Upright Row

  • Alternative Names: Barbell upright row, upright row with a barbell
  • Type: Strength
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Equipment: Barbell
  • Muscles Targeted: Shoulders, upper back, biceps
  • Mechanics: Compound
  • Average Number of Sets: 3-4 with 10-12 reps each
  • Variations: Dumbbell, wide grip, cable, smith machine, reverse, kettlebell, EZ bar, close grip, and single arm upright rows
  • Alternative: Upright row with bands

The upright row, also commonly referred to as the barbell upright row, is a weight-training exercise used for building trapezius and lateral deltoid muscles. Many trainers across the globe would tell you to stop doing this workout if you do not want to harm your shoulders, but a study shows you can reap its benefits if you do it using a modified range of motion (not going beyond 90 degrees).


  • Increases your strength for better lifts, cleans, and snatches.
  • Helps perfect your technique while targeting specific parts of your deltoids and rhomboids.
  • Builds your traps for stronger squats and deadlifts.

High Pull Vs. Upright Row

High Pull Upright Row
Movement Involves Explosive motion and it starts in a more bent-over position Slow upward motion with the back straight and the bar kept close to the body
Muscles Worked Traps, glutes, hamstrings, quads, back Traps, deltoids, biceps
Weight Used Performed by lifting heavier weights (100-120 lbs) Done by raising lighter weights (60-100 lbs)

How to do an Upright Row

Grab a barbell (weighing about 60-100 lbs) using an overhand, shoulder-width grip with your back straight and keeping the arms extended close to your thighs. Raise your elbows to the sides and lift the barbell toward your chin. Continue the movement until your arm is parallel to the floor. Hold the position for 1 second at the top of the lift. Slowly move the bar back to the initial position, breathing in while you lower the weight.

Upright Barbell Row Tips

  • Your elbows should be in a higher position than your forearms throughout the exercise.
  • Avoid raising your arms above parallel for preventing shoulder impingement.
  • Keep your torso stationary, chest up, and the abs braced all through the movement.


  1. Dumbbell Upright Row: Involves holding a pair of dumbbells with an overhand, shoulder-width grip.
  2. Wide Grip Upright Row: Similar to the basic barbell version except you hold the bar with a wider-than-shoulder-width grip.
  3. Upright Cable Row: Is done by holding a straight bar attached to a low pulley with a cable attachment.
  4. Smith Machine Upright Row: Is performed by lifting the bar on the Smith Machine in the same way as the basic upright row.
  5. Reverse Upright Row: Requires you to lift the bar behind your body, while keeping your back upright and arms extended.
  6. Kettlebell Upright Row: Involves holding a kettlebell by its horns with both hands and then lifting it until your arm is in line with the floor.
  7. EZ Bar Upright Row: Unlike the barbell version, you do it by lifting an EZ bar.
  8. Close Grip Upright Row: Is performed by grabbing the bar using a slightly closer-than-shoulder-width grip.
  9. Single Arm Upright Row: Requires you to hold a dumbbell or kettlebell with one hand and then lift it in the same way as the barbell upright row.

Alternative Exercise

Upright Row with Bands

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