How to Hang on a Bar Without Hurting Your Shoulders

Most people have a very aggressive introduction to hanging and kipping movements.  It usually goes a little bit like this: Hop right up and grab the bar.  Didn’t fall...

Most people have a very aggressive introduction to hanging and kipping movements.  It usually goes a little bit like this:

Hop right up and grab the bar.  Didn’t fall off?  Great let’s try kipping.

As coaches and athletes we generally don’t think much of jumping up and hanging onto a bar but for a lot of people it can be very challenging.  The other important part about hanging is that it’s the set-up for all other kipping movements.  It makes sense that we want this position to be solid.

To me it’s akin to being comfortable in the bottom of the squat.  We want to be strong, stable and comfortable when we hang.

Teaching people how to hang well doesn’t seem like something that’s important.  However, several people with shoulder issues have a very difficult time hanging without pain.  Once this happens then hanging and kipping technique becomes much more important.

I’ve made a quick video below to help people learn how I like to teach hanging:

3 Keys To Optimal Shoulder Health for Kipping. Hanging from a bar and kipping can create quite a bit of compression on the rotator cuff and biceps tendon. Shoulder blade position is important when teaching people to hang on the bar to help minimize stress on the shoulder structures and maximize performance. There are 3 major shoulder blade motions to work toward to optimize shoulder health. 1) Upward Rotation – This moves the acromion away from the humerus allowing space for the rotator cuff as well as centering the joint. This goes against traditional wisdom of "shoulder pack" 2) External Rotation – This moves the greater tuberosity away from the acromion further creating space for the cuff. External rotation also increases ligamentous support of the shoulder. 3) Posterior Tilt – This last movement also brings the acromion further from the humerus creating more space for the cuff. Posterior Tilt and thoracic extension also places the cuff and scapular musculature in a stronger position to produce force. Try the exercises that follow to help teach your athletes how to hang and kip in a safer fashion. @powermonkeyfitness @championptp #crossfit #reebok #teamreebok #pullups #kippingpullups #performancetherapy #physicaltherapy

A video posted by Daniel Pope (@fitnesspainfree) on

There’s a few reasons why I like this set-up.

Before we start, keep in mind that these are anecdotes based on some shoulder science and trial and error in the clinic.  I didn’t take this from a research paper (I don’t think there’s any kipping research out there currently) but it’s something I’ve found to be effective.

1) Promoting Scapular Upward Rotation 

Upward rotation of the shoulder blade helps to increase subacromial space while the arms are overhead.  This can decrease compression on the rotator cuff and biceps tendon when hanging.  Upward rotation of the shoulder blade also helps center the ball in the socket.  This goes against the traditional wisdom of “packing” the shoulder down when hanging.

2) Promoting Shoulder External Rotation

Externally rotating the shoulder brings the greater tuberosity of the humerus further from the acromion.  This creates more space for the rotator cuff and biceps tendon.  External rotation also puts more tension on the shoulder capsule enhancing stability of the joint.  Those with tight lats will have a lot of difficulty with this step.

3) Promoting Thoracic Extension and Scapular Posterior Tilt

Posterior tilt of the scapula also increases the subacromial space providing room for the cuff and biceps tendon.  Thoracic extension also improves the ability of the cuff and scapular musculature to produce force.

I’ve also provided a few of my favorite drills to help promote these motions while hanging.  These are great to throw in as a warm-up prior to kipping.  Give them a shot and let me know what you think.

Want to learn more about how to assess your athletes and optimize them for olympic lifts, muscle-ups and gymnastics?  Check out movement essentials:

MM-Movement-Essentials-Cover

Monkey Method – Movement Essentials

The Ultimate Guide to Understanding and Fixing Technical Flaws in the Handstand, Muscle-up and Olympic Lifts

Categories
Injury Preventionkippingpull-uprotator cuffscapulaShoulderTechniqueThoracic SpineUncategorized
7 Comments on this post.
  • Dan
    16 January 2017 at 10:26
    Leave a Reply

    I’ll be interested in working on these. I have a real problem with the biceps tendon in my left shoulder. I think it is mostly from pinning the phone between my shoulder and ear too much. But pull ups are my eternal weakness being very long limbed. I guess you just work sets of these 3 motions over and over? A little help with how to integrate this into a rehab program might make the article more valuable.

    • djpope
      25 January 2017 at 10:26
      Leave a Reply

      Hey Dan, that’s a major issue I see. People are getting impingement of the biceps tendon while hanging and causing more irritation. I wouldn’t hang unless it’s pain free. This would only be good if you had been through rehab and it’s not painful. Check out the article written this week and the one next week (not released yet) for some more insight for rehab. For you I’d see a qualified professional to help you but probably more basic rotator cuff strength and scap stability work until hanging isn’t painful first.

  • Jack Cooney
    16 January 2017 at 10:26
    Leave a Reply

    Great post Dr Pope – simple but essential with so many pullup variations being executed these days

  • mike
    17 January 2017 at 10:26
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    Hi Dan,

    Great information, thanks.

    I have a question about a client with very tight shoulders.

    Over the course of three years about 20 years ago he had two operations on each shoulder for rotator cuff issues. His shoulders are fine now, no pain, but they have very limited ROM and he can’t straighten his arms overhead or out in front of him.

    Based on this limited information about him, what would think about advising him to perform straight arm hangs to increase the mobility of his shoulder?

    thanks . . . Mike

    • djpope
      25 January 2017 at 10:26
      Leave a Reply

      Hey Mike, definitely not a fan of straight arm hangs as a first intervention. I would assess him a bit (check out my 5 minute overhead mobility video on youtube) and then go from there.

  • Friday 1/27/17 | Derby City CrossFit
    26 January 2017 at 10:26
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    […] Reading 1. Why You Sweat More as You Get Stronger 2. How to hang onto a bar without hurting your shoulders 3. Meal Prep Basics for the College Student 4. Why We Mix Up […]

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