A lot of old-school bodybuilders used to start their warm-ups by hanging on a pull-up bar. Yep, they’d just hang there, and sometimes they’d swing from side to side. Why? Because it just felt good, and it seemed to prepare their tight shoulders for the heavy lifting ahead.
You know who else has strong and healthy shoulders? Chimps. What do chimps do? They hang and swing on stuff. They also fling poo at each other, just like some bodybuilders, but let’s put our focus on the hanging and swinging part.
Adding some “chimp” movements into my training made my shoulders feel amazing, too. Swinging on monkey bars, or any implement, is a fantastic way to strengthen your grip, develop your lats, and improve your posture. It also provides decompression on your shoulder and is a great way to train your scapula to function properly.
Fortunately, with the popularization of CrossFit, many gyms have a rig complete with monkey bars or rings on them. If not, find a park. Below are several effective swinging variations that will improve the overall health of your shoulders.
Tip: You’re going to want some chalk before trying these.
Neutral Grip Swing
When you start this variation, you should always swing into your arm so that your palm faces you. This allows for safe external rotation of the shoulder and enhances the stretch on your lats.
I’d recommend “patterning” any swinging movement by having your feet on the ground before you jump right into it.
Neutral Grip Swing Patterning
Think “sniff your armpit” each time as you make a pass under the bar. Getting a little momentum will help you feel out the movement and lead to a smooth transfer for each grab of the bar. Move slowly and methodically. Don’t try to get through it as fast as possible.
Monkey Bars for Shoulder Mobility
Make sure your elbows stay straight so that the movement comes from your shoulder complex. Although you can do monkey bars with bent elbows and tight shoulders, that won’t lead to greater mobility.
Get your momentum going from side to side before you swing out on the bars. Start with going from bar to bar and progress by skipping bars.
Similar to the neutral grip swing, try to swing towards your armpit so that your shoulder stays in a neutral position. You should feel a big stretch in your upper back from where your shoulder blades move.
You can add movement to this one by moving back and forth across the monkey bars, or you can stay stationary. Start off with small side to side swings before making your movements bigger. Wrap your thumb around the bar when starting so you don’t lose your grip.