Upright Row Exercise Guide

The Upright Row is a compound exercise that focuses on the shoulder and upper back muscles, particularly the deltoids and the trapezius. The exercise is performed by holding a barbell, dumbbells, or a cable handle in front of you and pulling it vertically close to your body, leading with your elbows. The aim is to bring the weight level with your collarbone while keeping your hands close to your body. The Upright Row is effective for building shoulder and upper back strength, improving posture, and contributing to a more balanced upper body. Variations can include using different types of equipment like kettlebells or resistance bands.

Target Muscle Group
Exercise Type
Equipment Required
Force Type
Experience Level
Secondary Muscles
Deltoids, Upper Back, Traps

Step by Step Guide

Set Up and position Yourself correctly

Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a barbell or dumbbells in front of you with an overhand grip, hands slightly narrower than shoulder-width. Start with your arms fully extended and the weight close to your thighs.

Lift the Weight

Begin the exercise by pulling the weight upward, leading with your elbows. As you lift, your elbows should always be higher than your forearms. Bring the weight up to just below your chin, keeping it close to your body. Make sure to engage your shoulder and upper back muscles as you lift, rather than relying on arm strength or momentum.

Lower with Control

Pause briefly at the top of the movement, squeezing your shoulder and upper back muscles for maximum engagement. Then, slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position, keeping your movements controlled to maximize muscle engagement and minimize injury risk. Repeat for the desired number of reps, usually around 10-15. If you're new to this exercise, start with lighter weights and gradually increase as you become more comfortable.

Here are a Few Tips to Keep in Mind When Performing this Exercise.

  • Elbow Alignment: Make sure to lead with your elbows during the upward motion, rather than pulling with your wrists or hands. This helps to effectively engage the shoulder and upper back muscles while minimizing wrist strain.
  • Maintain Neutral Wrists: Keep your wrists in a neutral position throughout the exercise to reduce the risk of wrist strain or injury. Avoid bending or twisting them as you pull the weight upward.
  • Control the Movement: Perform the exercise in a controlled manner, both during the lifting and lowering phases. Rapid or jerky movements can increase the risk of injury and may engage momentum rather than muscle, reducing the exercise's effectiveness.

Exercise Benefits

  • Enhanced Upper-Body Strength: The Upright Row engages multiple muscle groups, including the deltoids and trapezius, contributing to overall upper-body strength. This makes it a useful exercise for improving performance in other lifts and daily activities.
  • Improved Shoulder and Trap Definition: Regularly performing this exercise helps to define and sculpt the shoulder and upper back area, contributing to a more balanced and aesthetic physique.
  • Posture Improvement: Stronger shoulder and upper back muscles support better posture, aiding in spinal alignment and reducing the tendency to slouch.
  • Reduced Injury Risk: Building strength in the shoulder area can reduce vulnerability to injuries, especially if you engage in sports or activities that heavily rely on shoulder movement.
  • Functional Fitness: The pulling motion used in the Upright Row mimics movements used in daily life, making it a practical exercise for enhancing functional fitness.