By Erwan Le Corre, MovNat Founder and Master Instructor

Want to strengthen your abs and upper body while practicing a practical movement skill that will lead to more advanced skills? Try this forearm hanging drill below.

This drill is fantastic for working posterior upper body isometric strength and abdominal strength. But let’s not lose sight of its practical value. What would happen if you were to fail a “Pop-Up” attempt and fall back down to a Low Forearm Hang? You might want to revert to a slower, but likely more effective technique such as the Elbow Swing-Up, in which case it wouldn’t make sense to lower your body down to a Dead Hang first; you would simply hook one leg over from the Forearm Hang/Pop Up position and voila, you are set for a Elbow Swing-Up already. It could also be that you may not rely on your hand grip enough to try to pull a leg over, and prefer to pull yourself higher and secure a more reliable position on your forearms first, then hook the leg. The drill above will develop your ability to perform such transitions, and to feel comfortable setting up the Elbow Swing-Up position directly from the High Forearm Hang.

The point being that doing this drill gives you options. So, give it a try.

Step 1) Begin in a High Forearm Hang. If you started in a Low Forearm Hang position, simply pull yourself up higher until your face is above the object you are climbing on. If you started from a Dead Hang, pull yourself up and set your forearms on the bar with your hands overlapping.

forearm active hang

Step 2) Bring both legs up to one side by bending your knees and rotating your hips in the direction you want to set your leg hook.

Step 3) While maintaining your body at the same level of elevation, extend the leg up on the side you are setting the leg hook, bringing the poplit to bar level or just above. Keep the other leg bent and up.

Step 4) Set your leg hook by flexing the extended leg, strongly contracting your hamstring and pulling the foot as low as the thickness of the bar allows, shifting your weight onto your poplit. Let the opposite leg hang relaxed.

Step 5) Release the leg hook by extending your lower leg, releasing the tension from the hook, and externally rotate the leg so it can pass to the side and down.

Step 6) Once both legs are down and the body in the original neutral position, rotate the hips to start pulling your legs in the opposite direction and repeat the same sequence on the other side.


Depending on the thickness of the bar, the position of the hooked leg may vary a little, With a thinner bar, the poplit should be right on top of the supporting surface, and the leg can be flexed more, the foot reaching down to almost hip level. With thicker bars, the poplit will stay slightly lower than the top surface of the bar, the bar being squeezed between the lower part of the hamstring and the upper part of the calf, and the leg may not flex more than a 90 degree angle. The position of the leg onto the bar is essential, as if you let it slide down to your calf and/or to the side of the bar, you will not be able to shift much bodyweight on the hooked leg, leaving most of the stability work and effort to the upper body.

Next Steps

Once you have mastered this forearm hanging drill, you can start thinking about the elbow swing up. Here is an example of the elbow swing up.

Update: The Elbow Swing Up is most efficiently performed from the Medium Forearm Hang (face level with the top of object you are climbing on) instead of the High Forearm Hang. Simply lower down a bit before executing the movement.

Final Thoughts

Nowadays, we rarely have to hang or climb anything throughout our day to day life, but it’s really important for our health, fitness, and functionality that we are able to. And these skills might just come in handy someday. So, instead of just doing an “ab workout” or an “upper body day,” make sure you’re including some practical movement training in your routine – like this forearm hanging drill. And once you’ve mastered it, move on to more complex skills like the elbow swing up.

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