How to Modify Kipping Pull-ups for Painful Shoulders

Having a solid appreciation of why injuries occur is paramount when trying to rehabilitate athletes back to their sports and to keep them safe.  For example in pitchers we know that the extreme external rotation needed for throwing can leads to problems like internal impingement of the shoulder.  That same external rotation with a strong activation of the biceps can lead to SLAP tears of the shoulder’s labrum over time.  We also know that in baseball, limited shoulder range of motion, both total rotation and shoulder flexion can predispose you to having future shoulder and elbow injuries.  For these athletes we can very easily come up with prevention and rehabilitation strategies because we know where and why they typically break down.

In fitness training it’s no different.  We need to know why these injuries are occurring so we can keep our athletes  safe and get them to return to training.  It blows my mind sometimes that in rehabilitation or coaching we don’t ask these why’s.  We just keep letting our athletes get hurt.  On the flip side of the coin therapists may get their athletes pain free but can’t get them back to training without those injuries popping up again.  I think we can be better then that.

With kipping pull-ups I believe that athletes are getting hurt because they have poor capacity to control the lowering phase of pull-ups.  Think of it this way.  During kipping pull-ups we’re able to generate power from our lower bodies to propel our chin over the bar.  On the way down from the bar we don’t have our lower bodies to help control the descent back into the bottom of the pull-up.  As the shoulder fatigues we can continue to rip out a couple reps but the shoulder musculature is tiring and unable to control motion in the joint well.  End range shoulder flexion is already a position of shoulder impingement in many and now we’re coupling that with an uncontrolled descent.  I’m willing to bet people are getting forceful impingement of the rotator cuff and relying on some of the ligaments in the shoulder to do the job of the fatigued cuff.  This isn’t a recipe for shoulder health folks.

So what can we do about it?  Obviously we can address this.  Ryan Debell and myself from themovementfix.com made a video of some our favorite modifications you can use to eliminate shoulder pain in your athletes during kipping.  these are also nice variations to use to help rehab back to kipping after you’ve eliminated pain.  Check it out:

Dr. Ryan Debell and myself have created an entire online course devoted towards learning how to modify workouts for athletes in pain just like we showed above.  We honestly believe that coaches should absolutely know this information.  Knowing it will set you far ahead of your peers.  The pre-sale starts this upcoming Wednesday.  In honor of the sale we’ve created a 5 part video series of how to modify the most common movements for athletes in pain.  If you want to be notified of each video as it comes out and get an exclusive discount when the product launches then sign up for the form below:

Steady Kipping,

Daniel Pope, DPT, OCS, CSCS

P.S. Please respond in the comments below with any questions you may have about our upcoming online course.  We strongly feel there is nothing at all like this out there for coaches right now.  Coaches who are adept at modifying workouts for athletes in pain are going to be much more effective at helping people. It is an absolute MONSTER and we’re super excited to get it out there.

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