I used to do upright rows until a personal trainer told me about the risk of doing it. Upright row is a compound workout targeting shoulders, at the trapezius and deltoids. Narrower grip will work more on the trapezius muscle whereas wider grip focuses more on deltoids. Upright row is performed by holding a barbell, EZ curl bar or a pair of dumbbells in the center, with the overhand grip (palms facing you) and lifting the weight straight up to the collarbone or just under your chin.
Due to the grip and the nature of the movement, upright row causes internal rotation at your shoulders. Internal rotation itself is not necessarily bad for shoulders. But, when you add resistance in that position, every time you raise the weight up, the bones in your shoulders pinch the small tendon in your rotator cuff. This pinch is the so called “shoulder impingement”.
Some people feel the pain immediately while they are doing upright row. Some may not. It may not even hurt for years. But, the tendon may be slowly worn down and damaged. Rotator cuff injuries are often cumulative after many repetitions over long time. Yes, the tendon may eventually just snap when it is so weak while you are still loading it with heavier weight. Therefore, the personal trainer told me it is not a question whether I will hurt my shoulders but a question of when will I hurt my shoulders.
The other thing, if you are using straight bar, you may have discomfort at your wrists too.
Some people try to reduce the chances of injury by stopping the bar slightly below chest line. This shorter range of movement may defeat the purpose of upright row because the trapezius and deltoids will not be worked on. Instead, biceps and forearms are the one working hard.
No doubt, upright row may look impressive to perform, but you may get injured. Instead of upright row, you can do other shoulder workouts such as front dumbbell raise, dumbbell press and lateral raise.
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