Pilates Arm and Shoulder Exercises to Progress to Hanging with Ease

by | Jul 2, 2013 | Pilates, Strength Training | 0 comments

Improve upper body strength and conditioning with your Pilates Workouts

Female climber clinging to the edge.Are you eager to incorporate hanging exercises into your workouts?  Have Hanging Leg Lifts and Chin-Ups been on your wish list of exercises you’d like to be strong enough to do?  Or maybe rock climbing is in your future…

Baby steps may need to be taken in your Pilates training program to progress to full hanging exercises…  So here are a few recommendations from a gal who personally took on the challenge and has helped her clients successfully add a little bit of hanging to their weekly workouts.

Why Add Hanging Exercises To Your Workouts? 

Aside from the forearm and grip strength gained from hanging, there are a lot of very tight back, shoulder and chest muscles that get a chance to let go in a hanging position.  And even more importantly, I’ve discovered that hanging can be an excellent fascia release exercise!  There are so many great benefits to be had from one position – dangling from our grippy little fingers.

Developing the strength for Pull-Ups and Leg Lifts is another topic entirely!  To get started the first step is to work up to being able to just hang.

Prepare, Plan and Progress Slowly…

Chances are, hanging exercises are not in your current workout program. If you have a healthy body, I’d like to encourage you to consider working your way up to the challenge!  Plan to progress slowly, it might take you 3-4 months of dedicated prep work, or even 6 months to a year before you are ready to challenge yourself to un-assisted full hanging exercises.

There are so many great Pilates exercises that can help you get ready to hang.  Here are my top five to get your arms and shoulders prepped and ready to add full hanging exercises to your workouts.

5 Pilates Exercises To Prep Your Body To Hang with Ease

1.  Arc Barrel / Spine Corrector – Reach with a Weighted Stick

2.  Arc Barrel / Spine Corrector – Mermaid

3.  Cadillac – Push Through (with a spot to help push UP- lifting the hips off the mat)

4.  Cadillac – Saw Stretch with the Push Through Bar

5.  Cadillac – Spread Eagle


3 Non-Pilates Bonus Prep Exercises for Home Workouts

1.  Clock Stretch on the Wall – 4/8, 9/15, 10/2

2.  Kitchen Counter Arm Stretch

3.  Straddle Stance Forward Bend – Arm Stretch Behind the Back with a Towel or Strap

The preparatory exercises I’ve suggested help to work the arms through a full range of movement with the spine in flexion, extension, side bending and rotation.  Typically for good shoulder mechanics we move the arms and shoulders ON the ribcage.  But the Saw with the Push Through Bar, and the Clock Stretch on the Wall the goal is to move the Ribcage INSIDE the shoulder blade to facilitate a stretch.

ALL of the healthy movement habits for your upper body you develop with these Pilates exercises, AND having the body awareness to feel what you’re doing with your arms, shoulders, chest and back is important to be able to work where you need to for support and release everything else for a safe full hanging experience.

Three Final “Almost-Ready-To-Hang” Pilates Prep Exercises

1.  Wrist Roller – Forearm & Grip Strength

2.  Ladder Barrel – Backbend & Stretch

3.  Cadillac – Reverse Push Through (both grips)

Grip strength with your hands and forearms will be needed to hang on!  These last two exercises can help ensure you’ve got a really good amount of shoulder mobility because full hanging will be ALL of your body weight dangling off your arms can be a BIG (or too extreme) stretch if you’re not adequately prepared.

If you’re an adult and you’ve never done any sort of hanging activities, Take at least 3-6 Months  (or longer) to acclimate your mind and body to the possibility of doing a full hanging exercise by starting to incorporate these preparatory exercises into your Pilates workouts.

If you’ve participated in sports or activities where you’ve done some hanging, you may be able to progress more quickly.  Listen to your body and progress accordingly.

Getting Started with a Basic Hanging Position

When you’re feeling fit and flexible, stand facing the side of the Cadillac and grasp the top rail.  Slowly and cautiously start to bend your knees (or come down off your tippy toes if you are short like me!). Don’t pick your feet up yet.  To start, just allow as much of your body weight as you are comfortable to hang from your arms, and use your legs for a little extra security and support.  When you are confident that your arms can handle the load, turn to face out away from the Cadillac, and you can hang more easily with your feet off the floor, or knees bent in to the chest.

I’ve shared with you eleven of my favorite hanging prep exercises!

ALL of these arm and shoulder exercises can help you get in shape for hanging exercises and sport activities that require more upper body conditioning.  Plus, there are tons of additional Pilates exercises that can be valuable to add to your workout program to get your body in shape to hang.

Here’s hoping you’re starting to feel inspired to add a 15 seconds to a minute or more of hanging exercises into your workouts.  Hanging is fun, challenging, and the first step to get ready to progress to chin ups!  Use your Pilates arm and shoulder exercises to progress to hanging with ease.

Aliesa George: Over the past three decades, Aliesa George has helped assist people with their personal health journeys by sharing, teaching, and developing Pilates, Foot Fitness, and other Mind-Body programs.


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