Be Strong. Be Fit.


Why You Should Not Do Upright Row?

February 1st, 2013 · 3 Comments ·


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.



Category: Shoulders

If you like this or other articles in this blog, Subscribe to today. It is free.
Scroll down to leave a comment. I really want to know what you think.
3 responses so far ↓
  • Makeoverfitness // Feb 2, 2013 at 3:23 AM

    This exercise behind the neck press and deep squats are all bad exercises I frequently see people doing. It’s more harmful when you are using heavy weight. It usually takes an injury to figure out the point is to get stronger and healthier, not to hurt yourself because of ego or misinformation.

  • TheJerd // Feb 16, 2013 at 12:16 AM

    Good stuff.

    It’s amazing to me how techniques change over time. When I was in High School taking weight training class we used to do shoulder shrugs by rolling the shoulders. Back then that was “proper form” now that is a huge no-no because of potential rotator cuff injuries.

    Just goes to show, you can never stop trying to learn and keep up!

  • Paul Raj // Jun 24, 2016 at 4:52 PM

    Hi, I started doing this for my neck improvement, and right now I could understand rowing – holding near and far are both injurious, yes i never felt pain over the course, for the months passed. I could totally understand your teaching and I am going to stop this right away, you could teach me some good workouts to improve my neck muscles, i was doing this upright row and as well as back row.

    I have been researching for the past 10 years how to do the best workouts to get a ideal body.
    If you are using linked in you can type my name paul moses rajesh ramalingam

    guide me in this, Thanks.

Leave a Comment