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Why Chin-Ups Cause Shoulder Pain (+Tips To Reduce It!)

Chin-ups are a great pull-up variation that brings your arms into play a little bit more.

If you’re trying to build your back, biceps, and abs, chin-ups could be exactly the sort of exercise you need.

However, there seems to be some concern relating to the effect chin-ups can have on your shoulders though.

In this article, we explore whether chin-ups are bad for your shoulders or if there could be other reasons why you may experience some pain or discomfort in your shoulders during and after chin-ups.

We also look at ways of reducing shoulder pain during chin-ups too.

Why Do Some People Experience Shoulder Pain During Chin-Ups?

Insufficient Warm Up And Preparation

You could experience some shoulder pain due to muscle stiffness or tightness if you don’t take the time to properly warm-up and prepare the working muscles.

A gradual increase in intensity is usually the most effective (and safest) way of getting your muscles prepared and used to the exercise being performed.

It can also be beneficial to do some mobility work prior to doing chin-ups too.

Any tightness or tension held in your shoulders can cause quite a bit of discomfort and pain during chin-ups.

So it’s a good idea to do what you can to prevent this from occurring.

Normal Working Muscle Discomfort

During chin-ups, your shoulders do quite a bit of work.

This can cause you to feel some level of discomfort.

While pain should never be felt during an exercise, it’s possible that the normal muscular discomfort caused by microscopic tears forming in the working muscles could be confused with shoulder pain.

Care should always be taken to ensure that you’re only feeling discomfort and not pain.

Pain is usually a sign to stop what you’re doing and reset.

Incorrect Technique

You could feel pain in your shoulders if you use an improper technique during chin-ups.

A small technique error can cause your body to move out of the correct position, leading to additional stress being placed on your shoulders.

This can lead to pain being felt in that area of your body.

The technique is extremely important in chin-ups (and all exercises) as your entire body weight is being supported and lifted by a relatively small number of muscles.

Why Do Some People Experience Shoulder Pain After Chin-Ups?

Normal Post-Exercise Muscular Discomfort

During exercise, microscopic tears form in the working muscles.

As these repair, your muscles get stronger (and bigger).

Even though the tears in your muscles caused by chin-ups will be small, they can cause some level of discomfort.

While you shouldn’t experience shoulder pain after chin-ups, it could be that the discomfort caused by the muscle tears is being confused with pain.

You should think about how uncomfortable your shoulders are to decide whether what you’re feeling is normal or something more serious.

Injury

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain after chin-ups, there’s a possibility that you’ve picked up an injury.

Although chin-ups are a fairly safe exercise to perform (as long as you use the correct technique), injuries such as shoulder impingement can happen.

Can Chin-Ups Cause A Shoulder Injury?

Yes, although any exercise can potentially cause an injury if they aren’t performed correctly.

As a general rule, chin-ups are a pretty safe exercise.

As long as you have a suitable level of strength and fitness, you understand the technique, and you’re properly warmed up and prepared for the exercise, an injury is unlikely to occur.

However, no matter how careful you are, sometimes things can go wrong and you could get injured.

As chin-ups put a lot of stress on your shoulders, they could potentially cause a shoulder injury.

How To Reduce Shoulder Pain When Doing Chin-Ups

Make Sure Your Technique Is Correct

If you use the correct technique during chin-ups, your shoulders are less likely to hurt.

You’ll probably still feel discomfort in your shoulders, but this is to be expected as your shoulder muscles are working hard throughout the movement.

Errors in your technique can put your shoulders into a more vulnerable position, so you need to ensure you’re getting everything right during chin-ups.

Warm-Up Properly

A thorough warm-up can help loosen up tight muscles, increase blood flow, and make sure your body is fully prepared for exercise.

If you aren’t warming up before doing chin-ups, shoulder pain is a real possibility.

Even a short warm-up can go a long way in reducing any shoulder pain experienced during chin-ups.

Don’t Overtrain

Overtraining is a surefire way of causing pain and injury to your working muscles.

You need to make sure you’re doing chin-ups enough to get the full benefits from them but not too much where you don’t allow your muscles enough time to recover in between sessions.

Why Do Some People’s Shoulders Click During Chin-Ups?

There are actually quite a few reasons why your shoulders might click during chin-ups.

Sometimes, as tendons move over bone, they can cause vibrations that are heard as clicking.

This is usually nothing to worry about as long as you aren’t experiencing any pain or discomfort at the same time.

A more serious reason is that you may be carrying an injury.

If you injure a muscle, you can alter its shape or you could even change the track it usually moves on.

Changes like this can cause the muscle to rub against bone in an unnatural way.

If shoulder clicking is accompanied by any pain, you should speak to a doctor before carrying on with chin-ups.

Are Chin-Ups Bad For Your Shoulders?

Chin-ups aren’t bad for your shoulders. But you still need to be careful as there are situations where injury can occur during the exercise.

As a general rule, chin-ups are an easier exercise to perform when compared to pull-ups.

A big part of this is that your arms are in a much more natural position thanks to the underhand and fairly narrow grip.

It’s this hand position that can actually help reduce the risk of shoulder injury during chin-ups. 

That being said, shoulder injuries are a possibility during chin-ups so you need to ensure you’re properly warmed up and your technique is correct too.

Can Chin-Ups Cause Shoulder Impingement?

Yes although there are other exercises thought to be more likely to cause it.

Shoulder impingement is where your humorous (upper arm bone) pinches a tendon in your shoulder.

Any exercise where your arms are over your head can cause issues for your shoulders.

During chin-ups, your back muscles and shoulder blades should engage before your shoulders come into play. If this doesn’t happen, shoulder impingement could occur.

Can You Do Chin-Ups With Shoulder Impingement?

No, if you have shoulder impingement, it’s normally advised to avoid any pulling, pushing, lifting, or reaching movements for around 4 – 6 weeks which obviously includes chin-ups.

You should always follow the advice of your doctor when recovering from an injury.

Going against their advice could delay your recovery and have a detrimental impact on your training.

Are Chin-Ups Bad For Rotator Cuffs?

Not necessarily but a rotator cuff injury is a possibility if things go wrong.

Chin-ups are a relatively safe exercise to perform. But you still need to take care to minimize your injury risk.

The overhead arm position and stress placed on your shoulders during chin-ups could cause issues for your rotator cuffs.

However, if you do them correctly, chin-ups are not bad for your rotator cuffs and can actually strengthen your shoulders.

Sources

Chin-Ups Muscles Worked