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Hanging for Shoulder Health

Shoulders are particularly poor in health in our culture. We use arms and hands and shoulders a fraction of their potential. Arms are usually internally rotated as the default norm, which means the humeral head is rolled forward and in in the glenoid fossa of the scapula.

Typical forward head of a "gamer" showing rolled forward shoulders.
Typical forward head of a “gamer” showing rolled forward shoulders.

The scapula (shoulder blade) sits on the rib cage, so the position of the rib cage can also affect the shoulder positioning and if the ribs are thrust, or sheared, in an attempt to stand straight and appear in good posture, the scaps will end up too close together passively, which shortens the Rhomboids and changes the orientation of the glenoid fossa, making a natural arm position practically impossible. So ALL THIS needs to be addressed when you have shoulder issues, which is everybody right?

So first of all, drop the ribs until they sit over the pelvis and not out in front of it. Broaden the scaps using the Rhomboid Push-Up. Other exercises in the RE™ repertoire that can assist in a healthier shoulder are Thoracic Mobility, Thoracic Stretch, Head Hang, Head Ramp, Windmill, Floor Angels, hand stretches, Posterior Arm Hold, Posterior Block Hold, and MORE!

But the grandest of them all is the hanging series. This is where you really start to get your arms to open up and do what they were designed to do, which is to hold your body up. As well as carrying, reaching, holding, etc., (not typing or diving cars, which are not natural, but where we spend the bulk of our time), we are meant to use arms to pull us up trees, hills, climbing rock faces. Do you have what it takes to grasp onto a ledge and pull yourself up? This requires tough hand skin, strong arms, a weight ratio that does not exceed that strength, hip mobility (to get the legs in position to assist and push up from below).

The ability to hang our body weight from our hands is developed over time as our tissues adapt to this new job. We start by first hanging partial body weight from door frames, at shoulder height or lower if necessary. As the chest and arm tissues adapt to the list of exercises above, we can start hanging our body weight from above, first with feet on the ground and then as a full body weight hang/feet off the ground. Scaps are allowed to be elevated at first, and then depressed so that their stabilizers are involved in organizing your weight. And let me tell you – IT FEELS GREAT! I think it feels like the arm joints are yawning and getting more oxygen. Which in fact, they are!

If you don’t have a chin up bar, any branch of a tree will do (providing it is sturdy enough and won’t break, damaging the tree and possibly you!). I thought I’d share my hanging set up. I put it on my back porch, so I can hang outside. I used a plumbing bar, although varying your hanging bar would be a good idea, so that you get used to different diameters and different textures. I plan on having more than one hanging station eventually, so I started this way. TRX mounts at about $40 each (Cdn) and 3′ of galvanized chain on each side. The 3′ bar was less than $13.00.  Altogether this cost around $100 and will give me years of pain pleasure.

The end of the bar showing the hardware through the bar and a double end clip attaching galvanized chain
The end of the bar showing the hardware through the bar and a double end clip attaching galvanized chain
The TRX brand mount is very strong.
The TRX brand mount is very strong.
Plumbing pipe end
Plumbing pipe end

Eventually I can progress to longer hangs, one arm hangs, swinging. It’s new territory, or at least one most adults haven’t explored since they gave up monkey bars. Kids will climb quite reflexively given the right environment, so it’s a great skill to cultivate. Don’t be in a rush and don’t be frustrated if you never achieve a full body weight hang or a pull up. You can gain a ton of shoulder health just by progressing through the steps you can do. So, along with brushing my teeth, calf stretching and hanging are just part of my day. Make them part of yours.

Attach the bar into the ceiling making sure you are finding the joists! Mine are 2' apart, but the bar is 3' long.
Attach the bar into the ceiling making sure you are finding the joists! Mine are 2′ apart, but the bar is 3′ long.

Here’s where I got my TRX mounts: http://www.trxca.com/trx-suspension-trainers/new-and-cheap-trx-xmount-26-off.html
All other hardware (chains, bar, clips etc.) from Home Depot. Canadian Tire also has all the stuff.




3 thoughts on “Hanging for Shoulder Health

  • Can u show a pic of scap up and down while u hang? I currently realized I rib thrust like crazy when I hang. So i prob have scaps up too. I can do monkey bars no prob but am now thinking I prob shouldn’t since my alignment while hanging is off. Don’t want an injury.

  • I plan on a second post with some action shots! The rib thrust might be necessary at this point, as you don’t have the range of motion in the glenohumeral joint to fully flex the arm to vertical and have the ribs neutral. Hence all the other corrective work. Over time it all comes together.

  • Thanks. Yeah I def dont. When I put ribs in neutral my armpits feel like they r about to rip. So i keep my feet on ground when not rib thrusting.

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