Every bodybuilder on this planet can tell you tons of facts
and figures about the upright row exercise, one of the most popular routines
among them. But one of the reasons this is so popular in each and every gym is
the fact that it is usually a routine meant for the stronger. The reason women
stay away from it is the simple fact that besides building an upper back meant
to kill, it also increases the girth of your neck. And a woman with a big neck
is a bit out of this world. But athletes, football or rugby players or even
rowing competition fanatics always check it on their daily workout routine
A regular upright row is performed without additional
weights, but with a barbell. And it is a super effective compound exercise. It
targets multiple muscle groups, such as the biceps, the deltoids and the upper
trapezius. The last two are vital for your shoulder movements. Furthermore,
smaller muscles, like the fixators and the synergists are involved in this
They are specific muscles that aid an antagonist pair to
efficiently produce a desired movement. The agonists are the muscles that are
directly responsible for any joint movement, while the synergist
counterbalances for an agonist s undesired, or wrongly made movement. The bone
the agonist is attached to is kept still by the fixator. Fixators are
responsible for stabilizing the joints and for preventing undesirable
movements.For instance, during a basic elbow movement like the flexion and
extension, the scapula is held still by the shoulder muscles; the biceps and
triceps are the ones attached to the scapula, which is held still by the
fixators that increase tension in order to fulfill this action.
The most important thing that you must take into account
when deciding to include this type of exercise in your daily routine is the
fact that the upright row is really challenging for your shoulders because of
the rotation it involves. So your shoulder joints may not thank you for it.
This increased twisting force puts great pressure on the smaller muscles that
are in charge of controlling your shoulder joint s stability, especially your
But not having to follow the most common upright row
protocol, which requires a barbell by excellence, your possibilities are
countless, mostly due to the fact that you will no longer be restrained to a
gym. Owning a couple of personal dumbbells makes it the perfect exercise to do
wherever you go and whatever you do with the rest of your time.
We ve also offered some shoulder shrug alternatives
throughout this article, as they are known to target the same muscles with a
decreased risk of side effects.
The Classical Upright Row Using a Barbell
Step 1: While standing up with your
feet at shoulder width apart, grasp the barbell with an overhand grip.
Step 2: Pulling your shoulders back,
lifting your chest and arching your lower back, pull the barbell up, in front
of your body, until it reaches your under chin; exhale while doing this, for
Step 3: Lower the barbell back down to
your starting position, inhaling all the way.
Remember to let your elbows lead the movement so
they should be higher than the hands. Don t hitch the weight., it decreases
the effect of the exercise and you might get injured as well. Using your back,
knees or your hips to jerk the barbell is like a common reaction of our body
when it gets tired. So don t force yourself too much. Try performing more short
sets rather than concentrating on a longer one.
The Standing Dumbbell Upright Row
This one has the same basics as the classic barbell
protocol, but it requires two dumbbells instead of one big weight. However its
risks are the same: jerking the weights and using momentum in order to ease the
movement. But doing this makes the routine almost useless. When it comes to
sustained bodybuilding, your body isn t always your friend, as it has a natural
instinct of making every move you make easier. Our body is a notorious cheater.
It s up to your mind control to moderate the habit.
Here s how to perform the standing dumbbell upright row:
Step 1: Grab the dumbbells with an overhand grip.
With your palm towards your body, hold them in front of your thighs. There you
have your starting position.
Step 2: Start pulling the dumbbells upward, towards
your chest, keeping the elbows flared out throughout the movement.
Step 3: Stop the lifting movement once the dumbbells
have reached your upper chest.
Step 4: Lower the dumbbells until you reach the
starting position. Here you have one rep.
Remember to keep the weights as close to your body as
possible, and also don t forget about the inhale-exhale routine your exhaling
should always be done during the most difficult step of the protocol, in this
case, while you re lifting the dumbbells.
The Barbell Shrug
This is a variation of both previous routines. As all
exercises that involve barbells, your grip strength will be bigger than
Here s how the barbell shrug is performed:
Step 1: Stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart,
and rest the barbell in front of your thighs with an overhand grip. Fully
extend your arms.
Step 2: Start shrugging your shoulders without
forgetting about your straight arms. The ampleness of this move is up to your
Step 3: Count for a few seconds, then slowly release
until you are in the starting position again.
Keep in mind the fact that the movement of your shoulders is
a down-up one, under no circumstances is it a rotation one.
The Wide Grip Bb Shrug
This is exactly like the previous described exercise, the
only difference being that the overhand grip is wider than the shoulder-width
The Dumbbell Shrug
Well, it doesn t take a rocket scientist to figure this one
out. It s the same thing as the barbell shrug, but this time using dumbbells.
However we ll include some instructions here, just to make sure you are keeping
your arms in a correct position.
Step 1: Standing up with your back straight after
you ve grabbed your dumbbells, your arms are hanging by your sides and your
palms are facing the laterals.
Step 2: Start raising your shoulders towards your
ears; keep the move on a vertical axis.
Step 3: Slowly release and lower the dumbbells to
your starting position.
The Inclined Dumbbell Shrug
Step 1: Make sure the inclined bench you are about to
work on has a 60-degree angle with the floor and grab the dumbbells.
Step 2: While lying with your chest on the bench,
allow your arm to hang, with your palms facing behind you.
Step 3: Start shrugging your shoulders towards the
Step 4: Keep it there for a few seconds and then
The Overhead Dumbbell Shrug
This variation is better than any attempt of performing the
same routine using a barbell. By doing this you will decrease your stability at
a great extent, and bad accidents may happen. So just stick with the dumbbells,
Step 1: Stand up with your feet shoulder width apart
and keeping your arms fully extended above your head, hold a pair of dumbbells
in your hands, palms facing each other.
Step 2: Bracing your core lift the shoulders as high
as you can towards the ceiling.
Step 3: Hold it there for a couple of seconds, and
Remember not to bend your arms while doing this, and
moreover don t wiggle because of exhaustion. It s better to take a break.
Upright Dumbbell Rows Front Raises
This variation is highly recommended in case you have
problems with your shoulders. They have no internal heavy rotation of your
Step 1: Stand up with your feet at shoulder-width.
Hold the dumbbells in front of your thighs, while your palms are facing your
Step 2: Start raising the arms in front of you until
they reach the same level as your shoulders.
Step 3: Hold it there for a few seconds and release
by lowering your arms back to the step 1 position.
The Upright Cable Row
Step 1: Allow the low pulley bar you ve grasped with
your palms facing your thighs to rest on them. Keep your back straight and your
elbows a little bent.
Step 2: Keeping the bar as close to the body as
possible, start lifting it upwards until it reaches your chin. Remember the
main rule according to which the elbows are the ones conducting the motion.
Exhale while doing this part.
Step 3: Rest for a few seconds at the top of the
movement. Inhale and lower your shoulders slowly until the bar is in the step 1
This is easier to perform correctly than the upright rows
with dumbbells are. It also works with an ez or straight bar.
The Upright Row with Resistance Bands
Step 1: Fix the exercise band you are standing on so
that the band is tensed even when you are holding your arms down in front of
your body, with your elbows slightly bent and the handles resting on the
thighs. The grip should be with your palm facing your thighs.
Step 2: Exhaling, lift both handles with the help of
your side shoulders. Remember not to push your arms away from your body: they
should be as close to it as possible.
Step 3: Stop the lifting when the handles are about
to touch your chin. Hold for a couple of seconds.
Step 4: Release slowly while inhaling, until you
reach the starting step 1 position.
Also remember that the elbows are conducting the movement,
meaning that they must always be above your arms.
The Db Deadlift to Upright Row
Step 1: Standing up with your feet shoulder width
apart, hold one dumbbell in each hand.Your palms are facing the body.
Step 2: Bend from your waist, and allow your hands to
hang for a few moments.
Step 3: While raising yourself up, also lift your
elbows until the dumbbells reach your upper chest.
Step 4: Slowly let them down towards your hips. This
is one rep.
The Seated Upright Dumbbell Row
Step 1: Pick a dumbbell in each hand, and sit down on
a bench, keeping your back straight and your feet together, so as not to hit
yourself with the weights. The dumbbell grip should have your palms facing
Step 2: Exhaling, pull the db towards the shoulders
and hold it there for a couple of seconds.
Step 3: Inhaling, release and bring your arms back to
the starting position.
Repeat immediately, without any rest.
The Smith Machine Upright Row
This version is the safest upright row alternative, as the
Smith machine is a great starting device for the ones less familiar with the
Step 1: The height of the smith machine should come
up to your thighs. Grab the bar using a shoulder width apart palms forward
Step 2: Remove the bar from its place and rest it
against your body keeping your arms fully extended (your arms should be a
little bent) and your back straight.
Step 3: While you exhale, lift the bar using your
shoulders until it barely touches your chin. Hold it for a few seconds.
Step 4: Begin lowering the bar towards the starting
position. This is when you should inhale.
The following two exercises were inspired by the ExRx.net website:
The Seated Upright Rows with Dumbbells Enhanced
Variation, Using One Arm.
Step 1: Sit down at the end of a bench this time
keeping your legs apart, just like in a pli . With an overhand grip, place the
dumbbell between your legs holding your arm in a vertical position right under
the corresponding shoulder. Rest your other hand on the knee.
Step 2: Allowing your elbow to lead the movement,
just lift the dumbbell until it is in front of your shoulder.
Remember that for the upright rows protocols, a good
criteria to evaluate the correctness of your move is to take care that the
wrists are also in front of your shoulders, or slightly below them, while the
elbows should be pointing on the sides, never forward.
The One Arm Standing Upright Row with Dumbbells
Just like the previous exercise, this one works one side at
a time, which can be much better, because it s easier for your brain to isolate
the movement and perform it correctly.
Step 1: Grab one dumbbell with the palm of your hand
facing the thigh and use your other one for support, either holding a handle or
a fix bar. This one is performed standing up, not seated like the previous one.
Step 2: Pull the dumbbell to your shoulder,
performing the well-known upright row dumbbell move.
Step 3: Lower to starting position and repeat for as
many times as you can.
Upright Row Safety and Caution Measures You Need
The most recommended grip in this type of routine is the shoulder
width one. Otherwise a close grip may damage your shoulder cuff by impinging
upon it. This narrower grip is recommended for increased trapezius muscles
activity, but you may as well perform other specific routines that target these
muscles instead of taking a risk with this one.
Also take care not to ever point your elbows forward, but to the
Always keep your shoulders backwards, with your chest facing
forward, therefore maintaining an optimal position as far as your back is
Keep the dumbbells or bar as close to the body as possible and
always consider a normal or a wider grip, not a close one. Your shoulders will
thank you for it.
A safer version for this routine would never involve the barbell,
but a resistance band, rope handle or dumbbells alternative. Not just for the
shoulders, but for your wrists as well.
If you feel any pain while doing this, stop at once.
As with any physical exercise on this planet, the dumbbell
upright rows not only helps you build muscle, but it has a lot of health
benefits that we are all familiar with. But nevertheless it doesn t belong to
the safe category of exercises. A few bodybuilding routines do, but this one is
particularly dangerous. That s probably why women would rather concentrate on
correctly doing their plies during their ballet lessons than torment themselves
at the gym.
Moreover if you think you used to be in form but are no
longer sure about it, please stay away from this one, especially its bb
version. In case the dumbbell rowing upright protocol or any other upright row
variation worked for you in the past, it doesn t necessarily mean it will work
now, too. In other words, this is not for beginners, no matter how you approach the situation.
Unless you are a professional athlete or football player
don t obsess yourself over this exercise. It has its countless benefits, but
learning how to perform it correctly isn t for everyone. So at least get a
trainer to assist you at the beginning. It s true that when one thinks of
shoulder and neck exercises, this one targets them both, but try to find more
complex routines that also include the upright row dumbbell routine, so that it
becomes part of a whole body shaping process.