Man hanging and flexing muscles

In the realm of fitness, sometimes it’s the simplest exercises that pack the most punch. Passive and active hangs are the twin pillars that not only lay the foundation but also build upon it. In this article we’ll learn how to incorporate these hangs into your routine, breathe new life into your workouts, and open doors to exercises you might not have imagined possible. With variations to keep both novices and seasoned athletes challenged, hangs can be the secret weapon in your fitness arsenal. Let´s discover all the benefits of passive and active hangs!

What you will learn in this article:

Why is hanging so important?

Hanging is a fundamental human movement and something we should all be doing regularly. It’s one of the most overlooked ways of movement and offers countless benefits with a strong carry over effect for other exercises and tasks. 

Man doing a handstand and showing the benefits of active and passive hangs

One of these benefits and in my opinion the most underrated one is the positive impact for shoulder mobility and health. Hanging regularly can not only improve overhead shoulder mobility and stability, but it’s also a very good exercise to minimize or even eliminate shoulder pain. The good thing is: hanging can be done nearly anywhere. You can do it on the pull up bar, a pair of rings, a tree branch, a beam or even a wall.

  • Hangs on Pull Up Dip System
  • Man hanging on rings in the forest

Hanging from some of these objects will challenge you the most in terms of grip, finger and forearm strength. But at the same time limits the effectiveness in other aspects. For example: If you want to focus on mobility or core and back strength it’s best to practice on a pull up bar or rings. These tools offer the best thickness to work on different aspects at once without making the grip the limiting factor. 

Different forms of hanging

Man showimg the difference between active and passive hang

In general we have to distinguish between a Passive Hang (aka the Dead Hang) and an Active Hang.

Passive Hang

Man doing a passive hang

To perform passive hanging, relax your back and shoulders. For active hanging activate the muscles in these body parts. Passive hanging is very good to improve basic grip strength. But, if done correctly, it will also decompress the spine, work on basic core stability and open your shoulders while stretching the pecs and lats. 

Passive Hangs with Tucked Knees

Man doing a passive hang with tucked knees

If you want to increase the stretch even further you should try the passive hang with tucked knees. To make the stretch work it’s very important to relax your shoulders and stay as vertical as possible with your torso.  

L-Hang Stretch

Man doing a L-Hang Stretch on rings in the forest

An even harder version of this movement is the L-Hang Stretch. This movement offers the same benefits as the previous version. Additionally it increases your abdominal activation and involving straight leg mobility at the same time.

Man doing one arm hanging

Of course you can also try one arm passive hangs. It´s useful to challenge yourself in terms of unilateral training and working against imbalances.

Man doing hangs with feet support

If you’re an absolute beginner and can’t hold yourself on the bar or if you feel very uncomfortable in the beginning, you can also do it with feet support. 

Active Hangs

Man doing active hangs

When it comes to active hanging you have countless ways to do it. Each of them has a different focus or different benefits. Active hanging is also necessary for many exercises and movements like pull ups, hanging leg and knee raises, levers, climbing and different ways of transition.

The most beginner friendly version is the regular static active hang or the dynamic version in which you switch between a passive and an active hang. Here you depress your scapula and slightly arch your lower back actively. This will nearly engage your whole posterior chain so muscles like your lower traps, erector spinae and even your glutes and hamstrings.

Archer Active Hang

  • Man doing archer hangs to show the benefits of active and passive hangs
  • Man performing archer hangs to show the benefits of active and passive hangs

Another great exercise is the archer active hang. Here you focus more on one side while the other only supports the movement.

Hanging Side Raise

Man doing hanging side raise to show the benefits of active and passive hangs

An even more advanced form of this movement is the hanging side raise. Here you shift your weight from one side to the other, while doing a lateral flexion with your spine to engage the obliques. Oh and did I mention that this exercise is actually a good way to work on the basic strength you need for the human flag?

One Arm Active Hang

  • Man doing one arm hangs to show the benefits of active and passive hangs
  • Man hanging with one arm to show the benefits of active and passive hangs

You can also do one arm active hangs and this is even necessary for learning the one arm pull up or any other one arm hanging movement. Of course you can also try different variations of one arm active hangs to improve unilateral shoulder control and stabilization. This is especially helpful for one arm pull ups or any other active one arm movement in a hanging position.

Practice your Active Hangs playing around!

  • Man hanging in a calisthenics park
  • Man hanging om bars in a park
  • Man training hangings on bars
  • Man hanging during a calisthenics training

Another great way to practice active hangs is by just playing around, best done on a wide pull up or monkey bar. You can do transitions, changing the grip, move laterally and swing. These elements are great because you practice many different abilities at once. You challenge your back and core to stabilize and control your body while working on your grip and forearm strength at the same time. This is also the most fun way to practice hanging once you’ve passed the beginners level.

How to incorporate hangs in your workout

  • People doing a group calisthenics training
  • People doing tucked hangs during a group calisthenics training

Now that we have learned all the benefits of passive and active hangs, it´s time to understand how to incorpoate them in your training. The most practical way, and this is what we do in our own workouts or calisthenics classes, is to include hanging into the warm up and/or doing it at the end as some form of finisher. For example: Just do 2-3 sets of passive to active hangs in your warm up routine or challenge yourself with a max hold at the end of your training. The more advanced you are the more you can play around with the variations and progressions. 

As mentioned, Hangs are also in our workouts. Not only will they be included in structured routines, but we will also explain how to perform them in detail and how many sets and reps to do. So they are not to be done randomly? It always depends on your goals. We work with a progressive method, keeping stimulating the body in different ways to continue to achieve more results. If you´re looking for a science-based workout that allows you to improve physically, learn new skills or train wherever you want, check out

Watch the video to learn more about hanging

Discover more about the benefits of active and passive hangs!

Follow us for more!

Scroll to Top