T Nation

Pull-Ups Hurt My Right Shoulder


The last few weeks I have noticed a tweak inside of my right shoulder during pull-ups; even with bodyweight or low weight. Today I was doing an active recovery workout and I was doing band pulldowns and my shoulder really started to hurt. Pull-ups/downs seem to be the only exercise that targets this painful spot in my shoulder.

Any advice or tips or suggestions on how to deal with this would be greatly appreciated.


Stay away from pull ups for now. Your shoulder is unhealthy and most likely has a scapula the tilts forward. Do exercises that will counteract thid.


Do you use a neutral grip?


The Student;

What types of exercises can I do in place of these?


I use an overhand grip. When I'm in the top position of the pull-up my elbow forms a 90 degree angle (so just a bit over shoulder width grip).


Start with Scarecrows. They are awesome for shoulder health and super difficult even with low weight dumbells. Let me know how you like them.


Yeah, as The Student said, stop doing pull-ups. It won't hurt to take a month off from vertical pulling motions (a month isn't that long in a training career) and a couple weeks off in general. Go see a doctor too. Pull-ups and pulldowns are not good for the shoulders. They pinch together all the muscles and connective tissues in the shoulder.

You're much better off using a shoulder width chin-up grip and pulling to your upper/mid chest, so that your body is at a slight angle in relation to the bar. Don't worry about going down into a full stretch position at the bottom either, just go down until your arms are basically straight. It's plenty of ROM to hit the lats and rhomboids with all the stimulation they need.

Remember, there is no such thing as the National Pull-up League. Nobody is going to pay you extra for doing nice pull-ups and even if you are graded on them (military), you can switch from chin-ups to pull-ups 6 weeks out from test day and I promise you your score won't get hurt.

The scarecrows are great as are rows and posterior delt raises. You may want to be careful on your vertical pressing exercises and bench presses until you know what's going on with your shoulder too.


Ya I would let go of all the pressing exercises for that month that NINJA mentioned. I'm guessing his shoulders are internally rotated and his scapulas have a forward tilt. (This is 95 percent of the population)
We need to counteract this. Pull ups or chin ups work the lats and that lats are internal rotators. Benching and pressing is going to make your chest tighter and pull in the shoulders further.

Stay away from these for now.


I will give scarecrows a try.

But without shoulder presses and chest presses, where does my chest and shoulder training go?


You're shoulders and chest presses will GO UP! I stepped away from them for a month worked on my my scapulas and shoulder girdle...and without having pressed anything in that last month: I jumped on the bench and put on 40 extra pounds to my PR in the first day.


I tried scarecrows today and them babies work wonders. Just a few sets with even the light dumbbells had me gruntin and my shoulder felt brand frickin new. I can't wait to do these again, my shoulders love them.


Stick to the exercises on the left of each column. I got this from Eric Cressey's article, Shoulder Savers.

Eric knows.


Wow. I greatly appreciate you posting that. Very very helpful.

Is there anything like that for my hips? I have a tilt there too.


Yes sir. Here you go. Read this article. They have a similar chart.



Shoulder pain can turn into a shoulder injury very quickly, so the advice of stopping the exercises that bring on the pain is spot on.

You need to get your shoulder assessed by a good PT, sports medicine doc, etc. Assessed in person, not over the internet. It's not just a matter of assessing the condition, like a rotation, tilt or impingement, but figuring out why the shoulder is compromised. Is it weak scapular retraction? Is it tight pecs? Combination of both? Are there other factors that need to be addressed like being hunched over a desk dying a slow death for 10 hours a day. Maybe it's just overuse and inflammation. Do yourself a favor, if your getting pain in those movements, get it looked at and get on the right rehab program. The sooner you get to the root cause, the sooner you can fix it.


Do you have more information on this?