How to Improve Your Flexed-Arm Hang
An alternative to the pullup, the flexed-arm hang has you hold the upper portion of a pullup with your chin just above the bar and the knees lower than waist high. If your chin touches the bar or drops below it, your time halts. The move challenges your muscles to hold a contracted position, thus requiring and developing muscular endurance. Schools and military institutions use the test to determine the fitness level of students and soldiers. To improve your time, regularly train your back and biceps muscles while also practicing the flexed-arm hang several times per week.
Train for the flexed-arm hang directly by testing your maximum hang time. Approximately three times per week, perform sets using 75 percent of that time. Do five to seven repetitions and rest two minutes between each hold. Each consecutive week, hold your flexed-arm hang two to four seconds longer and decrease the rest time by five to 10 seconds. Do these flexed-arm hang exercises on the same day, but before, you weight train.
Perform weight-training exercises that strengthen your back and biceps muscles. Execute lat pulldowns using a pulldown machine, single-arm dumbbell rows, 45-degree bent-over barbell rows and dumbbell biceps curls. Do three sets of 15 to 25 repetitions with weights that are about 65 percent of your one-repetition maximum -- the most weight you can do an exercise in one repetition. Rest 30 to 60 seconds between sets. Aim for two or three training days per week with these exercises, and leave at least 48 hours between those training days.
Perfect your form. When you hold the flexed-arm hang, focus on keeping your hands just one fist-width apart and the elbows pulled back. Pull your core muscles in tightly to support your lower back. You may also find bending your knees slightly, but not allowing them to reach higher than your waist, helps you hold longer.
Warm up for five to 10 minutes with dynamic movements, such as jumping jacks and squats, prior to beginning a training workout.
Instead of doing a pullup to get into the position, have someone hold your legs and push you up, or step off an elevated platform to get yourself into the position. Your muscles won't have just exerted themselves to do the pullup and will be fresh when you begin the hang; you'll therefore be able to hold longer.
Use either an underhand or overhand grip. The underhand grip puts more emphasis on the biceps while the overhand grip stresses the back.
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.