Big 5 – High pull

Big 5 - High pull

Building on my post about the push up position, this post on the 'high pull' acts an accessory movement to the push up, as well as it's own movement depending on the situation or exercise you're performing.

What I mean in regards to it being an accessory movement is that when you lower yourself into the bottom position of a push up, your shoulder doesn't just move back and forward in a linear fashion like motion at you elbow does, but as the upper arm travels behind you creating shoulder extension, there are accessory motions that happen at the shoulder joint. The head of the humerus (ball)  rolls, slides, and spins inside the glenoid fossa (socket) to maintain an optimal position throughout the movement.

Missing internal rotation of the shoulder (the high pull position) can result in the joint running out of room to move when you are lowering into the bottom of the push up. When this happens the shoulder tends to block itself, then the whole shoulder complex compromises and dumps forward in order to complete the movement instead of the movement happening within the joint and the shoulder complex remaining in an optimal position. The issue with this is the same as when you don't have full shoulder extension (my push up post).

Big 5 – Push up

The elbows flare out to the side and the shoulders are protracted forwards. Applying force to then press out of the push up (or whatever the movement is) is risky when the shoulder is not positioned optimally.

The video below is my attempt to try and make some sense of this

All of my movement errors and transferability posts cover creating rotation at either the hip or shoulder in order to create stability at the joint, just as the big 5 posts cover the need for having adequate rotation at a joint to achieve full physiological range of motion.  Many of the people I follow and admire e.g. Kelly Starrett, Gray Cook, Eric Cressey, Perry Nickelston, Ido Portal all continuously talk about rotation and how it relates to movement. However, I fell like the transverse plane gets pretty neglected. Almost everything we do in artificial movement environments e.g. a gym, is linear. It's not until you get out into nature, take up a martial art, play a sport or a form of dance that you start to explore how your body rotates.

Self care

Start by leaning with your back against a wall. Take the side you wish to stretch and place the back of your hand behind your lower back. Keeping your butt and belly tight pull your shoulder and elbow back against the wall. You must keep your shoulder against the wall at all times.


Add tension to the stretch by pulling your hips back towards the wall. The amount of tension you can apply to the stretch is dictated by your ability to keep your shoulder blade back against the wall.

Once you're set up and have loaded the shoulder into your position of restriction, you can apply the contract relax method. Push your arm into your back for 5 seconds, then relax, breathe, and reset. Each time you should be able to lower your hips slightly further back to the wall, taking up any slack that you've just created. Make sure to try a set of push ups before and after to assess any change.

As a final word, all of the information above and throughout my previous posts is my understanding and interpretation of human anatomy, physiology and biomechanics from a personal training background. If you have shoulder pain or dysfunction I would suggest seeing a physiotherapist, chiropractor, osteopath, or theraputic massage therpist. The purpose of these posts is to assess and affect poor movement practices and soft tissue restrictions as a proactive approach to staying injury free and moving well. However, there is and will always be a million and one people out there that are light years ahead of me with this stuff.

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