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As a climber I’m aware daily how much my body prefers upper body strength. But one of the coolest thing about that is that upper body strength requires middle and lower body strength, which requires a suppleness in all body tissues. So it goes without saying, I’m gonna keep loving climbing.
But how can you do the same, aside from taking up climbing of course (which is really fun and you should so try it!)?
Hanging from our hands. We all need to move ourselves toward more ideal upper body strength.
Here’s where you normally hear the whole rant about the fact you’ve years of shoulder, neck and arm tension which have created patterns of wear on your ligaments and left you with major muscle atrophy. And it’s undeniable that aesthetics is still the main driver of the fitness industry, so let’s just put here how our upper body holds up our torso (read: our abs). What about the fact that upper body suppleness holds up our head (& our pride!). And consider how much is housed in your upper body – your heart, lungs and all the connections to your brain. Pretty major.
And hanging from your hands is one of the best incidental ways to get your upper body strength back to neutral, if not kickass, daily.
One of the main reasons, and it’s not your arm strength or probable weakness in your hands (we all are to start), is to lengthen and strengthen your lats.
A classic example of the effect weak or undertrained lats can have is being hunched over, which if you drive a car, ride a bike, or sit on a bus train or ferry to work then a desk to repeat the transport posture coming home, eat dinner at the table sitting, relax watching some tv before curling up foetally in bed to sleep, that’s exactly what yours are. They’re always pulled down and shortened so hanging will lengthen and lighten them, back to your infant self. Slumping forward weakly without suppleness will inhibit your body’s efficiency to be well.
You don’t need to start like macho man in the photo holding onto rings with both legs off the floor (helmet necessary of course!). In fact you should try first with your feet on the ground! Start in your own home. A skirting board. Even a railing in the bathroom or the sink in the kitchen. Because our living room is exactly that, a room for living in, we’ve a set of pull up bars in the doorway entrance to the kitchen. (We’ve also rings hanging from a central rafter but that’s another blog post!). It makes hanging a central part of every day, or every time you remember!
Start just holding on. Lean away if you’re on a railing or at the sink. If you’re on a skirting board or pull-up bar and you’re too short like me, have a chair nearby. You want to keep your feet in contact with the ground (or chair) so you can start by introducing a load that is much less than your weight. Try hanging standing on both feet then one foot then the other, then each arm by itself and then both. You can change your grip position to palm over to palm up, one of each, narrow and wide.
As you hang, go through this check list:
*Start in your own home, hanging from a kitchen or bathroom sink or railing, or from a skirting board or pull up bar in you have one, feet on the floor. Try both feet, then one then the other, and both hands, then one and the other.
*Your shoulders do not belong near your ears. Think about relaxing them down, have someone touch your shoulder blades on your back and think about moving them down. This is the biggest anti hunching pointers you could give yourself
*Your ribs might be splaying or thrusting up to the sky. Think about relaxing and lowering them too. Think about your abs pulling them down, your breath relaxing them downward.
*arm hanging stretches one of the biggest muscle groups in your body, your lats. They link your shoulders and your hips and are more a part of core aesthetics and reflexive working than just mincing out sets and reps of crunching abs (including your back). They connect at five different points including the spine, pelvis, ribs, scapula, and upper arm so are involved in a LOT of different functions.
Good for:
Opening your chest and back
Lengthening your spine between each vertebrae (yup, you’re gonna get taller, or so I tell myself)
Pretty much reverses sitting posture
Open up slumped muscles atop lungs, heart, stomach
Entertaining you and your baby!
Get you some long strong lats, not only for developing strength, but keeping your back and shoulders healthy as well. Focus on long strong lats, and everything else will follow.
We all need to hang and swing in order to optimize our upper body’s strength to weight ratio. I’m not talking pull-ups but gradual increases in upper body usage incidentally to increase the use of more of our body parts. Spread the love I reckon; go hang from your hands on something right now.

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