Most of what I find online is shoulder pain when one's body is at the bottom of a pull-up. Each set I do is 8-10 reps, and I've been doing about 7 sets every day for a few months. Prior to that, I just did 3-4 sets once every 3-4 days (when I'm good). The pain only started a few weeks ago. No trauma. I do try to get my chest up to the bar, and lean back a bit to try and hit the muscles in the back.

I don't do them fast. I'm pretty controlled.

What might cause pain at the top of the pull-up? It doesn't sound like bursitis.

Since the pain was at the top of the pull-up, and only for the first 2-3 reps, I thought that maybe my chest was tight. I always do the pull-ups after pushups (no shoulder pain during pushups). So I stretched out the chest and moved my arms in a big circle to loosen things up. Doesn't seem to make any difference in the pull-ups.

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    Sounds like you may be feeling the beginning of an overuse syndrome. Additionally, if the pain affects your training, you should seek the advice of a medical professional.
    – rrirower
    Apr 21, 2020 at 17:37
  • Kind of afraid that you'd say that. Hard to see a sports medicine doctor these days, and throughout my life, I haven't had much success with the advice of doctors (sports medicine & general practitioner) or physiotherapists, other than rest. Most of the helpful remediation exercises are found from my own web searching, e.g., sometimes from forums, and experimentation. But a few very rare exceptions come to mind. Rest is one of them. Odd that overuse is a likely cause when my reps haven't declined. It's hard to picture what gets impinged on at the top of a pull-up, which is what I was hoping Apr 22, 2020 at 1:21
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    There's no way for anyone here to know what your problem is. My comment, and others will be a guess. That's why it's important to see a hands on specialist. I've had good results working with a physical therapists since they have more resources to resolve such problems. Additionally, overuse does not necessarily imply impingement. It simply means that the joint has been overworked without proper rest. That typically results in some form of inflammation.
    – rrirower
    Apr 22, 2020 at 14:35

1 Answer 1


Shoulder impingement probably

Used to have the same problem, I ignored it until it started to hurt even when I was not doing pull ups... Even when trying to sleep.

Fixed everything with overhead press, which is strange because any shoulder movement was giving me pain except overhead press so I started doing only that, in 2 days I was back to normal and from looking around the internet it seems a really common occurrence.

It might be due to the fact that lats are internal rotators for the shoulder and they are some of the strongest muscle on the entire torso, therefore my back was imbalanced to my shoulders and this was causing me constant pain in everything except overhead pressing because it is a movement where the lats are stretched but not passively, shoulder muscles have to actually work to overcome the lats.

Being a beginner you might have a similar condition, I suggest fixing your weaknesses before they become a constant problem, so if it's a muscular imbalance problem find some exercises that work both antagonist muscles the same or use opposite sets for everything.

For example after one set of pull ups followed up with one set of handstands or overhead press or anything around that.

Or try exercises that directly work antagonistic muscles together like high rows or face pulls which work both your lats and the shoulders at the same time.

If you don't have a barbell or cables face pulls and rows can be done hanging with any type of rope attached to a bar/too of a door or even bands are a good option.

Or in the most desperate situation grab 2 bottles of water in each hand, bend over and start doing external rotations with your arms tucked to the torso. Usually 2kg per arm is heavy enough for some high rep work.

Just remember to not do the mistake of trying to specialize in one exercise, you can prioritize one movement for body culture or for competitions like if you want to be a good runner you might prioritize deadlifts over squats but you've always got to compensate at least a little bit.

It doesn't mean that you have to work every single of the 800+ muscles in the body, but if you do one specific motion over and over again it is usually a good idea to sometimes do the exact opposite movement to avoid injury.

For example even sitting down can be unhealthy if done continuously, but then standing up all the time is bad too, lying down too much can cause health problems. In life you've gotta be always balanced as a rule of thumb.

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    My options are limited, as I am exercising in a small apartment. I'm afraid of overhead press because of past shoulder issues (years ago). I appreciate your explanation, but I think I'll ease off a bit and hope the problem abates. Thanks. Apr 23, 2020 at 0:51

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