T Nation

Alternatives to High Pull


I absolutely love the concept and layout associated with the layer system. I have tried, without success, for two weeks now to incorporate the high pull into my workouts. It absolutely kills my right shoulder. (Old baseball injury I guess) Upright rows and similar movements have always hurt bad. Power cleans are almost unbearable with any significant amount of weight. So I have devised my own six day split that works for me pain free. Just wondering if this was a good choice of exercises or if there were better options.

Day 1- Incline Tilt
Day2- BB Row
Day 3- OH Press
Day 4- Deadlift
Day 5- Decline Tilt
Day 6- Pullups?? (With weight and very strict form- neutral grip)

Thoughts and recommendations??


1) There is no substitute for high pulls, especially if you can't do any olympic lift variation.

2) The chin-ups and rows are not movements than lend themselves well to the layers: with the chins it turns into an ugly lower body kicking to get up with very little in the way of back activation.

To be able to successfully use layers with chin-ups you must be aqble to do a sets of 3-5 VERY strict pull-ups with 45lbs attached to your waist (I`m talking chest-to-bar with no lower body cheat and holding the peak for 1 second).

The rows in general are just not very good for 1-3 reps of very heavy work. The arms tend to take over (or you start to use the lower back or to change the angle of the torso).

Really, if you cannot do any explosive pulling (high pulls, power clean, power snatch, muscle snatch) this might not be the optimal program for you.


I blew my shoulder out playing baseball in college. For years I had always avoided any overhead pressing, both pre- and post-injury. I don't really know how, but I haven't had any problems with my shoulder for at least a couple years now, despite the fact that I've wrecked it a few times while mt. biking and have had to take some time off a few times just to let it heal. But when I'm healthy, no problems at all with the high pulls or overhead pressing.

I think the biggest factor in that is the fact that I press with a pretty narrow grip for all pressing movements. I keep my hands just inside the little finger marks on the bar when benching and at least a few inches narrower on each side when overhead pressing. I do a lot of facepulls and lateral raises with varying arm/wrist angles and not a lot of direct lat work. Not sure if that's why I don't get any nagging little pains in my shoulder anymore, but I would give it a try. Maybe ditch the incline press and the pullups and work on your snatch-grip high pulls with lighter weights to groove the movement pattern and cut the workout a little short so you have time to add in some facepulls and some lightweight lateral raises at the end.


I actually just finished up HP Mass (Hypertrophy) last week and wanted something different. I can bench with next to no pain, just enough to know something isn't right. OH Press didn't seem to be an issue throughout the program. Face pull to the forehead or higher are fine, but when I go eye level it hurts bad. May be some type of impingement.

I'm gonna take CT's advice for now. I'm currently 5'8", 170 lbs at 9%bf (approximate but I'm fairly lean, visible abs, very vascular) Was really wanting to increase strength without putting on too much weight. Don't really look to go much above 180lbs.
I'm contemplating doing either the HP Mass (Strength) program or Wendler's "Boring but Big" 3 month 5/3/1 program. Thoughts? Probably follow that with a high volume month or two (comparable to GVT or something). Maybe by then the shoulder issue will be fixed.


Oh and btw, DBcooper, narrow grip is WAY more painful. I have to go wide on bench, usually have my middle finger on the smooth ring on the bar. And I don't have long arms.