Gymnastics movements can be a prime catalyst in achy, hurt or even damaged shoulders. Introducing loaded and dynamic shoulder driven pulls, pushes, holds, and supports without proper knowledge or capacity to protect the shoulder is a recipe for disaster.

Foundations must always be covered first, but are often overlooked by pursuing the more sexy movements such as the kipping pull up, toes to bar, handstand push ups, muscle ups, or ring dips. Here are some tips to set up foundations for long-term success:

Pulling and Kipping for Bar and Ring Movements

When hanging from the bar before anything happens, one must establish a proper grip and support from the shoulder. Here are the basics:

  1. Establish a grip slightly outside the shoulders so there is optimal range of motion and muscular engagement. Too wide sacrifices strength, too narrow restricts range.
  2. Assume a deep grip with the big knuckles on top on the bar, this shortens the lever arm as well as provide a stronger grip.
  3. Pull the shoulders down slightly to engage the lats and put the shoulder in a neutral position. Yielding to your body weight as you hang puts all the tension on the AC joint of the shoulder.
  4. Have the capacity to do at least 1 strict pull up before you start working on kipping. The negative eccentric loading of the kip is often beyond the capacity of the shoulder if you don’t have a pull up.

Dips and Pressing Based Movements

  1. Establish a support and press with the elbows in tight to the body.
  2. Externally rotate the elbow pits forward, do not let them flare out.
  3. Press the shoulder in a direction opposite to the load, for instance: in a dip shrug the shoulders down, in a push up push the shoulders forward, in the handstand push the shoulders up to the ears…this give the most muscular support to the shoulder.

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