How to do upright rows correctly and safely, using a barbell and dumbbells, explaining the muscles worked and benefits of the exercise.

The upright row  is a compound exercise with the main focus of the exercise targeting your shoulders, it also works the traps and biceps. The upright row is an effective exercise for targeting the shoulders and traps, the width of your grip determines the focus point of the exercise.

There is a misconception that you should raise the barbell all the way up to your chin, this is actually the incorrect technique. Raising the barbell to your chin puts unnecessary pressure on your shoulders and wrists, therefore increasing the chance of injury to those areas.

Upright Rows Muscles Worked


  • Deltoids/Shoulders
  • Trapezius


  • Biceps
  • Brachialis – this muscle located on the outside of your upper arm

Variations of Upright Rows

  • Wide Grip – This focuses more on your Shoulders
  • Narrow Grip – This Grip will focus more on the Trapezius

Your biceps will also be targeted.

Upright Rows Equipment Used

  • Barbell
  • Dumbbells
  • Curl Bar
  • Cable Machine with bar extension

Caution if you feel any unnatural pain in your shoulders or wrists you should stop performing the exercise immediately, and check and readjust your technique.

Exercise Tip using a curl bar allows for a more natural hand position which reduces the stress on your wrists.

How to perform Upright Rows (Barbell or Curlbar)

  • Stand up straight while holding the barbell or curlbar, your hands should be just inside of shoulder width apart.
  • Slowly raise the barbell keeping it near to your body, raise the barbell until the barbell is inline with your chest and your upper arms are parallel with the floor.
  • Hold for a brief moment, then slowly lower the barbell back down to the start position and then repeat.

You can also perform this exercise using dumbbells

  • Standing up straight, keep the dumbbells together in a stable position and your arms straight.
  • Slowly raise your arms up, try and keep the dumbbells level with each other, raise them up until the dumbbells are inline with your chest. The dumbbells should be kept in an almost horizontal position during the complete range of motion.
  • Slowly lower your arms back down and then repeat.

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