Methods to Do the Upright Row for Extra Higher Physique Muscle

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Most shoulder workouts contain urgent a weight overhead, whereas most again workouts contain pulling a weight towards your physique. The upright row is just a little little bit of each. This distinctive vertical pulling train targets your shoulders in addition to your higher again.

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This motion varieties the idea of the Olympic lifts and different vertical pulling variations. It’s versatile and may be carried out almost any device together with a barbell, EZ-curl bar, resistance bands, even one or two dumbbells or kettlebells.

The traditional and most typical motion is the usual barbell upright row. This lets you construct essentially the most vertical energy and energy whereas packing dimension onto your “yoke” — the trapezius, higher again, and shoulders. Right here’s every little thing you might want to know to thrive with this weightlifting staple.

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Methods to Do the Upright Row

The upright row is a vertical pulling train, transferring the burden out of your waist to close your shoulders. This motion can concurrently enhance higher physique coordination and energy for sports activities efficiency, whereas constructing some beefy shoulders and higher again.

Step 1 — Nail Your Beginning Place

Muscular person in gym holding barbell
Credit score: Breaking Muscle / YouTube

Get up straight, holding a barbell with a shoulder-width grip at arm’s size. Drop your shoulders down, carry your chest up, and have interaction your glutes. Have your knuckles going through the bottom and flex your thighs for all the set. Tuck in your chin and preserve a ahead gaze to assist preserve good posture all through all the set.

Kind Tip: You’ll be able to modify your grip width to vary the muscle recruitment. (1) A more in-depth than shoulder-width grip will emphasize your entrance deltoids (shoulders). Lifting with a a lot wider grip will hit your higher traps tougher.

Step 2 — Lead With Your Elbows

Muscular person in gym lifting barbell to shoulders
Credit score: Breaking Muscle / YouTube

Bend your elbows and pull them as much as shoulder-height. Maintain the barbell near your physique and produce it up till you attain roughly chest-level. Keep an upright torso and don’t let your hips swing the burden up. Maintain your core, quads, and glutes engaged to maintain a robust, steady posture. Squeeze your shoulder blades, trapezius, and shoulder muscle tissue as you pause briefly within the high place. Don’t lean too far again when the burden is on the high.

Kind Tip: Within the high place, your elbows must be almost stage together with your shoulders. Your wrists must be barely under your shoulders, and the barbell must be under your wrists. This may assist to maintain your joints in robust and wholesome positions.

Step 3 — Decrease the Weight with Management

Muscular person in gym lowering barbell from shoulders
Credit score: Breaking Muscle / YouTube

Maintain the burden near your physique as you slide it again down towards the beginning place. Grip the barbell tightly to keep up full management. When your arms are straight, pause and reset to make sure a superb posture earlier than doing the subsequent rep.

Kind Tip: Take three seconds to decrease the barbell. This may enable you to management the eccentric (decrease part) and enhance muscular pressure for extra development.

Upright Row Errors to Keep away from

The upright row could seem simple — you pull the barbell up and down your physique and let the higher physique beneficial properties start. However, dangle on, there may be greater than meets the attention right here. Keep away from these errors to get essentially the most out of this train.

Lifting Too Heavy

As tempting as it’s to load up an train to see how a lot you possibly can carry, the upright row isn’t that train. It must be handled as an “accent” to assist your vertical pulls and to construct muscle in your shoulders and higher again. It shouldn’t be skilled for “absolute energy,” or essentially the most quantity of weight you possibly can carry for a single repetition.

Making an attempt to drag an excessive amount of weight will encourage you to swing your physique for momentum, which might pressure your decrease again. Excessively heavy weights may stress your shoulder joints within the high place.

Keep away from it: If you end up needing physique English to drag the burden up, and in case you can’t management the eccentric for 2 or three seconds, don’t be a hero. Lighten the load and carry with good kind and correct management for higher outcomes.

Lifting Your Elbows Too Excessive

Bringing your elbows larger than parallel to the ground could trigger shoulder points like impingement or bursitis when repeated over time. (2) Reasonably than driving your elbows as much as your ears and making an attempt to drag the bar to your neck, cease when your elbows have reached shoulder-level.

Muscular person in gym lifting barbell to shoulders.
Credit score: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

Extra vary of movement just isn’t higher on this case as a result of, as your elbows rise above shoulder-level, your shoulder joint is put into a clumsy and doubtlessly harmful place because the smaller tissues throughout the joint capsule may be compressed and doubtlessly broken.

Keep away from it: Take note of the place your elbows are in relation to your shoulders. As you elevate the burden, deal with reaching the suitable top and never any farther.

Leaning Again

In the event you’re pushing the bounds with an excessive amount of load or making an attempt (inefficiently) to create an extended vary of movement, it’s possible you’ll find yourself leaning too far again and lengthening your decrease again whereas pulling the burden upwards.

When that occurs, you lose good posture and put your self in danger for a possible damage. You additionally add a “diagonal” motion to what must be a vertical pull, which modifications your leverage and reduces the issue of the carry.

Keep away from it: Maintain your core tight, and have interaction your quads (thighs) and glutes for all the set. Whenever you lose that muscular engagement, finish the set and think about lightening the load.  

Letting The Bar Drift Away

In the event you get drained and start utilizing momentum to complete your set, or in case you’ve obtained an excessive amount of weight loaded, the barbell could drift away out of your torso since you’re utilizing an excessive amount of physique English and might’t preserve management over the bar.

Person in gym doing upright row exercise.
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Because the bar will get farther in entrance of your physique, your smaller rotator cuffs are put underneath extra stress, your wrist and elbow joints are put underneath extra pressure, and your general leverage decreases which removes muscular activation out of your higher again.

Keep away from it: Maintain your shoulders down and your chest up. This could assist to recruit your shoulder and higher again muscle tissue, which can assist preserve the barbell near your torso as you carry and decrease the burden.

Methods to Progress the Upright Row

The upright row could not all the time be the best motion for a vertical pulling train relying in your particular person mobility. Chances are you’ll profit from working as much as the total barbell upright row. Right here’s tips on how to get began.

Two-Dumbbell Upright Row

The barbell can generally be unforgiving for lifters with present wrist or elbow joint issues. A barbell additionally locks your fingers into a hard and fast width and a place that could be uncomfortable to your present wrist or forearm mobility. Performing dumbbell upright rows is a wonderful option to construct dimension and energy whereas working round any mobility points.

Dumbbells permit your fingers and wrists to naturally rotate through the train, and this freedom of motion is extra forgiving in your joints whereas nonetheless making use of pressure on the goal muscle tissue.

Tempo Upright Row

Each rep of each train technically has has 4 “elements” — the eccentric or decreasing portion, the stretched place, the concentric or lifting portion, and the lockout or peak contraction. Manipulating how lengthy every half takes known as tempo lifting, and it may be the important thing to getting extra outcomes from lighter weights.

For instance, you may work with 3-1-2-3. This is able to imply you’re taking three seconds to decrease the burden, maintain a one-second pause within the stretched place, carry the burden in two seconds, and pause for 3 full seconds within the contracted place. This places the working muscle tissue by extra time underneath pressure, and extra time underneath pressure results in extra development. (3)

Unilateral Smith Machine Upright Row

Whilst you can carry out a single-arm dumbbell upright row, the burden can turn out to be problematic and unwieldy because the dumbbells get larger and bulkier. This is a wonderful time to show to the Smith machine for an unconventional however extremely efficient motion.

With the fastened vary of movement supplied by the guided rails, the Smith machine gives further stability. This lets you go heavier than any dumbbell variation. The lengthy barbell can be simpler and extra comfy to seize than a comparatively smaller dumbbell.

Advantages of the Upright Row

The upright row has glorious carryover to different vertical pulling actions just like the snatch and clear & jerk. It’s additionally an amazing train to construct an enormous “yoke” — the muscle tissue throughout your shoulders and higher again.

Higher Physique Muscle

As a result of the upright row works your deltoid muscle tissue, higher again, and traps, bodybuilders and physique-focused lifters ought to embrace this train to coach their whole shoulder space. It’s an efficient train for shoulder hypertrophy (development), and constructing the “yoke” helps you look match, muscular, and athletic even whenever you’re carrying a saggy sweatshirt.

Energy Carryover

In the event you’re a energy athlete concerned in CrossFit or Olympic weightlifting, you might be frequently performing lifts similar to energy cleans or excessive pulls. Coaching the upright row could have a direct carryover to the efficiency of those lifts as a result of it trains the identical muscle teams and helps general improvement.

The upright row can be a superb accent train for Olympic weightlifting as a result of it mimics the motion path of the snatch and clear. Though the total Olympic lifts practice total-body energy, the upright row helps to construct the muscle tissue concerned, which helps to strengthen all the motion.

Person in gym performing barbell Olympic lift.
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Through the snatch and the clear & jerk, it’s important to maintain the barbell near your torso when it travels at full pace. Doing the barbell upright row as an adjunct train will enhance the energy wanted to maintain the barbell near your physique. 

Improved Posture

The barbell upright row targets the higher again and higher traps, that are important for good posture. Bettering postural energy has glorious carryover when preserving a impartial backbone for barbell squats and deadlifts, or when merely strolling in each day exercise.

Improved Core Energy

The upright row is primarily an higher physique train, so your anterior core (abs and hips) and posterior core (decrease again and glutes) work onerous to keep up a impartial posture. With the burden being in entrance of your physique, your six-pack muscle tissue are working onerous so that you don’t spherical ahead or tilt sideways, whereas your posterior core ensures you don’t lengthen your decrease again as you pull the load up towards your chest.   

Muscle tissues Labored by the Upright Row

The upright row is predominantly an higher physique motion together with your core and decrease physique muscle tissue taking part in a supporting function. Listed here are the foremost muscle tissue skilled by the upright row.


The trapezius muscle’s major operate is controlling your shoulder blades, which happens when pulling the barbell up. The scapulae (shoulder blades) outwardly rotate to drag the barbell up your torso. The vertical pulling movement of the upright row is within the entice’s wheelhouse.


All three heads of the deltoids — the entrance, aspect, and rear — are skilled in shoulder abduction when your higher arm rises out to your sides. That is seen most importantly within the peak contraction on the high of the upright row.

Higher Again

The higher again (together with your rhomboids and teres) performs two roles through the upright row. It controls the upward rotation of the scapula, as you attain the highest a part of the repetition, and it really works to maintain a superb lifting posture with a impartial backbone from high to backside. 


As a result of your elbows bend and flex through the upright row, your biceps are additionally skilled. Nonetheless, they play a supportive function and aren’t the first goal. In case your biceps are fatiguing earlier than different muscle tissue, modify your grip width and deal with driving your elbows up — don’t overfocus on pulling together with your fingers. 


Your abdominals, obliques, and decrease again work encompass your torso to assist your backbone. This lets you stay in a superb general posture so you possibly can deal with the remainder of the higher physique muscle tissue doing their job to maneuver the burden.

Methods to Program the Upright Row

The upright row may be personalized by adjusting units and reps to fit your private objectives. The upright row cops some flack in lifting circles as a result of it may well put the shoulders in a doubtlessly weak place. However when the motion is programmed correctly and carried out accurately, it may be an especially helpful train with restricted threat.

For Energy

Like many barbell workouts, the upright row can enhance general higher physique energy. That is performed by performing fewer reps and some extra units at a comparatively heavier weight. To deal with enhancing your higher again energy, carry out three to 5 units of 4 to 6 repetitions. Nonetheless, the motion ought to stay strict and with none swinging. If you need to heave the burden up, you’ve gone too heavy.

For Efficiency

The barbell upright row may be carried out when weightlifting athletes need to enhance their bar path, coordination, and energy for Olympic lifts. When that is the case, use a reasonable weight with a better quantity — three to 4 units of 10 repetitions works properly.

For Muscle  

When seeking to construct your yoke, comparatively larger reps with a light-weight to reasonable weight must be your go-to. This allows you to emphasize your shoulders and higher again with larger quantity to overload the tissue for higher potential muscle development. Right here, wherever from three to 5 units of 10 to fifteen repetitions works properly.

Upright Row Variations

Though the barbell upright row is a superb train to construct your shoulders and higher again, it helps to have a couple of variations in your again pocket to drag out for selection, to cut back boredom, and to keep away from overuse accidents. Listed here are three such variations.

Kettlebell Upright Row

The kettlebell upright row may be carried out with one or two kettlebells. Holding one kettlebell with each fingers doesn’t favor the shoulder joint, so both carry out is with one weight in a single hand or one weight in every hand.

Working unilaterally (a weight in every hand) might help strengthen imbalances between sides. The kettlebell additionally presents a special really feel in comparison with a dumbbell as a result of the burden’s middle of gravity is decrease. This might help to strengthen preserving the burden near your physique through the carry.

 Snatch Pull

The snatch pull is an Olympic carry variation that trains lower- and higher physique energy. Since you’re driving the burden together with your decrease physique, extra weight can be utilized than with a strict upright row.

The snatch pull mimics a deadlift setup mixed with the pulling a part of the upright row, however utilizing a large snatch-grip will additional strengthen your higher again. The explosive nature of the carry additionally helps to develop energy and energy.

Single-Arm Upright Row 

In the event you haven’t obtained entry to a kettlebell, the single-arm upright row with a dumbbell is an efficient and dependable variation.

The deal with unilateral energy will assist strengthen either side of the physique to enhance general bilateral efficiency. This is likely one of the most joint-friendly variations as a result of you possibly can simply modify the vary of movement and your hand place to your particular person mobility wants.


It’s completely wonderful in case you’re uncertain concerning the professionals and cons of the upright barbell row, as a result of it’s earned a barely “controversial” status over time — partly on account of its calls for on the shoulder joint, and partly on account of lifters merely performing it incorrectly and negating its advantages.

Why do my wrists bend through the upright row?

Your wrist will flex or bend towards your physique when the load will get heavy as you pull the burden up towards your chest. Whereas some wrist flexion is okay on the finish vary of movement, you need to cut back the burden in case your wrists damage.

The older lifters on the fitness center say the upright row will grind my shoulders into mud. Are they proper?

The barbell upright row just isn’t for everyone. As a result of the shoulders are internally rotated, a hard and fast vary of movement and good shoulder mobility is required, and a few will really feel ache, notably on the high of the carry.
If so, carry out kettlebell or dumbbell upright rows whereas enhancing your shoulder mobility. Work across the concern and never by it.

Know Your Row

The upright row is a time-tested motion for including dimension to your shoulders, traps, and again and constructing pulling energy that carries over to virtually each higher physique train. It’s short-sighted to dismiss the upright row as merely being doubtlessly harmful. When carried out with good approach, following correct programming, it may be a crucial participant in constructing a extra muscular and extra highly effective higher physique.


  1. McAllister, M. J., Schilling, B. Okay., Hammond, Okay. G., Weiss, L. W., & Farney, T. M. (2013). Impact of grip width on electromyographic exercise through the upright row. Journal of energy and conditioning analysis27(1), 181–187.
  2. Schoenfeld, Brad MSc, CSCS1; Kolber, Morey J PT, PhD, CSCS2; Haimes, Jonathan E BS, CSCS2. The Upright Row: Implications for Stopping Subacromial Impingement. Energy and Conditioning Journal: October 2011 – Quantity 33 – Difficulty 5 – p 25-28 doi: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e31822ec3e3
  3. Burd, N. A., Andrews, R. J., West, D. W., Little, J. P., Cochran, A. J., Hector, A. J., Cashaback, J. G., Gibala, M. J., Potvin, J. R., Baker, S. Okay., & Phillips, S. M. (2012). Muscle time underneath pressure throughout resistance train stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional artificial responses in males. The Journal of physiology590(2), 351–362.

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