By Jennifer Drummond, ND
This past year my friend and I have been hanging out quite a bit. I mean, literally hanging out. She got me into hanging on the monkey bars at lunch. According to her mother, just by simply hanging from the bars for 10 – 20 seconds, you start to build up the muscles in your shoulders, arms and back.
My friend’s mother’s insight about hanging stems from her training as a therapeutic yoga instructor. In her strength training programs, as well as her own practice with her students, she has learned that hanging can help speed up the recovery of shoulder injuries. By hanging, you are allowing gravity to naturally align your shoulders, as well as providing signals to your elbows, wrists, fingers and hands to strengthen and come into alignment. This is great for all that computer work or tension that we put into our shoulders and neck when stressed. It is also great for low back pain as it takes the pressure off of your spine by using gravity to give you a good stretch.
Seemed simple enough and I’m always game to try something new, so I started. For the first few weeks, we’d just hang for up to 20 second spurts and do that a number of times before we ate lunch in the park. My friend and I both found our hands were the first things to give up as the bar would hurt our palms. So, after investing 15 dollars into some work-out gloves, we started hanging longer and even began to attempt chin-ups. I admit these little black gloves made me feel more tough and I was amazed I could do five after a few weeks of hanging. My maximum back in university was only half a chin-up, much to the disappointment of my hockey coach.
Now with our cool gloves, we started eyeing the monkey bars. My daughters can easily do the monkey bars at their school, which I have always admired. As a kid, I didn’t have monkey bars around to practice on and to be honest, when I did come across them occasionally, I had no interest. But, most likely it was because I found them too hard to do and really preferred the swings and other easy playground activities.
But now with all of this hanging under my belt, I decided to go for the full-on monkey bars. With some grunting, I did it for the first time successfully this spring. I can’t say that I love this exercise while I’m doing it in the moment, but it does feel great afterwards. It also helps to do this with my accomplice to keep me motivated.
And while hanging has been a great experience for me, I do recommend to start slowly. If it’s been a long time since you’ve attempted any hanging, first begin with your feet on the ground and over time move to higher bars. Also, please make sure you consult your health care expert if hanging would be a good idea for you.