Unpacking the shoulders at the bottom of a pullup?

freeflowme

Level 4 Valued Member
Hey all,

I've been doing pull-ups regularly for several months now, and up until recently I was always "unpacking" my shoulders at the bottom of each rep. I really like the stretch, and I feel like stretching at the bottom allows me to drive upwards more with my lats than with my arms, because the movement is initiated by drawing my shoulder blades down and back.

Then I came across this video by Jeff Cavalier, in which he states that it's dangerous for your shoulder health to allow your shoulders to unpack at the bottom of a pull-up. I don't know whether he's someone worth listening to or not, but I gave keeping my shoulders packed a try and I have to say I didn't like it. I suppose that could just be because it's different, but it really shortened the range of movement and made it feel more about my arms than my lats.

So, I was wondering what the "party line" is on pull-ups at StrongFirst. I have to imagine that most dead hangs are done allowing the shoulders to unpack, no? And if so it seems okay for the pull-up too.

Thanks in advance.
 

Hasbro

Level 5 Valued Member
Unpacked ok for deadhangs but I’m in the “keep them packed” camp for pull-ups. Before I discovered that a few years ago I nearly destroyed my shoulders doing pull-ups unpacked.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
@freeflowme, IMHO, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. There are many ways to do pullups, and many ways to do hangs. I would describe what I do at the bottom of each rep in a set of pullups as "half-unpack" and this, too, can be OK. You may, in fact, be doing this, too, just relaxing some but not going into a full dead hang but you can tell you are relaxing the tension somewhat.

All the recent talk about the benefits of dead hangs for the shoulders refers to unpacked, truly "dead" hanging.

-S-
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
So, I was wondering what the "party line" is on pull-ups at StrongFirst.
The manual has you pulling from a tight position. ("It is recommended that the hollow position be assumed before each repetition." And in Hanging Hollow Position, "Brace when hanging on a high bar. Pack the shoulders").

But you can, of course, get tight, and then pull, for each rep. It's probably more efficient to just stay tight at the bottom and pull... but efficiency might not be what you're after.

I think the thing to avoid is initiating the flex of the elbows while the lats, abs, etc. are relaxed.
 

Hasbro

Level 5 Valued Member
This is a direct quote from Pavel when the subject came up in another forum...“Keep your shoulders in their sockets for pullups at all times. Don't relax between reps.”
 

kiwipete

Level 7 Valued Member
Hey all,

I've been doing pull-ups regularly for several months now, and up until recently I was always "unpacking" my shoulders at the bottom of each rep. I really like the stretch, and I feel like stretching at the bottom allows me to drive upwards more with my lats than with my arms, because the movement is initiated by drawing my shoulder blades down and back.

Then I came across this video by Jeff Cavalier, in which he states that it's dangerous for your shoulder health to allow your shoulders to unpack at the bottom of a pull-up. I don't know whether he's someone worth listening to or not, but I gave keeping my shoulders packed a try and I have to say I didn't like it. I suppose that could just be because it's different, but it really shortened the range of movement and made it feel more about my arms than my lats.

So, I was wondering what the "party line" is on pull-ups at StrongFirst. I have to imagine that most dead hangs are done allowing the shoulders to unpack, no? And if so it seems okay for the pull-up too.

Thanks in advance.
I think shoulder packing isn't an either/or situation, but more of a continuum. I guess if you complete the movement with control does it really matter?
 

Philippe Geoffrion

Level 6 Valued Member
Don't you have to pack the shoulders before your first rep? I see it as re-setting and practicing every rep like it's the first so I'm not sure why it would be damaging. We reset our deads in between reps too. I suppose the muscles that depress the scapula can be compromised as their orientation is more of stability and resetting may fatigue them quickly, compromising subsequent reps but I'd think that unpacking in between reps wouldn't do any damage if it is done correctly and controlled. Keeping them packed may keep constant tension on your lats and make the reps more smooth and easier, if that's what you're after.
 

Damiola

Level 2 Valued Member
Then I came across this video by Jeff Cavalier, in which he states that it's dangerous for your shoulder health to allow your shoulders to unpack at the bottom of a pull-up. I don't know whether he's someone worth listening to or not, but I gave keeping my shoulders packed a try and I have to say I didn't like it.
I tend to listen to Jeff Cavalier. He is a physio and his explanation of why shoulders should be in makes sense.
 
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