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How to do Pull-ups with Healthy Posture

June, 2018

Our company’s deepest goal is to support people in being more sturdy in the world. Posture is a key ingredient for this, as is fitness. It’s commendable when people take on a fitness regimen of any kind; the companion undertaking needs to be to learn how to do your regimen with good form.

People often sway their backs while doing pull-ups, especially towards the end of a set. This distorts your spine, loads your discs, and leads to a very unhappy back.

Monisha is wearing our Gokhale Spinetracker™ wearable device on her spine. The app (above, right) shows a visual representation of what is happening to your discs in real time. There is extra stress on the discs because of where the bending is happening.


The healthy way to do pull-ups involves engaging your internal obliques to keep your spinal alignment intact. This makes pull-ups more challenging for your arm and abdominal muscles while preserving your back health.

Here, the discs are happy! The vertebrae are nicely stacked, and you can see that L5-S1 is the only place where there is significant curve in the lumbar spine.


Do you do pull-ups as part of your workout regimen? Are you successful in preventing lumbar sway?


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I am succesful in preventing a sway now - it makes all the difference to my low back. When my rib anchor wasn't yet strong enough to prevent a sway I used yoga blocks under my feet so I could keep good form,  as Monisha demonstrates in the 2nd photo, once you are strong enough the blocks can be dispensed with, but only if that sway is truly banished.

This certainly helps with pull-ups. However, please be wary of exercises in which your arms work above your head. The shoulder joint is poorly designed for this (unlike apes) and rotator cuff injuries are very hard to treat.

Please elaborate on this topic a bit more. I easily injure myself during pull-ups- is it because my obliques are not strong enough? Will it help to willfully bring my legs forward?

Please elaborate on this topic a bit more. I easily injure myself during pull-ups- is it because my obliques are not strong enough? Will it help to willfully bring my legs forward?

This doesn’t answer your question but I hurt my right shoulder doing pull ups last year and I switched to doing inverted rows instead. I find them easier on the shoulders, easier to keep shoulders rolled back because you’re horizontal, and works the same muscles. One thing you could try with pull ups is if you’ve been doing them with palms facing away from you, try them with palms facing you (aka a chin up), or even better, with palms facing each other in a neutral grip (if you have a pull up bar with neutral grips, or use rings). Neutral grip especially seems to give a better shoulder positioning. But I still think rows are safer.

I would actually like to delete my above comment about pull ups but can’t. I did hurt my shoulder doing a pull up with bad form a few years back. But recently I have experienced a good improvement in shoulder pain after adding pull ups back into my routine. The pain was in the other shoulder (not due to a pull up), felt with the arm fully extended overhead. Seemed counterintuitive, but doing pull ups (with a resistance band and no more than 10 or so reps per workout) has improved it steadily over the last few months.

Is the cobra and other yoga postures causimg similar back problems