A blog by runners. For runners.

“Hang” out: how hanging can help relieve back pain in runners

The benefits of hanging for runnersRunning is a tough sport, not only physically and mentally but also on the joints and muscles. So it’s no surprise many runners suffer from back pain, especially in the lower back. There are many exercises you can try to relieve and decompress the back but if nothing is working, you’re short on time, or you simply want to try something new, try hanging out for a while – literally.

Hanging involves dangling from a pull-up bar to decompress the spine. It’s frequently used in gymnastics, rock climbing, and parkour but is virtually unheard of outside of those sports – which is a shame because it’s incredibly easy and feels really, really good.

Hanging release back, shoulder, and neck tension and has a host of other potential benefits, including:

  • Improving your grip strength, which seems like an odd thing to want to improve, but is hugely important for being able to perform other strength-training exercises that involve pulling and lifting.
  • Increasing shoulder, elbow, and wrist strength – again very helpful for strength work, but also for overall health and mobility.
  • Improving range of motion in the upper body through the stretch in the back and shoulders.
  • A precursor to pulling motions, like pull-ups and chin-ups, which is perfect for runners who often lack upper-body strength and want to get a bit more balanced out.

How to hang

  1. Find your spot: Hanging, by definition, requires a stable structure to hang from. This can be a pull-up bar – either at your gym or one you install in your doorway –, gymnastics rings, monkey bars, etc. – basically anything you can find to grip onto.
  2. Hang: Simply grab the bar or rings and let your body hang. Now bring your shoulders down from your ears. Tighten your core and stretch your legs down, keeping your head straight. Stay there for as long as you can. Don’t be surprised if you can only hold the stretch for a few seconds at first – it’s harder than it seems. You will build up the strength to hold on longer over time.
  3. Make it part of your day: Experts recommend doing this stretch on a regular basis throughout the day, basically as often as you can for about a minute at a time – or however long you can hold on for. Make it part of your daily routine for optimal back and upper body health.
  4. Start slow: if you have ever had any kind of shoulder injury, be very careful with this stretch, which places a lot of pressure on the upper body. Don’t overdo it, go slow, and stop if you feel any pain.
  5. Try going upside-down: This is a more advanced version of the hanging stretch, but lots of people swear by gravity boots which you hook onto a pull-up bar, inversion tables or supine back-stretchers. If simply hanging isn’t quite doing it for you, it might be worth your while to consider one of these other tools.

Hanging is an easy stretch that can have many benefits if you suffer from back pain or discomfort. Give it a try the next time you’re at the gym (or the playground) and let us know what you think!

Written by Varia Makagonova.