5 Interesting Scapular Exercises to Help Improve Kipping Pull-ups

By djpope

May 24, 2015

kipping pullup, motor control, scapular stability

Panchik Rings

I spoke recently at power monkey camp with therapist Dave Tilley in Crossville Tennessee.  He was a big advocate of creating a spectrum of exercises in order to improve someone’s movement.  In other words, he didn’t believe that solely lying on a foam roller would yield the best carryover to your push jerk.  You’re probably missing some steps in between.

A better system might:

  1. Start with mobilizing restricted tissues.
  2. Progress towards a series of motor control exercises in order to reinforce the new movement that was created.
  3. Progress again toward specific low level exercises that are less complex then the movement we’re trying to improve.
  4. Lastly we could perform the exercise that was previously restricted but now with improved range of motion.

An example for someone with a crummy handstand because of limited wrist mobility would be:

  • Wrist mobility drills x 10/side
  • Active wrist extension in quadruped x 5-10 per side
  • Forward Crawling x 5-10 steps / side
  • Handstand Specific Work

What’s important in this example is that we’re mobilizing what needs mobility, reinforcing it with motor control exercises and then using lower level exercises that utilize that same range of motion.  What’s important to note is that the exercise we chose (forward crawls) is very specific to handstands.  This element of specificity is extremely important for carry-over into our chosen exercise (handstands).  What’s also important is that crawling is generally a bit less challenging and complex then a handstand.  Therefore our patient / athlete can put there efforts into using and learning their new range of motion instead of worrying about busting their head when they’re upside down.

For the kipping pull-up we may have an individual with limited overhead movement and subsequent poor technique.  A continuum of exercises to help this athlete might be:

  1. Overhead Mobility Drills
  2. Active motor control overhead exercises like the reach, roll and lift
  3. Some specific low level exercises less complex then the kipping pull-up to help further reinforce this new range of motion
  4. Kipping pull-up practice

Here are several exercises that I think would fit the bill in the above example for exercises during #3

Dave Tilley (Who I think got the exercise from Andreo Spina)  gave me the idea for the circles and then I just kind of went crazy thinking of additional exercises.

Scapular control is an important part of shoulder health during overhead movements.  Tools like Crossover Symmetry (A tool I really enjoy) have done a great job of bringing the importance of scapular control into mainstream.  Although these tools are very helpful, sometimes I think that we don’t always do the best job of incorporating our new found scapular stability into movements similar to what we’re trying to improve.

The reason why I think these are excellent scapular stability drills are because they’re so specific to the movements we’re trying to get better at and less complex.  They’re working the scapula in the same fashion as kipping variations without the complexity of the C and butterfly kips.  This way we can focus on the new range of motion we’re trying to control without worrying about the timing during such a dynamic movement.

These drills also serve as a great warm-up for kipping movements.  We’re working on building control and stability in the bottom portion of a kip, the same area where we require the most control and stability.

These are also great exercises for someone rehabilitating from a shoulder injury and are starting to progress back to kipping movements.  You also get bonus points for doing them publicly because they look so funky too.

Give em a shot and let me know what you think,

Daniel Pope DPT, CSCS

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