The upright row is a classic exercise for the shoulders and traps. We believe that many people still know about upright rowing. Of course, it is good for us to do upright rowing for a long time, but many people do not know how to do upright rowing correctly. So, what are the essentials of upright rowing? Let's take a look at the requirements of action.

How to Do Upright Row


How to Do Upright Rows


  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell or a pair of dumbbells with an overhand grip. Your hands should be slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Allow the barbell or dumbbells to hang in front of your thighs with your arms fully extended.
  3. Engage your core muscles for stability and maintain a neutral spine throughout the exercise.
  4. Begin the movement by lifting the barbell or dumbbells straight up towards your chin, keeping them close to your body and your elbows pointing out to the sides.
  5. As you lift, your elbows should go higher than your forearms, creating a "V" shape with your arms.
  6. Pause briefly at the top position, squeezing your shoulder muscles.
  7. Slowly lower the barbell or dumbbells back down to the starting position in a controlled manner.
  8. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, focusing on maintaining proper form and control throughout the exercise.

Upright Row Muscles Worked


Upright row muscles worked


Upright rows primarily target the muscles of the shoulders, particularly the lateral deltoids and trapezius. The lateral deltoids, located on the sides of the shoulders, are responsible for lifting the arms out to the sides. The trapezius, or traps, are the large muscles that run along the back of the neck and upper back and help in elevating and retracting the shoulder blades.

Additionally, upright rows also engage the muscles of the upper back, including the rhomboids and the rear deltoids. The rhomboids play a role in retracting the shoulder blades, while the rear deltoids are responsible for shoulder extension.

As secondary movers, the biceps and forearms are also engaged during the exercise, as they assist in lifting the weight towards the chin.

It's important to note that while upright rows target several muscles, they are most effective for developing the shoulders and upper back, making them a popular exercise for improving upper body strength and posture.

Benefits of Upright Row

Upright rows are a compound exercise that targets the shoulders, upper back, and arms. They help develop shoulder muscles, improve upper body strength, and enhance functional fitness. Additionally, upright rows promote better posture and shoulder stability. This versatile exercise can be performed using a barbell, dumbbells, or resistance bands, making it suitable for various fitness levels and equipment availability. By incorporating upright rows into your workout routine, you can achieve well-rounded shoulder development and upper body definition. Remember to maintain proper form and gradually progress to reap the benefits safely and effectively.

Common Mistakes

Avoid these mistakes to get the most out of this exercise and avoid strain or injury.

Arm Position

As you lift, keep your elbows higher than your forearms. Do not raise your arms above parallel to avoid impact, which reduces your shoulder range of motion.

Holding Position

This exercise can strain your wrists, so only use a wide grip. For the safety of the wrists and shoulders, it is recommended to have a shoulder-width apart. 3 Using a wide grip also increases deltoid and trapezius activation.

Keep your wrists supple as you lift, allowing them to flex. Try to keep them from Moving down or sideways during the lift.

Back and Torso

Keep your torso still and your abs supported throughout the lift—don't turn or twist. Keep your back straight, chest up, and eyes straight ahead. There shouldn't be any movement in the legs (unless you're adding planks, for example).

Too Heavy

Shoulder impingement can occur due to excess body weight. 5 The shoulder joint is a complex mechanism, and damage to it can severely impact your exercise goals while healing is slow. Do not lift weights in this exercise unless you have experience and trust your shoulder joint.

If you're new to upright rowing, start with a weightless barbell. 6 This will allow you to experience the lift and learn the movements and positioning from start to finish. Gradually add weight, taking care not to add too much weight until your shoulders are ready.

Dumbbell Upright Row VS Barbell Upright Row

Generally speaking, upright rowing is divided into dumbbell upright rowing and barbell upright rowing. These two upright rowing can produce significant exercise effects on our deltoid muscles and triceps.

Dumbbell Upright Row


When rowing upright with dumbbells, we first need to take a standing position. Our arms need to fall naturally, and our elbows can be slightly bent to facilitate better exertion. Holding the dumbbells with both hands is the preparation for the action.

When the movement starts, we need to use the deltoid muscle as the leading force point, bend our elbow joint, let both hands hold the dumbbell until the chest, until the deltoid muscle feels a peak contraction, and then slowly return to the original state, recover You can exhale when you are in the original position.

Barbell Upright Row


When performing barbell upright rowing, we first need to take a standing position. We need to separate our legs and feet slightly wider than our shoulders to keep the chassis stable when standing. We need to adopt an overhand grip, holding the bar firmly on the bar, with the distance between the hands and the shoulders equal.

At the beginning of the movement, we need to use the deltoid muscle as the main force to lift the barbell to the chest, maintain it for 1 to 3 seconds, complete the peak contraction, and then slowly return to the original state. When returning to the actual state, you can exhale.

The "wave" EZ curl bar makes this exercise easier on the wrist when using a barbell. Look for an EZ-Bend bar that allows you to hold the bar slightly to help reduce stress on your wrists from the angle at the top of the lift.

Which is Better?

When working the deltoid, I think the barbell upright row is better for the deltoid. Because barbells are more stable than dumbbells. When we perform dumbbells, the triceps will participate in a certain amount of force to help us stabilize the movement route, so the triceps are more likely to join in borrowing, which affects the deltoid—full workout.

But this change is minimal. If you are not a person who is very demanding and demanding about fitness, there is not much difference between these two sports for ordinary bodybuilders. Therefore, these two exercises are suitable for the exercise of the deltoid muscles. If you like to perform dumbbell upright rowing, you can choose dumbbell upright rowing to exercise your powers. We can choose the sports equipment that suits us according to our physical needs.

Row Variations

There are several variations on an upright row you can try to spice things up.

Barbell Bent-Over Row


Barbell bent-over row


Whether you want to train a broad back or shape your upper torso, the barbell bent-over row is necessary. It introduces the lats, rear deltoid, teres major, and more.

When training, pay attention to standing with your legs, keep your back straight, hold the barbell with both hands, and pull the barbell toward your chest, feeling the tightening of your back and upper arm muscles as you pull it up. When the bar reaches your navel, open your arms and lower the bar. 

Seated Row

Seated row


Seated rowing works primarily on the upper back muscles.

Begin by sitting on a bench, with both legs straight forward, knees bent, and the soles of both feet on the pedals of the equipment, and the upper body is relaxed. Then, using the muscles in your back, pull the handle forward toward your belly. Stay for 1-2 seconds at the closest fit, then return to the original direction to complete an action.

Note that when doing this action, the breathing should be consistent with the frequency of doing it. Exhale as you pull back and inhale as you pull forward.

Cable Upright Row


Cable upright row


The Cable Upright Row is a popular resistance training exercise primarily targeting the shoulder muscles. It involves using a cable machine with an attached straight or EZ-curl bar and performing a pulling motion to engage the deltoids and upper trapezius muscles. This exercise is known for its effectiveness in building shoulder strength and definition, making it a valuable addition to upper body workout routines.

Start by holding the handle of the machine and keeping your back straight. Use your shoulders to pull up the rope with your arms and pull the machine's handle to your chin. Pause for 1-2 seconds. Then slowly put it down, return it to its original state, and complete an action.

When performing this action, you should pay attention to adjusting the weight, as the excess weight will cause muscle damage.

Double Arm Kettlebell Row 

Double arm kettlebell row


This movement uses the muscles of the back and the arms and shoulders. First, stay upright, then open both feet, hip-width apart, and bend the knees of both feet slightly. Next, the upper body and Lean forward a little across the width, then keep your back straight and your knees bent. Hold the kettlebell in your hand and hold the two kettlebells facing each other, keeping your arms straight down and vertical, keeping your elbows close to the edge of your body, and then pulling the kettlebells up. When the lift reaches the highest point, squeeze your shoulder blades together and slowly return to the starting point.

Upright Row FAQs 

Q1: Are upright rows safe for everyone to perform?

A: Upright rows can be a beneficial exercise when performed with proper form and appropriate weight. However, individuals with shoulder issues or a history of shoulder injuries should approach this exercise with caution or consult a healthcare professional or fitness trainer before including it in their routine.

Q2: How wide should my grip be during upright rows?

A: Your grip should be slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart. Avoid using an excessively wide grip, as it may strain the shoulders and put them in an unnatural position.

Q3: How many repetitions and sets should I do for upright rows?

A: The number of repetitions and sets depends on your fitness goals and training program. As a general guideline, aim for 8-12 repetitions per set and perform 3-4 sets. Adjust the weight and repetitions based on your individual needs and preferences.

Q4: Should I use a barbell or dumbbells for upright rows?

A: Both barbells and dumbbells can be effective for upright rows. Using a barbell allows you to lift more weight, while dumbbells provide a more natural range of motion for each arm. You can alternate between both options to add variety to your workouts.

Q5: Can upright rows replace lateral raises for shoulder development?

A: While upright rows and lateral raises both target the lateral deltoids, they provide slightly different stimulus to the muscles. For comprehensive shoulder development, it's beneficial to include both exercises in your training routine.

Q6: How often should I perform upright rows in my workout routine?

A: The frequency of performing upright rows depends on your overall training program and workout goals. It's essential to allow adequate rest and recovery between sessions targeting the same muscle groups to avoid overtraining. Aim to include upright rows 1-2 times per week as part of your shoulder and upper body training regimen.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.