One Movement for pain free shoulders.
While it is normally the latest piece of equipment that becomes the craze at gyms, recently a simple movement has exploded in popularity.
After a viral post by Ido Portal, dead hanging on a pull up bar has become the latest go to exercise in the functional fitness space. But where did it come from…
The Kauai Study
In 2012 a study of 92 subjects at the Kirsch Institute resulted in 90 of the participants able to return to comfortable living after dealing with chronic shoulder pain after implementing a simple hanging protocol.
Many of these participants avoided surgeries and the likelihood of long term pain.
The results of this study, and Dr Kirsch’s thoughts are documented in his fascinating book “Shoulder Pain?”, which serves as the inspiration for this article.
What Hanging Does to you
To put it simply, hanging increases the “roomy-ness” in your shoulder. It remodels or reshapes the shoulder bones and ligaments. The end result is restoring the ‘normal’ flexibility to the structures of the shoulders. Normal here is judged not by the average desk worker, but how our shoulder would look outside of a sedentary lifestyle.
While you are hanging, there is stretching of the arch of the ligament and bone covering the rotator cuff and subacromial bursa (the CA arch). The CA arch is a curved structure in the shoulder that overlies the rotator cuff tendons and include the coracoacromial ligament.
Hanging stretches the CA arch expanding the subacromial space. This prevents injuries that result from compression of these tissues.
Have you been lifting weights for Years?
If you go to the gym or resistance train of any sort, you need to read this section…
From training, your skeletal structures would have become much larger than your co-workers whose heaviest lift of the week is 2L of milk in each hand. So if you have shoulder impingement, the end result is your CA arch has become very rigid, so its going to take far more time for gravity to bend your CA arch as you hang.
So the solution is simply, more hanging!
What if Hanging Hurts?
If hanging hurts, and you have an existing, it sounds like a pretty good idea to stop!
However, Dr Kirsch does note that some discomfort is paradoxically a good thing... Some discomfort must be accepted to overcome the contracture of the CA arch and stiffness of the scapular restraints.mRemember, you are stretching the CA arch!
If your hands are sore, toughen up!
Ok Got it! So what is the Prescription?
Dr Kirsch’s prescription is simple, and so is ours. Get up on the bar and start hanging. Start with some 10-30s intervals, as much as the hands and grip can tolerate. Start to build up your volume from there.
When beginning you can use full or even partial body weight (toes on the floor).
Shoulders and body should be relaxed to allow gravity to do its magic on the shoulder muscles, bones and ligaments.
WARNING: Don't hang under-grip. The chin-up position will not stretch the CA arch. The arm bone is simply not raised high enough to life and rotate the scapula and apply a bending force the CA arch.
Hanging from an overhead support is an important daily and normal activity that has become neglected in modern life. That is why we encourage it to be part of daily life for our members at CrossFit Creature.
1. Codman, E.A., The Shoulder, Boston, Thomas Dodd, 1934.
2. Kottke, F.J., Pauley, D.L., Ptak, R.A., “The rationale for prolonged stretching for correction of shortening of connective tissue,” Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1966;47: 347.0.
3. Wolff, Julius, Das Gesetz der Transformation der Knochen, August Hirschwald, Berlin, 1892.
4. Ziegler, D.W., Matsen, F.A. III, Harrington, R.M., “The superior rotator cuff tendon and acromion provide passive superior stability to the shoulder.” Submitted to J Bone Joint Surg. 1996.
5. Yamamoto, N., Muraki, T., Sperling, J.W., Steinmann, S.P., Itoi, E., Cofield, R.H., An, K.N., J Shoulder Elbow Surg., 2010 Jul; 19( 5): 681-7.