Exercise Spotlight: Flexed Arm Hang

Blast your lats and arms with the easiest, hardest isometric you’ll ever do for them

You may remember the days in grade 11 gym class fitness testing, when you were a poorly developed beanpole who could eat anything and not pay consequences. That went hand in hand with your ability to really crush the standard fit tests like the mile run, the sit up test, the beep test, and the push up test. But there’s one test that many people forget about when they think back on those days, and they really shouldn’t. Especially now that they’re fully grown adults with likely many more kilos of mass to speak for.

Enter the Flexed Arm Hang

When I was 185 pounds soaking wet, the flexed arm hang was a challenge I was up for. I think I got somewhere around a 1 minute hold before I died out – and that was a decent score, if memory serves me correctly. This, at the time, didn’t tell me too much, but today, I see the immense benefits in putting this exercise to use in your training program.

  • Like I mentioned above, carrying extra mass compared to your highschool days is a big factor. It’s just plain harder to do a heavy pull up compared to a lighter one.
  • You also probably learned how to use your back properly after you became an adult. No one pays attention to technique as an untrained teenager. My classmates and I used everything we could to keep our chins over the bar for that test.
  • This is an example of isometric training. There are very few purist back exercises that emphasize isometric strength, let alone at end ranges of the lift like this. It will be quick to expose weaknesses in closing strength.

If you struggle with pull ups, adding this to the routine (especially in conjunction with eccentric pull ups) can be invaluable to build strength and skill.  And prepare to be humbled – especially if it’s been a while, and a few pounds.


Flexed Arm Hang – Coaching Cues

  • Simply find any pull up or chin up bar. I personally prefer the neutral or palms-in grips.
  • Using the assistance of your legs and feet, “jump” yourself up to the top position, where the mouth or chin is in line with the bar.
  • When getting to the top position, be sure to keep the shoulders set. Your neck shouldn’t disappear. It should stay long in order to ensure the chest is up, and the back is engaged.
  • Hold this position with perfect form. Focus on sets of 15-20 seconds in length. If you’re lighter or stronger and can go for longer, be sure to mind your technique first. It’s easy to grip forever. Holding good form is another story.
  • Still too easy? Try it with a weight belt and some load.

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