Last updated on September 18th, 2022 at 10:40 am
The 2-Minute Dead Hang Challenge has been all the rage for a number of years now.
And if you’ve ever attempted the challenge you’ll know just how hard it is.
Fairs, festivals, parks, and beaches all over the world typically offer a prize, say $100-$200, if anyone is able to hang from a bar for at least 2 minutes.
However, you know as well as me that most organisers keep their money, and even make a profit from the many failed attempts.
So, allow me to explain why the 2-Minute Dead Hang Challenge is so hard and how you can potentially beat it.
Why is the 2-Minute Dead Hang Challenge So Hard?
One of the main reasons that the 2-Minute Dead Hang Challenge is so hard is that the bar rotates. Basically, it’s a bar with ball bearings that will rotate under your weight. Furthermore, the bar is typically 1.5 inches in diameter, which is probably much thicker than you’re used to. Plus, don’t forget, the more you weigh, the harder you’ll find the 2-Minute Dead Hang Challenge.
1. The “Moving” Bar For the Dead Hang Challenge
So, as you’re probably aware, the aim is to dead hang from a bar for 2 minutes.
With that being said, there are various challenges which only require you to dead hang for 100 seconds (1 minute 40 seconds).
And of course, if you complete the challenge you’ll typically win a prize, say $100-$200.
However, very few people, if any, manage to complete the challenge.
The number one reason for this is that you’re in for a surprise when you grab the bar – it moves.
Basically, you have a bar that is self-turning due to the use of ball bearings.
So, even if you make the tiniest of movements the bar will turn, thus making it even more difficult to grip.
I know many people have labelled this a “scam”, as they feel that everything is in the organiser’s favour.
But, then again, why wouldn’t they stack the odds ever so slightly against you?
I mean, who wants to be giving out $100 every two minutes, it just doesn’t make sense.
Something else you’ll probably notice is that the bar is much thicker than a standard pull up bar.
In fact, for the vast majority of 2-minute dead hang challenges you’ll be using a bar with an approximate diameter of 1.5 inches.
2. How Much Do You Weigh?
Something else to consider is that something like a “dead hang challenge” isn’t all about strength.
Yes, of course, you’ll require a certain amount of strength to even just grip a bar and hold on for even 20-30 seconds.
However, how much you weigh will have a massive impact.
Basically, the heavier you are, the harder the challenge will be.
This is much the same as performing pull ups.
Although not always the case, someone who is lighter will typically be able to crank out many more reps than a heavier person.
Why Are Pull Ups So Hard to Progress?
Don’t forget for both pull ups and a dead hang challenge you are also fighting against the forces of gravity.
In fact, most women seem to do much better than men when it comes to the dead hang.
Without wishing to be stereotypical, in the vast majority of cases this is due to women weighing less (once more, I understand this isn’t always the case).
3. Use the “Grease the Groove” Technique
Now, if you really want to get one over on the organisers of the 2-minute dead hang challenge there are a few things you can do.
One of the best ways to achieve this is through constant practice using the Grease the Groove method.
This is a form of training first introduced by Pavel Tsatouline, although it was more specifically geared towards increasing pull ups.
Pavel named this The Russian Fighter Pull Up Program.
However, you can use the exact same principle when it comes to improving your dead hang time.
Basically, this involves practicing a specific movement multiple times a day, but without ever reaching failure.
So, in effect, you would perform the dead hang 5-10 times a day, but for nowhere near to the 2-minute mark.
Obviously, you will require constant access to a pull up bar.
So, as an example, you would perform ten 30-second dead hangs on day one.
You would then increase one of your ten “sets” to say, 40 seconds the next day, while all your other “sets” remain at 30 seconds.
And you continue each day by increasing the time for one set at a time.
What happens here is that your body adapts and builds up a tolerance to the movement you’re performing.
So, in effect, you get better-and-better at the movement.
What you’ll generally find is, after a few days off when you’ve finished doing this for 30 days, is that your dead hang time will substantially increase.
4. Practice the Dead Hang Challenge With Cloths
Once you’ve started your Grease the Groove training you can actually kick it up a notch or two by almost replicating the 2-minute dead hang challenge.
Obviously having access to a thicker and self-turning bar would be great, but this isn’t always feasible.
So, instead you can actually place a couple of cloths/towels over the bar and then place your hands on them.
Not only does this make the bar slightly thicker, but with every tiny movement you make the cloths will typically move.
So, this makes it much easier to mimic what you’ll be greeted with during the 2-minute dead hang challenge.
5. The Dead Hang Challenge is All About Finger Strength
The final thing to consider is that the challenge is actually more about finger strength, as opposed to grip strength.
Okay, I’ll admit that they are more-or-less the same thing.
However, not many of us specifically train our fingers.
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One of the best ways to achieve this, and something that also improves your grip strength, is holding weight plates in your hands between your index fingers and thumb.
Plus, you can actually try this by gripping the weight with your thumb and any other single finger.
What you’ll generally find by around the 45-50 second mark of the dead hang challenge is that it’s actually your fingers that start to come away from the bar.
In fact, many people have attempted this by simply hanging from their fingers, as opposed to a full wrap of the hands.
And on nearly every occasion they found they managed to hang on for longer.
Another method to try is using a false grip, so your thumbs are alongside your fingers rather than wrapped around the bar.
Pull Ups – Thumb Over or Under
This typically entails your wrist flexors fatiguing first, which means you can rely solely on finger strength afterwards.
You can also try a chin up grip, so your palms facing towards you, as this is usually much easier.
With that being said, you must have both palms facing the same direction, as an alternating grip is not allowed for the challenge.
How I Beat the Spinning Bar & Won $100
So, as you can see, there are a variety of reasons why the 2-Minute Dead Hang Challenge is so hard.
However, this mainly comes down to the fact that the bar spins and it is usually 1.5 inches in diameter.
Additionally, the more you weigh, the harder you’ll find the challenge.
You can of course practice to beat the challenge.
One great method is to use “Grease the Groove”, which involves performing the dead hang multiple times a day without ever going to failure.
Additionally, you can do this by also placing a couple of cloths or towels over the bar, as this will mimic the rotating bar every time you move.
Finally, you should also specifically train finger strength and you should have a much greater chance of success.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.