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How to Do the Upright Row

Work the Shoulder and Back Muscles


Updated June 18, 2014

The upright row is considered one of the best muscle builders for the back and shoulders. However, you need experience and foundation with weight training before lifting heavy weights in this exercise. The back should be kept straight and the weight moderate. Use only a wide grip, and don't raise the arms above parallel to avoid shoulder impingement.

Find out more about weight training fundamentals if you need background information before you try this exercise.

1. How to Do The Upright Row - The Starting Position

Photo (c): Paul Rogers / Cooloola Fitness
    1. Stand with legs at a comfortable distance apart -- about shoulder width is about right.
    2. Grasp a barbell or dumbbells, hanging in front of you at arms length, palms facing the body.
    3. Standing up straight, adjust your grip so that your hands are about in line with the thighs. That is, not too close together.
    4. A "wavy" EZcurl bar makes this exercise a little easier on the wrist joints. (See picture.)

    2. How to Do the Upright Row - The Exercise Description

    Photo (c): Paul Rogers / Cooloola Fitness
      1. Brace the abdominals, keep the back straight and lift the weights straight up then down again in a controlled manner.
      2. The arms should go no higher than parallel with the shoulders. Slightly less is OK. Breathe in to start. Breathe out on effort.
      3. Try to keep the wrists from excessive movement down or to the side.
      4. Don't squat down and up after the initial pose. No movement of the legs occurs.
      5. Do not lift heavy with this exercise unless you are experienced and trust your shoulder joints.
      6. Shoulder impingement has been reported with excessive weight and, or, poor form. If pain or inflammation occurs, cease the exercise.

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