T Nation

Wide Grip Overhand Pull-Ups =Bad for Shoulders?


I've been doing Wide Grip overhand pull-ups (2-3 times a week, 25-40 reps total, weighted and unweighted) for about a year without problems and I usually go slow on the eccentric.
However, I've just been told by an experienced trainer that wide grip is bad for the shoulders.
Just want to see if anyone here has shoulder issues from wide grip pull ups or has an opinion on the matter.



That does not sound like an experienced trainer at all...just someone who's poorly regurgitating second hand info. Like doctors who tell you squats are bad for your knees. They CAN be if you're not smart or have pre-existing conditions.

Just be smart and do prehab work for your shoulders before upperbody training, like band pull aparts, shoulder dislocations, or no money drill. Oh, and soft tissue work certainly never hurts.


This is only my own experience but pullups of any width are murder on my shoulders. Worse for me than benching. The problem was probably compounded by trying to train pullups to failure in an attempt to get the numbers up. I now believe this to be a bad idea. If I was to start training them again Id go for quality reps well shy of failure and just work with volume and frequency to get the numbers up.

Why the need for pullups in the first place? If you are doing it for a test then you have no choice. If you want to train lats then chinups are easier on the shoulder.


if you've experienced no issues before I'd venture to say that you're going to be just fine. Some people (few it seems to me) do have some issues with this movement, but the majority do not. Seriously, think of how many trainees in gyms across the nation since at least the 1950's have been doing this movement... doesn't seem to be an epidemic of bad shoulders from wide grip chins in to many hospitals -lol. Your 'experienced' trainer sounds like he read one article on being careful with the movement and found a new way to approach possible clients in need of his expert services.



Thanks, guys. Looks like I'll just continue doing them.


Im sure I read on here somewhere an article by Waterbury about pullups mentioning pain. I think the pain that can affect some people is due incorrectly retracting the scapulae due to wrist positioning?


This is a section that stood out to me in the Yates back piece that DeltaOne posted:

"In my early career, I experimented with various types of grips, and I found that using a closer grip with the hands either parallel (facing each other) or fully supinated (underhand) actually provided the best contraction and most complete range of motion for the lats. Throughout my Mr. Olympia reign, I never did a single set of wide-grip chins or lat pulldowns. My two choices for vertical pulling were always a narrow underhand grip for lat pulldowns, which I would go up to 400 pounds on, and the Hammer Strength Iso-lateral pulldown machine.

A final reason to consider using a narrow grip beyond the issue of range of motion is the fact that it puts the biceps in a stronger position. Since the biceps are far smaller and weaker than the lats, putting them in a position where they are guaranteed to fail before the lats are properly stimulated, as in any wide-grip vertical pull, will cause you to shortchange your potential growth."

-Dorian Yates

Very interesting to read. It doesn't mention anything about wide grip being bad for shoulder health, rather that it's just bad for bodybuilding.


You have deviated from OP's question. Geez, that's so contrary to the typical nature of TNation! =D

That is a good find! I have yet to meet anyone that trains seriously who has NOT seen better growth once they followed such advice.


Personally I think if you just focus on using a quality movement and ensuring the scapula is retracted and an active shoulder is maintained I dont think there will be a much of a problem.

I think you could likely develop shoulder issues if you do multiple sets where you end up rounding at the top, straining to get over the bar and then letting the shoulder go lose at bottom.

Maybe a wider grip causes bigger problems than a standard one if the above happen?

Regular chins could be easier on the shoulder but I find them murder on my elbows/forearm - neutral grip gives a little discomfort.


as you get heavier and add weight multiple reps with the drop at the bottom is pretty bad for your shoulder. If you already or are close to a shoulder impingement it's bad for your shoulder. 35+ years old pull ups without warming up first is bad for your shoulders. Heavy bench day/Heavy shoulder day/heavy back day, back to back to back multiple weeks is bad for your shoulders.

Pull up is just an exercise. If your not doing a competition limit your ROM to the complete range you can keep your shoulders retracted in (now true deadstop pullups).


warming up definitely helps. my shoulders used to hurt during pull ups. started doing proper warm ups and now no problems