How to Hang on a Bar Without Hurting Your Shoulders

By djpope

January 15, 2017

hanging, how to, kipping, pull-up, pullup, safe, safely, Technique, toes to bar

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 post shared 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:


Monkey Method – Movement Essentials

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