I've recently started to get shoulder pain from pullups. I try to get 50+ pulls ups in once a week, but the last two weeks, after 10 the pain is enough to make me stop. What can I do to alleviate the pain or what is a good short term replacement for pullups while my shoulder recovers. The pain is on the pull and relieved on the descent.

  • 50 pullups in one session/day once a week, or 50 pullups in multiple sessions/days in the week? Eg. The difference between 50 pullups on Monday and none until the following monday, or 10 each weekday.
    – user2861
    Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 1:13
  • I usually do 50 once a week - and during the week 10 here and there as I pass the bar Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 11:09
  • What kind of pain do you experience? Did it start after you started the pull up exercises? Do you experience it during other exercises? Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 20:42
  • @LegoStormtroopr 50 pullups in a week is nothing. I do 50+ (in multiple sessions of course) daily :) Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 20:43
  • @Kneel-Before-ZOD - the pain is still there, but after the first set of 10 it goes away. I'm assuming is arthritis and the movement pumps fluid into the joint to reduce the pain. Just part of life and being over 50 Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 12:20

1 Answer 1


I had some pretty bad rotator cuff problems in the past and doing pull-ups (palms in) was definitely one of the exercises which aggrevated the injury. When you go from full extension to pull-up with chin over the bar you can impinge (think pinch) the rotator cuff. The immediate solution is to stop pull ups and begin an alternate exercises which will allow you to work on your lats and back without mashing the rotator cuff.

The exercise I learned from a physical therapist who is also a shoulder expert is the close grip lat pull down. Take two free handles and attach to the cable on the lat pull down machine. When you do reps, keep your hands close to your body and pull DOWN and IN. You should complete each pull down with your hands pulling into your stomach and your upper arms completely vertical.

It turns out that doing this kind of pull down not only will allow you to continue building strength but it is also THERAPEUTIC for the rotator cuff. It releases the cuff and helps you train your shoulder to move in a safe way.

Once the pain starts to subside after a number of weeks, or months for a bad shoulder injury, you can return to pull ups. But be sure to gradually build yourself up. You need to find out exactly what your shoulder will let you do.

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