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Shoulder Impingement from High Pulls

Hey CT, so I was very excited to incorporate high pulls into my workouts last month. However after a month of attempting to get them down with decent form it appears that I’ve caused what I think is shoulder damage to both of my shoulders that feels like it’s impingement related. I’ve been dealing with it for about two weeks now pain in the front of my shoulders cracking and popping but I was also experiencing issues under my scapula’s as well.

The part that is confusing me is the actual “high” part of the high pull. I don’t understand how exactly my shoulders should be pulling it feels very unnatural for them to be pulling while internally rotated even with this wide snatch grip. It feels overall wrong. I am afraid if I am causing permanent damage to my shoulders which have never before suffered any injury. BUT I really was excited about high Pulls and want to explore if there is a way I can do them safely.

So my question is because I struggle doing this motion I was hoping you could critique my form? (Videos from before injury) And possibly give me some insight into the possibility that it is just that I was born without the ability to do high pulls safely. (Bc I obviously don’t want to waste time in gym or hurt myself further if I am just structurally incapable)

Thank you for your response, much appreciated.

Angled view and also back view

Side view

Another angle

Another side

It seems to me that you’re trying to hold the top position unnaturally long. Also, you pull up to nose level, which is higher than is typical.

Next - is it possible you suffered your impingement from another movement (like bench or OHP or throwing if you play sports) but it’s during the SG high pull that you noticed the impingement? I’d suggest a lot of band pull aparts and rows to off-set all your pushing moves.

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Stop doing high pulls.

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I’ve never had any issues with pressing or rowing over 7 years and I could feel the discomfort with the way I was doing pulls. It feels off to me, subjectively speaking, so I’m pretty sure it’s the high pulls.

However either way I could def use a form check regardless but since I posted this a few days ago idk if anyone else or CT is gonna respond to this

I would agree that something looks a bit off on your form (but not terrible), and obviously CT can diagnose that better than me. But, if that’s what’s hurting your shoulder then stop doing them. I like them too, but they’re certainly not a required move.

If you’re going to keep on with this move I think you should move your hands in. Take a close grip so you can lead with your elbows and pull with your traps more.

As you get more comfortable you can start moving your hands back out. Hands to the collars is pretty wide, it may just be too wide for you right now.

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I’ll give a semi snatch grip a try then. Something in between a clean and snatch I suppose. Thanks

Check your shoulder internal rotation

Can I get a bump on this thread to see if I can get some of CT or another knowledgeable person with some insight?

Hopefully CT comes in and helps, but it does look like you’re doing two things:
Slightly pulling higher than you should, and
Resisting on the negative earlier than you should.

Meaning you’re dropping instantaneous heavy loads on the shoulder during two of it’s most compromising positions.

CT is usually good for an answer within a few days, I’m sure you’ll hear something soon - might have been something he inadvertently overlooked.

Admittedly this seems like a heavy pull for CT at the time. But the range of motion involved always left an impression on me when it comes to BB high pulls.

Without access to a BB due to the lockdown, I’ve been doing my high pulls with a DB (or DBs when I’m warming up). One nice thing I like about DBs is that you can add in a little external rotation to open things up a bit.

Do you do a lot of volume on high pulls ?

When I was doing olympic weightlifting our coach always told us to let go the barbell on the excentric in order to avoid trauma on your joint when the barbell go down and you keep gripping it. According to him (and we had a 9 time france’s champion who went to world there) it was joint-destructive to stop the barbell with your grip, elbows and shoulder. So maybe if you do a lot of volume and you stop the excentric by yourself (not droping the barbell) it may explain your pain.

For highpull, we were told to let go the barbell. But we did it for like, 5 x 4 reps, twice a week at most.

What I would recommend if you want to stick to explosive pulls would be to shorten the range of motion, especially at first.

You might be using your arms too much when pulling and you have to program your brain to use the following sequencing:

Posterior chain - Quads - Calves - Traps - External rotators - Arms

So what I would recommend is starting with power shrugs from the hang: lower down to the knees and explode up with the posterior chain and quads (imagine simply doing an explosive RDL) and finish the movement with an explosive calves/traps action… focus on not pulling with your arms at all, bringing the bar around your navel or a bit higher.

Do that for a few weeks then switch to “low pulls”… basically the same thing but now try to reach the low sternum position. Again not by pulling with your arms, but by producing more speed with the lower body and traps. The arms will bend to allow the bar to move up, but you should not actively use them.

After a few weeks of that you can move on the the high pull, but don’t shoot for higher than mid-chest.


Will do thank you for the response.
I was hoping to also ask - why is this movement not a cause of shoulder impingement? It places the shoulder in the same position that an upright row or dB lateral raise with internal rotation would correct? So what about this makes it safe for the shoulders and especially bc it seems my entire rotator cuff on both sides was injured by these?

Mostly because you are not getting there through muscle tension at the shoulder joint. You reach the same position, but if you do it properly, the should shoulder and arm musculation should not be really contracted once you reach the final position