Hello and Happy Friday Everyone! Coach Dre here to give you some pull up advice.
I remember my first kipping pull up, it was awesome! I tossed that blue band in the garbage immediately following my first kipping pull up. I don’t need a band anymore, I’m the kipping pull up master! Strict work, HA! No thanks, I can kip my pull ups now.
From that day on, I kipped my way through every workout that had pull ups, I was unstoppable! Well, I felt unstoppable, but my shoulder did not! Shortly after my first kipping pull up, I started having shoulder pain and issues holding a barbell over my head. I couldn’t overhead squat a training bar anymore. It was frustrating and embarrassing. I had gone from the Queen of Kipping to the girl who couldn’t even hang from the rig anymore because the pain was so bad.
So what had happened? I thought I was super strong!
Let’s take a minute and talk about your shoulders. So you have a ton of “stuff” that make up your shoulder. To be brief, the shoulder is made up of two main bones, the humerus and the scapula. The humerus fits into a socket in the scapula which is then surrounded by muscles and ligaments. Simple enough.
Joe Smith, a newer CrossFitter, jumps up on the pull up bar flings his body forward, then propels his body back to get his chin up and over the bar. Beautiful, looks great, now do it 99 more times during Murph (1 mile run, 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, 300 air squats, 1 mile run). Joe can’t handle his own body weight to pull himself up from a dead hang while rested, but let’s let him do 100 kipping pull ups fatigued. What’s the worst that can happen? Well, as Joe’s shoulders begin to fatigue, and he continues to utilize his momentum with poor technique to get his chin up and over that bar, he starts to experience shoulder pain. That momentum and pressure has to go somewhere and if Joe’s muscles and ligaments are not strong enough to handle that amount of work, he could be setting himself up for a serious injury. But, Joe is tough and is determined to finish Murph Rx and he does, one ugly kipping pull up at a time.
So what can Joe do to improve strength and flexibility in his shoulders?
- Mobilize: If you cannot put your arms overhead easily, you should avoid this motion! Check out this link for some ideas, Thanks Loni! (http://fitnesspainfree.com/shoulder/)
- Practice: Practice activating your shoulders on the pull up rig. If you swing like a monkey when you jump up on the rig, you are not activating properly. Practice your kip, Murph is not the time to practice you kipping pull ups. Ask a coach at QCCF to check out your kip too! Check this out for pointers, Carl Paoli is great when it comes to gymnastic movements: https://youtu.be/QrigE0M7j4o
- Strength and Strict: Pressing overhead and strict dead hang pull ups will help improve your shoulder strength and stability. Thanks Coach Kate for the stability work, ouch!
So, in order to master the kipping pull up, one must mobilize, practice and strengthen! You need to master technique, before you can master volume. No secrets, just hard work!
Back to my story. As I utilized my momentum over and over again to get my chin up and over the bar, the pressure caused a labral tear in my shoulder. The simplest of tasks such as putting on my seat belt had become a challenge. Please don’t let this happen to you! I want you all to be able to put on your seat belts!
After lots of advice and coaching from my fellow QCCF coaches, I now have little to no pain in my shoulder. It has been tough to pump the breaks on volume and focus on technique, but I promise you it pays off!
For those of you whom I have pulled off the pull up rig during your kipping pull ups, please know it’s because I love you. You come to CrossFit to be healthy and happy, let’s make sure your shoulders are too.
Talk to a QCCF coach if kipping pull ups is one of your CrossFit GOATs! (this will be another blog post). We can help
Have a wonderful weekend!