out the bone and opening up some space for your rotator cuff to move freely. This is important, because a bent or hooked acromion can catch on the rotator cuff, causing snapping and impingement. Impingement, of course, is bad, and can cause pain and damage.
But what about other things, such as weakness or tightness, that may contribute to shoulder issues? Some of these include:
- The inability to upwardly rotate the shoulder blades,
- Lack of external or internal rotation in either shoulder,
- Rotator cuff weakness,
- Lower trapezius and rear delt weakness,
- Lack of full shoulder extension or flexion,
- Lack of t-spine extension.
Let’s address them one by one and see if dead hangs correct them.
The inability to upwardly rotate the shoulder blades: The serratus anterior, AKA the riblets, and the upper and lower traps, fire in unison to upwardly rotates the scaps. The the dead hang has nothing to do with these muscles, although fully relaxing into a hang should force the shoulder blades into the upwardly rotated position. Even then, it doesn’t teach the body to perform this movement pattern anyway. NOT CORRECTED.
Lack of external or internal rotation in either shoulder: Rotation of the shoulder is the ability to turn your arm/shoulder like a door knob. The dead hang doesn’t involve rotation, unless you consciously turn your elbows in or out while hanging from the bar. NOT CORRECTED.
Rotator cuff weakness: The rotator cuff muscles are responsible for creating external and internal rotation. During the hang, gravity is trying to rip your arms out of the so-called shoulder “socket”. Beides the joint capsule passively preventing this, the rotator cuff may also bear some of the load, possibly leading to a strengthening effect. MAYBE CORRECTED.
Lower trapezius and rear delt weakness: The lower traps and rear delts are sometimes too weak in comparison to other upper body muscles, leading to shoulder issues. In a dead hang, these muscles are pretty much relaxed. NOT CORRECTED.
Lack of full shoulder extension or flexion: Sometimes, people can’t get their arms all the way overhead (full flexion) or back behind their torsos (full extension). Hanging requires full flexion, thus would force the shoulder to become capable of doing that through stretching. Since extension is the opposite movement, it isn’t affected by hanging. CORRECTED – flexion only.
Lack of t-spine extension: most people sit hunched over a desk all day. This causes their upper backs (or thoracic spines) to become tight and unable to straighten out (or extend). Gravity makes it hard to round the upper back during the dead hang, so it should probably help with tightness. CORRECTED.
Dead hangs may not be the end-all be-all. Sure, if my acromion is hooked, it should still help remodel the bone/joint, but I may still have other underlying issues. I can hang all I want, but the other issues will still need to be corrected if I want my shoulders to be healthy.
Shoulder Extension – An Important Mobility Requirement for Bench Pressing?
In the descent of the bench press, the arms must come past the torso a bit. This is shoulder extension.
One thing that I’ve always noticed when I bench press, besides the obvious clicking and impingement, is that I feel a lot of tightness and inflexibility when I descend the bar and go into extension.
If I grab my hands together behind my back, squeeze my shoulder blades together, keep my elbows locked, and try to lift my hands away from my back … my hands don’t go anywhere. That’s how tight my shoulders are.
Meanwhile, most folks I know, who also bench press pain free, can do this same “handcuffed” motion and get their hands a few inches away from their backs.
I may have been barking up the wrong tree. Dead hangs may still have a ton of value for preserving shoulder health, but it seems like I need to work on other issues. Namely, shoulder extension.
I’ll still maintaining some hanging throughout the week, but cut the volume down by quite a bit.
More updates to come!