How to Do an Upright Row

The upright row is an excellent yet advanced choice for those looking increase their shoulder and upper body strength. This exercise specifically targets the trapezius of the back, the deltoids of the shoulder and the biceps of the upper arm. The movement can be performed using either a barbell or dumbbells, but a barbell is recommended for its added stability.

Strengthening what’s known as the posterior chain, or the back side of your body, is hugely beneficial, especially considering the large amount of time most people spend in a seated position. The exercise has the added benefit of aiding in daily activities that require pulling motions.

How To

  • To begin, carefully lift the barbell to waist height using the knees to assist with the lift.
  • Stand with feet firmly planted on the floor at about shoulder width apart. Arms should be extended, and the barbell should be held in an overhand grip with thumbs facing each other and palms facing your body. Hands should be placed at shoulder width apart for the optimal wrist alignment.
  • Set your shoulders by pulling the shoulders blades together and down the back. Engage the abs.
  • Exhale as you lift the barbell. Pull through the elbows and keep the bar close to the body. Your elbows should lift no higher than your shoulders, with the bar at the height of your chest.
  • Pause for a breath and then, to complete the movement, exhale as you slowly lower the bar back down to your waist. Remember to keep the core engaged throughout the entire maneuver; don’t simply allow your arms to drop back down.


For the average weight-lifting regime, you should be aiming to complete three to five sets of 15–20 repetitions each. Keep in mind that you want to be using a lighter weight and focusing on using a perfect form.


Kettle bell row: Using a kettle bell lessens the internal rotation that happens on the wrist when using a barbell. This can help to lessen the chance of an injury. Make sure to cut the weight you are lifting by more than half.

Dumbbell row: You can also use dumbbells to perform upright rows. They require a bit more stabilization, but they allow for more freedom of movement in the wrists. As with the kettlebells, this reduces the internal rotation that can happen with the barbell. You will want to cut your weight by more than half for dumbbells as well.

Resistance band: If you don’t have access to weights, you can do an upright row with an exercise band. Stand on the center of the band and grip the ends of the band with thumbs facing toward each other and palms facing inward. You may need to adjust where you grip the band to find the right tension.

Cautionary Notes

This exercise by its very nature can easily lead to injury. Be very careful that you are using perfect form when performing upright rows. If you are unsure, either consult a fitness trainer or try a different workout.

Make sure not to lift your elbows higher than your shoulders. Lifting higher than parallel is where injuries occur, such as pinching a tendon.

Keep the back straight and torso upright. This allows you to target the proper muscle group.

Be very careful not to use momentum for this movement. A slow and controlled lift and lower is very important to avoiding potential injury.

More Great Exercises for the Deltoids

Front Raise
Lateral raise
Military Press
Rear delt raise
Shoulder press

More Upright Row Related Resources

How To Do Upright Row
Upright Barbell Row | Exercise Videos & Guides |
How to Do an Upright Row: Techniques, Benefits, Variations
Why the Upright Row is Bad for Your Shoulders (With Safe and Effective Alternatives) | STACK
How To Do The Upright Row | Coach
How To Do An Upright Row The Right Way
How to Do the Upright Row | Men’s Health

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