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Use Bar Hangs to Improve Grip Strength

Updated on February 24, 2014

Having problems gripping the bar for your barbell deadlifts?

What about during shrugs?

You can use a simple exercise like bar hangs to help improve your grip endurance strength and, in turn, improve your lifts.

Personally, I don't like to use lifting straps, I like to be able to lift the weight on my own and not be held back by a weak muscle. I used to have problems going up in weight with my deadlifts because my grip wasn't strong enough to last for the desired amount of repetitions I wanted to complete.

This has been a problem for me before, when I used to work as a mover. In the first week or so of starting up work, near the end of the day, my forearms would be shot and I couldn't grip anything. I'd be carrying a filing cabinet up stairs and it'd be slipping out of my grip.


Bar Hangs

Bar hangs are a perfect exercise to help you work on your grip endurance strength and they're so simple to do.

All you have to do is grab onto a pull-up bar, like you're going to do some pull-ups, and just hang for as long as you can. Don't re-grip, just hold on as long as you can with your initial grip. A pull-up bar is usually thicker than a barbell, so that will help with your grip too.

Make sure that you use an overhand grip; your palms will be facing forward.

I use a wristwatch and time myself, but you can use a clock or have someone else time you if you want. I do a few "sets" back to back to really work my endurance. And, with all forearm exercises, you should do this at the very end of your workout so that it doesn't affect your other lifts.

As your grip gives out, your fingers will be pried open just like if you were doing a deadlift, except your arms are over your head. Even if you usually use an alternated grip for your deadlifts, like I do, this will still benefit your grip.

It's been said to never let your grip hold you back in a lift, but why use straps? I hate it when I can't go up in deadlifts because of my grip, but I'd rather work on the problem than just go around it. Increasing your grip strength and endurance will help you in a number of lifts and in your daily life.

Care to Compete?

I know I'll be at a disadvantage here, but let's have a friendly competition. If you try this workout, 4 hangs back to back with no rest, then post your results in a comment and see how we compare. Don't be shy! My time will be way lower than yours since I'm doing my I-beam pull-ups beforehand. Here's what you need to post:

  • The DATE you did the workout
  • Your AGE and GENDER
  • Your HEIGHT and WEIGHT
  • Your time for each hang and if you used any weight
  • Total time for all of your hangs
  • Did you like the workout?
  • Will you do it again?

Here are my results after doing this workout the first time:

I'm a 25 year old Male, I'm almost 6'3" and I was around 243lbs when I got my best overall time. I got my best time the first time I tried these, because I couldn't do many I-beam pull-ups beforehand, on July 2nd 2007. I hung on for 30 seconds for the first time, then 20 seconds for the second hang, 15 seconds for the 3rd and 15 seconds for the 4th. So I only totaled 1 Minute 20 seconds overall. I didn't use any weight for any of my hangs. I do this workout all the time; my grip is getting stronger everyday!

I can now do 8 I-beam pull-ups in a row (8/1/07).

Come on, you can beat that!

The Workout

You can set these up any way you'd like with a number of different hangs and with different lengths of rest periods.

What I'm currently doing is 4 different hangs, one right after the other with no rest. I'll grab onto the bar, start the timer and hang on until I can't any longer. Then, when I let go, I'll stop the timer and write down my time. As soon as I have it written down, I restart the timer and start hanging again. I do this for a total of 4 hangs. I do bar hangs at the end of my workouts, 5 days a week, but you don't have to do them this often.

Since your body weight is your resistance, I set up a way to keep increasing performance. When I beat my best time in a hang by 10 seconds, I'll hang 5 lbs off my body so that I'm still getting good resistance. So let's say for my second hang I get 10 seconds longer, then, the next time I do bar hangs, just for that "set" I'll attach 5lbs to my body in some way.

You can wear a belt and hang a 5lb plate from you, drape a 5lb chain over your shoulders, wear a vest, use wrist or anklet weights, pretty much anything you want.

When you do your hang with the 5lb addition for the first time, the time you get will be your new "best time" for that hang ("set"). Once you beat that new best time by 10 seconds, you'd have to hang 10lbs off you.

Other Ways to Boost Your Grip

I also do another exercise that works my grip right before these, even though it might be overkill, I call them I-Beam Pull-ups. Can you guess why? I have a steel I-beam out in my garage that's a support on the ceiling, so there's a nice solid lip for me to grip onto. The only thing I use to hold on is from the tips of my index, middle and ring fingers to the second crease in those fingers. My pinky is only really on the I-beam up to the first crease in my finger and my thumbs don't touch it at all.

I grip onto the one lip of the I-beam like that and do 3 sets of pull-ups before I do my bar hangs. These work my finger strength and grip strength so my forearms are pretty beat when I go to do my bar hangs. They're great if you rock climb, but most people don't have an I-beam to use.

Another grip "tool" I use is the Dynaflex Pro Gyro ball. It's a fun little gadget to have. You pull on a little ripcord and get it spinning up to 9,000 RPM with 25lbs of torque. This is a lot cheaper than an I-beam I'm sure.

So if your grip is holding you back in any of your lifts; address the problem. Don't use straps to side-step around it. Having a strong grip can benefit you in many ways in and out of the gym.

What Do YOU Do To Improve Your Grip?

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    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 

      6 years ago from Nottingham UK

      I'll add single arm bar hangs are the way forward- stabilising and grip strength for more dynamic exercises like the monkey bars at Tough Mudder- its about drvelopping a strong hook grip and stable posture

    • Bendo13 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Guinter 

      9 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

      These are very simple exercises that can definitely help out, KBEvolve... I hope it helps you build up your grip!

    • KBEvolve profile image

      Kenneth Brown 

      9 years ago from United States

      I'm definitely going to give these ideas a try. I've been trying to figure out a why to significantly increase my grip strength, and this hub has been very helpful.

    • Bendo13 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Guinter 

      10 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

      Awesome! Let me know if any of my other ideas interest you, Ken. I'll have to look into getting a set of clubs myself!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Excuse me, Bendo..i didn't realise what 'hub's' were and came across this page in a search. Great 'Hub" great ideas and well written. I'm gonna check out your others. Oh yeah, The clubs definitly work grip tremendously well. if you don't already you should give it a try. Have a great day.

    • Bendo13 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Guinter 

      10 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

      Wow, those are some killer workouts, ken! You'd definitely need grip strength for those... great upper body workout all around!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Thanks, Bendo!! My favorit grip strengtheners are the mace and clubs. I've also made a Thick handle mace with a 2 inch handle as well. Here's a link. Hope your training is great..

    • Bendo13 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Guinter 

      10 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

      Those are some good times, ken! I'm sure the endurance strength will transfer over into your other lifting too... I hope you reach your goal soon!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      This is a great exercise..simple and effective. I'm 236 and I got 2 min 19 seconds with two arm hang and 39 seconds with single arm hang. I would like to beat 3 minutes soon.

    • Bendo13 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Guinter 

      11 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

      Great suggestions, Buh! I have seen many different ways to make bars thicker, including thicker bars themselves, but Fat Gripz look like a great product to add to your workout toolbox!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Another idea you touched on is to try hangs with one or two fingers removed. This improves grip endurance in a major way. One armed hangs are a great progression from there. If you haven't, try hanging on Fat Gripz for time. These nifty grips turn any exercise into a forearm workout and make hanging for time tougher. The tougher the grip, the easier heavy weight feels. Neurologically speaking, adding a thick grip is the equivalent of adding more resistance, so it can help break plateaus in the long run.

    • Bendo13 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Guinter 

      11 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

      That's interesting Trusted Marketing, but it makes sense. Holding onto your muscular strength in your later years is a very good sign.

    • Trusted Marketing profile image

      Trusted Marketing 

      11 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Worth adding that studies show a strong grip is a marker of aging well. Older folks with a weak grip are in questionable health while increasing one's grip strength is a sign of improved health.

    • Bendo13 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Guinter 

      11 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

      Thanks David! The DynaFlex ball is a really cool tool, I need to dust mine off. Don't worry, I don't squeeze too hard when I shake hands haha.

    • David R Bradley profile image

      David R Bradley 

      11 years ago from The Active Side of Infinity

      This is some good stuff on grip work. Everyone should be a little timid when shaking hands with you! I've got a DynaFlex ball myself and it really helped with some tendinitis I had a couple years back. Hanging is a regular part of my post workout routine. Nice Hub, man!

    • Research Analyst profile image

      Research Analyst 

      12 years ago

      It is a good point that you made about how bar hangs are a perfect exercise to help you work on your grip endurance and strength because it is easily overlooked because it focuses more on stretching the muscle and improve atheletes lifts. good work!

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      My times are 2:03 1:20 0:55 0:45.

      I have been doing these for 6 months now but have not really improved (first time ever was 1:53)

    • mo30dc profile image


      12 years ago

      hey great hub by the way, good to see a different approach to a very common problem. personally i use grip strength training and wrist exercises for my MMA and grapling training as its vital to be able to control your opponents wrists (for submission holds etc)

      I've been doing bar hangs for a while and must say they are probably one of my favorite type of grip strength exercises as they use your body as the resistance and that is always the best way as you're power to weight ratio stays intact.

      keep up the good work


    • Bendo13 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Guinter 

      12 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

      Glad to see they helped you thankful! My grip always held my deadlifts back a little.. now I don't notice it as much either

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      i can just say thank you... it is kinda obvious but i hadn't thought about hanging... it sure has helped me eith the grip... grip is no longer problem on chin-up's or deadlifts...

    • Bendo13 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Guinter 

      13 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado

      Great job Ripped! Keep at it!

      TheKnow that's a good idea once you can support your bodyweight this way. Be sure to stretch so that you don't hurt your shoulder if you want to try 1 arm hangs. I've tried it a few times myself and it really is quite the grip workout.

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      Try 1 arm hangs to increase resistance. ;)

    • spedia profile image


      13 years ago from Poland

      Really nice! :)

      Your informations will help me in my Rock Climbing Training.

      I use bar hangs just likee You.

      Also pls see my hub if you interest in:

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      January 12th/08 I am a 15 year old male I am 5'11'' and 155 lbs I used no weight... 1st attempt: 57 seconds, 2nd:33 seconds, 3rd: 27 seconds 4th: 20 seconds 2:17...2 minutes 17 seconds yes, i could definatly fell the burn in my forearms and my shoulders a bit too i will do it again and again, im going to stretch more first, to improve my times


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