Pullups and Shoulder Mechanics

Any shoulder specialists out there? I did a search and found a few things sort of hovering around what I’m looking for (most closely was chrismcl’s old post), but nothing provided the answer I’m looking for directly.

My situation: Pullups are my favorite back exercise, maybe my favorite exercise period (that or weighted dips). Lately, however, I’m having a problem that’s really discouraging.

When I start from a dead hang, I can get MAYBE two good reps and then on the third or so my left shoulder (and left only) won’t…“turn over” is the best phrase I can think of to describe it. It doesn’t hurt or cause any injury (although I’m sure if I tried to force it too far it would). It’s just a bizarre sticking point that feels unnatural. I can shift most of my weight to my right arm and get past the turnover point and then continue, but obviously this is going to be detrimental to my strength gains/balance in the long run. Lately I’ve been just doing pullups starting from a slight flex.

Has anyone ever experienced this in the past? Are there ways to correct it, short of having to see a specialist and have corrective surgery?

A few points:

  • I may have injured my shoulder when I was younger (I played just about every organized sport there is at one time or another), and it just didn’t heal right. I have never, however, had a major shoulder injury.

  • This is a not a problem with a weakness or sticking point. My grip, arms, back, etc. aren’t even close to being fatigued when this happens.

  • Often when I do weighted dips, I feel pain JUST FOR A SECOND in my left shoulder/clavicle as I finish the set. It’s never been a lingering pain, and it does not bother me before or during the set (even if I do a second set and it hurt at the end of the first). This is whether I do pullups on the same day or not.

  • This may be completely irrelevant, but I sleep mostly on my side.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

When I said “slight flex”, I meant just enough to keep the shoulder flexed. I still go down as close to the bottom as possible, and my arms are very close to being straight.