Although I eventually mastered the ability to perform bodyweight pull-ups, the exercise certainly didn’t come as easily to me as any other bodyweight exercise or even most strength training exercises for that matter.
The dead hang exercise can be a great training tool to get you ready to tackle full pull-ups, and I certainly spent a lot of time hanging from the pull-up bar and trying to improve my dead hang time as I was building up the strength for real pull-ups.
So, what is a good dead hang time for women and for men? How long should beginners be able to dead hang? What is the average dead hang time?
In this guide, we will discuss how to do dead hangs, good hang times based on fitness level and sex, and how dead hangs can help you master pull-ups.
Let’s jump in!
What Are Dead Hangs?
Dead hangs have an ominous sound, so if you are unfamiliar with dead hanging as an exercise, you might be wary of improving your dead hang time.
Dead hangs, or dead hanging, is an exercise that involves holding on to the pull-up bar with your arms extended and feet off the floor and then supporting your hanging body with your grip and upper body muscles.
Dead hangs are a static exercise with no movement, so they can be equated to an isometric exercise like an abdominal plank.
In other words, with dead hanging, you are not trying to lift your body up over the bar as you do with pull-ups or chin-ups; you are just hanging in the end position with the bar overhead and your body down below.
If you have never tried a dead hang workout, this may sound pointless and quite easy, but holding your body up with your grip strength can get tiring.If you have ever tried a plank before, you are probably well aware that an exercise could be tiring even if no movement is occurring because your muscles still have to create tension to support your body weight.
This is why building endurance in the muscles worked by dead hangs, especially the grip muscles in your forearms and fingers, will help you not only improve your dead hang time but also eventually your ability to do pull-ups and other exercises that require good grip strength.
One of the benefits of dead hanging for longer durations is that it builds muscular strength and endurance in the key wrist, hand, and finger flexor muscles for grip strength.
Good grip strength is crucial for pull-ups, deadlifts, and other heavy lifts. Plus, studies have found that poor grip strength may even be a risk factor for decreased mobility later in life.
Note that if you have an existing shoulder injury, elbow injury, or injury to the wrist or hands, you should not perform dead hangs.
Similarly, if you have chronic shoulder instability or a history of problems in your upper body joints, you should work with a physical therapist or certified personal trainer before practicing dead hangs.
How Do You Do a Dead Hang?
Before we look at what a good dead hang time is for men vs women and the average dead hang time based on fitness level, let’s briefly cover how to perform a dead hang.
Performing a dead hang is fairly straightforward, yet it is still important to use the right dead hanging technique so that the exercise is maximally effective.
Using the correct dead hang technique is especially important if you are doing dead hanging workouts to progress to pull-ups.
Here are the steps for how to do a dead hang from a pull-up bar:
How To Perform A Dead Hang
- Place a step, bench, or plyo box underneath a secure overhead pull-up bar if you can’t reach it without simply raising your arms up. You do not want to have to jump up into a dead hang in the way that you might for pull-ups or chin-ups.
- Use a pull-up grip (overhand or pronated, so that your palms are facing away from you) to grab onto the bar, positioning your hands about shoulder-width apart.
- Remove your feet from the step, box, or bench so you’re hanging on to the bar with your arms fully extended. If the bar is too low so that your feet are touching the ground, bend your knees 90° so that your shins and feet are behind your body.
- Try to keep your upper body relatively relaxed, but engage your core and glutes for stability. make sure to keep your shoulders level and your back upright. Your head and neck should also be neutral; don’t rely on one arm more than the other or tilt in one direction based on your dominant side as you fatigue.
- Hang onto the bar for your desired length of time or however long you can dead hang without losing your grip or allowing your form to break down.
- Carefully hop down or step back onto your step or box if it’s within reach when you are done.
- Complete multiple sets, if possible.
What’s A Good Hang Time? Average Hang Times By Age, Sex, and Fitness Level
Although dead hanging workouts are popular, even among strength athletes who can already do pull-ups, there aren’t any official dead hang standards or dead hang time norms based on age, sex, or fitness level.
As with almost every strength exercise, we can say that a good dead hang time for men will be longer than a good dead hang time for women of equal fitness levels because men have a higher strength ratio relative to body weight than women.
These tendencies in better average dead hang time for males vs females are due to a greater percentage of lean body mass in males vs females.
Similarly, a good dead hang time for seniors will be shorter than a good hang time for men or women in their 20s, 30s, or 40s.
Strength declines with age due to age-related (sarcopenia), changes in hormonal profile, and lifestyle differences, among other factors.
A good hang time by body weight will also vary.
Ultimately, dead hanging is an example of an exercise that is all about relative strength, meaning your dead hang ability is dependent upon how strong you are relative to your own body weight.
Relative strength exercises are in contrast to absolute strength, which simply refers to the maximum amount of weight you can lift for an exercise, also known as your 1RM.
Therefore, a good dead hang time by body weight won’t demonstrate meaningful trends in the way that a good hang time by body composition probably would.
In general, you will have a higher relative strength to bodyweight ratio if you have a lower body fat percentage, and a higher percentage of lean body mass.
We might find that someone who weighs 120 pounds has a much shorter dead hang time than someone who weighs 270 pounds if the heavier person has a much higher percentage of muscle mass and more training.
On the other hand, if the person who weighs 270 pounds has morbid obesity based on their height and a very high body fat percentage, while the 120-pound individual is lean, toned, and strong relative to their size, the lighter person may have a much better dead hang time.
Finally, it should go without saying that the more trained you are, particularly if you practice dead hang workouts, you will have a better average dead hanging time.
It is expected that the average dead hanging time for beginners will be appreciably shorter than the average dead hang time for a competitive bodybuilder or even a consistent recreational weightlifter.
Here are some guidelines for good hang times based on fitness level:
Good Dead Hang Times
- Beginners: Anything over 10-15 seconds
- Intermediate Athletes: Anything over 60-90 seconds
- Advanced Athletes: Anything over 2 to 3 minutes
- Elite Athletes: Anything over 3 to 5 minutes
The reason for the ranges here for good dead hanging times is because there aren’t any official standards so we really can’t be exact with what constitutes a good or average dead hang time by fitness level.
Plus, a good dead hang time for women vs men is likely shorter, so women can use the lower end of those average dead hanging times and men can shoot for the upper end.
Overall, regularly incorporating dead hangs into your workout routine, along with other exercises that strengthen the muscles used during pull-ups—including lat pull-downs, rows, reverse flys, and face pulls—can be an effective way to work towards being able to do pull-ups.1Sanchez-Moreno, M., Pareja-Blanco, F., Diaz-Cueli, D., & González-Badillo, J. J. (2016). Determinant factors of pull-up performance in trained athletes. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 56(7-8), 825–833. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26176615/
If you are working toward bodyweight pull-ups, we have a plan for you! Click here for our guide, Pull Up Workout Plan For Beginners: The 8 Best Exercises To Get You There.
- 1Sanchez-Moreno, M., Pareja-Blanco, F., Diaz-Cueli, D., & González-Badillo, J. J. (2016). Determinant factors of pull-up performance in trained athletes. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 56(7-8), 825–833. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26176615/