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Shoulders Workout (7) – Upright Row

December 10th, 2011 · No Comments ·

I have been doing barbell upright row for about 10 years, but it is one of the workouts I given the lowest priority.  I do it nowadays for variation purpose and never a big fan of it.  Why?  It is one exercise that I cannot afford to perform wrongly.  I hurt my left shoulder few years back.


  1. If you are a beginner, take light weight.  Stand with a barbell (straight or EZ bar, does not matter).  Alternatively, hold dumbbell each in your hand in front of you.  Palm facing you (overhand grip).  Your arms should be extended with slight bend at the elbows.
  2. Your back should be straight and should remain that throughout the entire exercise.  Do  not lean forward or backward.
  3. Feet about shoulder width.
  4. The grip is slightly less than shoulder width.  If the grip is too wide, your trapezius will not work hard.  If the grip is too narrow, you may hurt your shoulder joint.
  5. Draw the bar or dumbbell up toward your chin.  Keep it close to your body.  No swinging or jerking.  Throughout this movement, make sure your elbows are higher than the wrists.  Do not rotate your elbow in or out.  Just make sure it stays on the same plane.  If you rotate your elbow, impingement may occur at a small tendon in your shoulder.
  6. Your elbow should remain flared outward during the movement.
  7. Now, here is the point which I want to take notice.  Some people advise you to get the weight higher than your chest and close to the chin.  Some say you should lift the elbows beyond shoulder level, or worse, the higher the better.  I advise you not to so as it may cause shoulder impingement which can cause long term pain.  Stop the movement once your elbow reach close to your chest.Dumbell-Upright-Row-Workout-Shirtless.jpg
    Just do the above.  I do not recommend you go beyond your chest line like the one shown below.
  8. Slowly lower the bar until your arms are straight.
  9. Do 3 sets with 8 to 12 repetitions each set.



  • You have to do this workout in a controlled movement.  Do not use momentum to move down.
  • Between cable machine, barbell or dumbbells, I prefer dumbbells because I tend to use my right shoulders and traps more.
  • Do not lean back.
  • Keep the weight close to your body throughout the exercise.
  • Squeeze your abs in tight helps stabilize your torso.



Should You Do Dumbbell or Barbell Upright Row?

If you have shoulder problems, avoid this workout.  I am not joking, if it is wrongly done, your tendon may be damaged.  As I mentioned above, if the grip is too narrow, coupled with the rotation of elbow (if you fail to control the movement), the chances of getting injured is high.



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Category: Shoulders

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