Normally, we talk about exercises that help us to gain muscle mass or to develop muscles that are not usually targeted. However, this time we will analyse a pull-up variation with which we should be careful in our workouts since it can cause long-term injuries. Therefore, in this article, you will find an analysis of a movement that we should avoid in some cases, since for some people it may be advisable to focus on other variations.
We are talking about behind the head pull-ups, a variation of pull-ups that you have to be careful with, as it carries some risk, especially for the cervical area. People that normally do behind the head pull-ups think that they work their back, traps and dorsal more efficiently and, therefore, they will get quick and visible results on their back. This is not entirely false, back work is actually effective up to a point. However, it is not more effective than a normal prone grip pull-up and it is more harmful.
The main problem with this movement is that it makes you bend your neck forward. This creates a tension that, depending on the mobility of each person, may be problematic. Cervical discs are very delicate and it is not convenient to repetitively forcing them in this way. Additionally, the shoulders are also placed in a more compromised position than in other pull-up variations. Therefore, people with shoulder problems or who are not properly prepared may experience certain discomfort that, eventually, can lead to injury.
This does not mean that you are going to get injured on the first day of doing behind the head pull-ups. In fact, this probably will not happen. Nevertheless, it is possible that in the long term you may experience certain discomfort due to a practice that is not necessary or effective. It is also true that there are people who are used to make more complex movements, with a different grip, or even with a more exaggerated rotation, but these people are well prepared for it and probably nothing will happen to them because their shoulders are more adapted to stress. However, if you are a beginner, it is not convenient to perform these movements if you do not want to injure yourself. Instead of behind the head pull-ups, you can perform normal or open-grip prone pull-ups with which you will obtain the same results and, at the same time, you will avoid possible injuries or discomfort in your training.
If you want an example of a pull-up routine with different variations that does not include the behind the head pull-up variation, in Calisteniapp you can find several routines for free, like this back routine. In addition, in the Smart Progress section of back and biceps you will be able to find different variations of pull-ups routines that will adjust to your level as you progress.
Written by Johanna Suárez Hernández