Shoulder Pain During Pull Ups

*Updated 4/16/18
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Overview

This past weekend I was in Boston, MA and NYC for a few workshops and I stopped by Champion PT and Performance to see a few good friends, including Dr. Dan Pope from Fitness Pain Free.

A common issue and complaint that comes up is 'my shoulder hurts during pull ups', and more specifically during the bottom part of the pull up or when pulling out of the bottom position.

In this post, we cover common reasons why that happens and what to do about it.

Want better shoulder mobility? Download Day 1 of our Shoulder Mobility Program for free:

One of the Big Problems

Controlling the descent using your muscles and not 'bottoming out' is critical to prevent irritation of your shoulder joint. The last thing you'd want to do for long term shoulder health is swing up to the top of a pull up and crash down in the bottom and rely on the passive structures (bony anatomy, capsule, ligaments) to stop you.

There are ways to strengthen the muscles that do this without having to actually have a pull up. One of them is working on 1/2 pull ups with a focus on controlling the lowering phase.

This isn't a sexy drill. But do you want a sexy drill or a drill that works? Personally, I like drills that work and I hope you do as well because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter how 'fancy' or 'cool' something is if it isn't effective.

Building strength around the shoulder to control the motion at the joint is what we are after. The 1/2 pull up with a focus on the negative helps get us there.

If you're trying to work on a C-kip and that is when the shoulder hurts, you can use a 1/2 C-kip pull up with a focus on actively controlling the shoulder, especially on the way down. It's essentially the same drill, but we are adding in the beginning demands of the kip to translate that over.

If you don't do kipping, have no reason to train kipping, or think kipping is stupid, then obviously don't bother with doing this. But if that's something you or your athlete/client wants to do, then the progression is valuable.

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