Q: Hi JP, Got a quick question for you. Does a pullup where in the top position your head is in front of the pullup bar (normally your chin touches or goes above the bar) place any excess stress on your rotator cuffs? It seems like a get a better contraction of the lats by doing pullups this way.


A: Extreme external rotation with abduction under heavy loading during any vertical pulling movement (i.e. pull-ups or pulldowns) can be quite stressful to the shoulder complex. Keep the bar in front of the body. Contrary to popular belief, behind the neck presses are safer (assuming adequate external rotation can be achieved) due to force of compression. For a good review on the topic, refer to Paul Chek's video Controversy and Current Concepts of Pulling Exercises.

[This Q&A piece originally appeared in Testosterone Magazine on February 13, 2004 and can be accessed online at