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Upright Row, Dumbbell

Type: Shoulder
The dumbbell upright row is an effective exercise for developing the lats and traps, and is performed by lifting the weight and bringing the elbows towards the ceiling. It's a great upper body exercise and will really help to broaden out the base of the neck and the shoulder line. Below you'll find a video guide and step by step instructions that describes the correct technique for the dumbbell upright row exercise.
Level :  Equipment : Yes
Upper Shoulders
Front Shoulders
Mid Back
Upper Back

Upright Row, Dumbbell Steps:

Step 1:
Take a pair of dumbbells with an overhand grasp.

Step 2:
Rest the dumbbells on the thighs at the start position.

Step 3:
Simultaneously raise the dumbbells along the abdomen to the shoulders

Step 4:
At the top the elbows should be higher than the wrists, above the shoulders

Step 5:
Slowly lower back to the start position and repeat.

Step 6:
This is one repetition

Top Tip:

To add variation, increase the intesity and improve coordination, then try alternating the movement by raising one arm after the other.
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Upright Row Dumbbell

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 list.

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 movement.

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 rotator cuff.

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 extra strength.

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 Popeye s.

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 shoulders flexibility.

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 one.

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 ceiling.

Step 4: Keep it there for a few seconds and then release.

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, ok?

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 afterwards release.

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 arms.

Step 1: Stand up with your feet at shoulder-width. Hold the dumbbells in front of your thighs, while your palms are facing your body.

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 position again.

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 backwards.

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 correct move.

Step 1: The height of the smith machine should come up to your thighs. Grab the bar using a shoulder width apart palms forward grip.

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 to Consider

         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 sides.

         Always keep your shoulders backwards, with your chest facing forward, therefore maintaining an optimal position as far as your back is concerned.

         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.


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