Real Pull Ups to Keep Your Shoulders Healthy

Well, if you clicked on the link or found this article on Google, you are wanting to do pull ups and keep your shoulders in tact when doing them.  Great!  Let’s first go over the proper mechanics of the Pull Up so that you are doing them correctly and keeping the shoulder girdle in good health. When hanging from the bar follow these steps to perform a proper pull up:
  1. Start from a complete deadhang (arms locked out) in the hollow position (glutes and abs engaged, so pelvis should have an anterior tilt)
  2. Pull your scapulas downwards with your arms still locked out (Scap Pull Down)
  3. After scapulas are engaged begin pulling with your arms with elbows slightly out to keep the lats fully engaged (at the top of the pull up elbows should be directly under your wrists)
  4. Without reaching the chin over the bar pull your body upwards till your chin passes the bar with head in neutral position
  5. Control your speed on the way back down to the start position, don’t fall (complete deadhang, that would be a true pull up, bouncing at the bottom of the pull up is hard on the integrity of the shoulder and you fail to build the proper strength out of the bottom of the pull up if you bounce at the bottom)

This video from our friends over at NorCal Strength and Conditioning is a great representation of how the Pull Up should be completed.

The biggest thing is maintaining the hollow position throughout the movement and engaging the scapulas with no bouncing at the bottom.  It’s easy to start kicking the legs or trying to incorporate the hips into the movement when fatigue sets in.  This is especially true if you don’t have a pull up yet.  This puts huge strain on the shoulders and if you are tight or have had past injuries there this is definitely a no no.
If you don’t have pull ups yet there are many variations of the pull up you can work on to build up the proper strength to crush them in the future.  My all time favorite to help build strength and keep the shoulders healthy is Pull Up Negatives.  Emphasize slow movement on the way up and back down using a box/ground to control how much weight of your body is being used.  I suggest doing 3-4 seconds in each direction doing the exact same movements as the traditional pull up for 4-5 reps.
If your gym has an assisted pull up machine this is another fantastic way to work on pull ups without full body weight.  And my least favorite assisted pull up is using bands.  If you choose to go this route please emphasize no bouncing at the bottom position of the band.  Again, if you bounce at the bottom this will keep you weak in the bottom of the pull phase.  Do the pull up normally as if you had no band assisting you, the intent of the band is to remove some body weight.
These strategies will keep those shoulders and scapulas healthy and allow you to improve your pull up game without increasing your chance for injury.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.