I just started doing pull-ups about two weeks ago on a pull-up bar (the one that fits on a doorframe - similar to this).

A day after I started, I got muscle pains all over my shoulder and upper arm. I stopped doing pull-ups for two days, until the muscle pains were gone.

I continued doing pull-ups daily afterwards, but two days earlier, I felt pain in my right shoulder joint when I am lowering my body. It also gets painful when I raise my right arm up. The pain is bearable and is not that intense. It only gets painful when I am lowering my body from a pull-up position and when raising my right arm up.

I decided to stop pull-ups for one day - the pain stopped too, even when raising my right arm. I continued doing pull-ups today but I again felt pain in my right shoulder joint when lowering my body.

How do I recover from the pain? Also, how do I prevent or avoid the pain from occurring again when doing pull-ups?

  • How many pull-ups are we talking about? And what kind of pain, and where? Apr 16, 2012 at 20:25
  • @DaveLiepmann I started at 4 repetitions per day. I tried to do as many as I can interspersed throughout the day - eventually ending up at around 30 repetitions per day. It's a weak, bearable pain that I only feel when lowering my body if doing a pull-up (and raising my right arm, after that). I feel the pain in the area near my right shoulder joint only (top part of the shoulder to the upper-right side of my back). I'm also right-handed, if that matters. Apr 17, 2012 at 3:04
  • 2
    Your shoulder joint/muscles/tendons etc. may not be able to tolerate you full body weight. If that is the case, attempting a full pull up could agrravate it. Try unloading some of you weight with modified pull ups to see if you can do them without pain. See if that helps. Apr 17, 2012 at 6:50
  • How long did it take to get to 30 from 4? If it was too quick, those 30 reps could have a range of motion that's less than full. I wonder if that could cause or exacerbate a shoulder joint issue. Apr 17, 2012 at 12:37
  • @DaveLiepmann 2 weeks. I'm currently looking into the comments and answers here to recover from this. Apr 17, 2012 at 12:42

1 Answer 1


Considering you just started doing pull-ups and your first episode of muscle soreness came a day after your first exercise, what you're experiencing is most likely Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). DOMS typically comes about after you do a particularly strenuous activity or an activity that your muscles are not yet accustomed to.

Most people react just as you did when they get DOMS: they stop doing the exercise that caused the soreness. However that is not what you should do, because--as you experienced--that soreness will happen again when you finally decide to exercise again. Instead, to recover from DOMS you need to do the following:

  • Continue exercising. It may be initially painful exercising through the soreness, but in the long-run your muscles will heal faster.
  • Gradually increase intensity (i.e. start with 3 pull-ups, next workout do 5 pull-ups, next workout do 7, etc.). The 3 -> 5 -> 7 was just an example, and you should adjust that as necessary for your own abilities.

  • Get REST. You mentioned that you do daily pull-ups... this is actually a bad thing. Whenever you do strength training you'll want to give your muscles at least one day of recovery before you workout that muscle again. For instance, you can do pull-ups Mon-Wed-Fri, with the other days acting as rest periods. If you really want to squeeze in more workouts, you can do Mon-Wed-Fri-Sun/Tue-Thu-Sat, which will give you one extra workout every two weeks.

The above three instructions apply just as much to recovery as they do towards prevention. If you always make sure to give your muscles proper rest between workout days and to gradually build your workout weight (even if it means doing ridiculously easy weights/reps at the start), then you shouldn't have a problem in the future with DOMS.

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