No matter how adept or skillful you are at pull-ups, the shoulder is still a complicated joint prone to injury. There are four major muscles and three ligaments that surround the rotator cuff, and that doesn't even count the rest of the muscles in the back, arms, and neck that aid in movement of the shoulder. In other words, there is a lot going on there.
In order to prepare for high volume pull ups (coupled with high volume push ups or other overhead movements) mobility is an integral part of any training routine. As Coach Mike Burgener says, mobility practice should happen all day, every day. Below are some shoulder mobility practices to prepare for Murph. Included are brief synopses of each movement and some links if you need a visual.
- Unglue your lats: Grab a foam roller and roll to your side. Tuck the roller just under your armpit and roll in small inch-length segments up and down, working your way all the way down to just above your hip, palm facing up. Do this on both sides: 30 seconds pre WOD, 2 minutes post WOD.
- Sub scap smash: Grab a lacrosse ball and place it right in your armpit to start, then roll the ball down and back until you hit the musculature just beneath. Lie on your side and with the ball underneath, drive your palm towards the floor while rotating both internally and externally.
- Monkey bar hang: With your feet on or off the floor (depending on how comfortable you are), hang from the bar with one hand like you would do as a kid on the monkey bars. Switch back and forth between arms, switching arms, 3 secs at a time, about 20 times each side. Be sure not to activate your shoulders, but let your arms hang loose.
- Banded mobility: Grab a band and loop it on the rig. The low bar on the rig will work if you're tall, otherwise anyone short will have to get closer to the band by standing on the box. Loop the band under your armpit and move your arm in full range of motion.
- Burgener mobility: What looks like the “goal post stretch,” stand against the wall with your arms in the shape of a football goal post, but more importantly, lower back is pressed against the wall. Do not arch. Slide your arms overhead by keeping them pressed against the wall, back pressed against the wall the whole time. Move slowly.
- PVC Superman: Lie face down on the floor with arms outstretched in superman position. Holding a PVC pipe, squeeze your butt while lifting your arms off the ground and try to pull the PVC pipe apart. Hold for 3-5 seconds and repeat a dozen times.