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I would like to understand whether it is/isn't a good idea to completely lock out (completely straighten) the elbows while hanging from a pull up bar - either at the bottom of a pull up or just while doing a dead hang.

I was once told that the elbows should be very slightly bent, to ensure that the muscles actually bear the load so that the ligaments/tendons aren't unnaturally strained. But I've also read (links at the end) that a complete dead hang is beneficial for the ligaments (and can even help people with rotator cuff trouble).

So what is the right way to execute a dead hang?

http://www.survivalandserenity.com/dead-hang-for-strong-shoulders/ https://www.reddit.com/r/Fitness/comments/5fno06/just_hang_to_help_with_shoulder_issues/

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It's a bit of both, you want to use the combination of your skeletal and muscular system. Climber in particular find themselves frequently needing to rest one forearm, or simply use one arm while the other hand is moving to a new location. In either case there is a lot of load being supported by a single hand, occasionally fully body weight (plus gear) if your feet break loose and you "barn door" out a bit before getting your feet back on the rock.

Your muscles need to be engaged. Most people get this right when they're just carrying a bag of heavy groceries. The arm is straight: any attempt to bend the arm will quickly fatigue. But the muscles are engaged as well: you're not drooping to one side because you're allowing your loose shoulder to pull your hand down towards your knee. Your abs are tense, keeping you upright as well and your obliques are also isometrically locked keeping you from tipping over.

Your muscles need to be engaged. Keep your skeleton in an anatomically neutral position, with those engaged muscles. The "dead hang" position is relatively easy for people to understand. You should have sufficient muscle recruitment that you can lengthen out your shoulders a bit if you wanted to. If they're fully lengthened, your muscles are insufficiently recruited.

Esther Smith did a pretty thorough discussion of this for Black Diamond a few years ago, and then there was a secondary review of it.

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For a 'dead hang' the elbows are 'locked out.' Just as they are in an 'active hang.'

Some people are for some reason concerned about locking their joints out but it's perfectly safe. You have to do it in powerlifting and olympic lifting for the lifts to count.

The only main consideration is that there is a difference between straight locked out and hyper-extended locked out. Some people naturally present hyper-extended and this may not be ideal. Look up the Beighton Laxity Test, the ability to hyper extend the elbow (or knee) is an indication of joint laxity.

Everyone should have some range of motion beyond 180º (maybe max 10-15º at the knee, less in the elbow) but excessive range is the concern.

You can still carry active muscle tension while the elbow is locked out if you want, but you want to consider where that tension is.

It's important to remember that in this context, the dead hang is more of a stretch as compared to an active hang. So while you can keep some muscle tension (your grip obviously has to maintain tension) the arguable benefit of the dead hang is the space it frees up in the shoulder. Meaning you want to feel a stretch. You don't want the muscles you're trying to stretch to be too active (unless you are using a PNF stretching strategy perhaps), or they won't stretch. However, some supportive muscles like the upper traps, levator scapulae or serratus anterior (they won't be stretched in this position) could be active to provide support. In addition to actively elevating and upwardly rotating the shoulder.

I've seen this idea online quite a bit as a cure all to shoulder issues, but it really only works for specific issues. For instance, it's possible your issue isn't space, it's timing. Or your shoulder is already lifting too far off your rib cage. There are plenty of other things to consider when it comes to shoulder health. Certainly no harm in experimenting with it though, see if it works for you.

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I also heard and there is a book about hanging for shoulder health. However, the answer to your question depends on your goal. If you are looking for pull-up power, forget about the hanging (for shoulders). You can do that after your training :)

I would not "completely" let myself loose if my goal is strength and/or hypertrophy because the time under tension would be increased compared to total deadhang.

But if you are going for maximum number of pull-ups for example, maybe hanging will give you time to rest. So, it depends.

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