How to Fix Shoulder Pain With Kipping Pull-ups

One of the most common problems I treat with CrossFit athletes is shoulder pain with kipping pull-ups. This injury can happen for several different reasons, as I discuss with my Performance Plus Programming partner, Pamela Gagnon.

For athletes struggling with Kipping mechanics, join thousands of athletes that have improved their strength and form on our Lats to Fly program!

Common Areas Leading to Shoulder Pain With Kipping Pull-ups

  1. Lack of strict pull-up strength: if you don’t have the ability to do 3-5 strict pull-ups, you won’t have the strength to control your bodyweight as you come down from the top of a strict pull-up. This will overload the soft tissues of the shoulder.
  2. Lack of good kipping form: too many athletes use a hip-generated kip rather than controlling the kip using their shoulder. This results in them throwing extra force through the shoulder joint.
  3. Too much volume: as with anything, doing too much too fast will put more load on tissues than they are prepared for. This commonly happens with pull-ups.
  4. Doing even more advanced pull-up variations such as butterfly pull-ups before having the prerequisite strength and technique needed for that movement.

Drills to Help Reduce Shoulder Pain With Kipping Pull-ups

#1. Improve kipping mechanics

This first drill to help reduce shoulder pain with kipping pull-ups is from is great for teaching athletes to more effectively perform a kip swing by giving them something to push forward and backward into to improve the hollow and arch position while hanging from a bar. Improving kipping mechanics will also have great carry-over to your toes to bar performance.


#2. Improve hollow & arch mechanics on the ground

If your kipping mechanics are bad while hanging from the rig there is a good chance that you also need to address your hollow & arch control on the floor. Far too often, people look like they are doing a good hollow body position, but very frequently, they aren’t. I discuss this further in this article on my website and this CrossFit Journal article.


#3. Improve strict pull-up strength

As previously mentioned, if you can’t control a motion at slow speeds, you surely aren’t going to control them at faster speeds. Building strict pull-up strength is the key to maximizing performance and staying injury-free.

If you don’t have strict pull-ups yet I’d highly recommend our First Pull-Up Program, which has helped hundreds get their first!

I’d also recommend ditching the exercise bands and start doing toe-assisted pull-ups as they do a better job building pull-up strength through the entire range of motion of the pull-up, whereas bands help too much as the bottom of the rep.


#4. Improve rotator cuff strength

The rotator cuff is a set of muscles that provides stability to the shoulder joint during athletic movements. Often, when athletes lack the necessary strength and technique for kipping, we see increased stress placed on the rotator cuff muscles. Addressing any strength deficits in the muscle group is another key component to performing kipping pull-ups without shoulder pain.

If you are tired of struggling with recurring shoulder pain with kipping pull-ups we have your solution. Join Performance Plus Programming and jump into our Bulletproof Shoulders and Lats to Fly programs. This combination will build up your strength and technique for long-term progress without pain!

*Note: these plans are not meant to replace medical advice. But once you have calmed down a flare-up, they’ll build the necessary components that have helped hundreds of athletes move better and stay ahead of injury!