When it comes to building muscles of the back and shoulder, upright row often comes under the workouts that are best. As the name suggests, it is an exercise that focuses on your upper body muscles and is mostly performed by bodybuilders to get chiselled shoulders and toned back. People also include upright row in boot camps and in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) classes. 

If you too are planning to work on your upper body muscles through an upright row workout, you are at the right place. We have gathered a quick guide to acquaint you with the exercise. From its step-by-step guide to upright row variations, you will find it all here. We have also included precautions and tips for upright row exercise because if you do not perform it well, you may end up with some injuries. So, make sure you read the article till the end. Let’s start!

Upright Row: Some Basic Facts To Know


Upper-body workout

Equipment That Can Be Used: 

  • Resistance Bands
  • Smith Machines
  • Kettlebells
  • Barbell
  • Cable Machine
  • Dumbbells


Beginners to Advanced 

Upright Row Muscles Worked

  • Trapezius
  • Deltoids (All three: anterior, middle, and posterior)
  • Biceps
  • Upper Back
  • Core Muscles

Step-By-Step Guide to Performing Upright Row

One of the best things about upright row workout that makes it popular among people is that you can do it even at home. All you need to have is a barbell. And in case you don’t have a barbell, you can also do dumbbell upright row or kettlebell upright row. 

For now, we have a step-by-step guide to barbell upright row. You can replace the weights in case you are trying dumbbell or kettlebell respectively. Read on for the steps: 

  1. Stand straight with your feet at least shoulder-width apart. Hold the barbell with an overhand grip such that your arms extended below. As for the grip on the barbell, it should also be shoulder-wide. 
  2. Now, slowly lift the barbell up, pulling through your elbow. Try to keep the weight closer to your body. Stop when your elbows are on the same level as your shoulders and the barbell is at the chest level. 
  3. Your torso should be straight during this movement. 
  4. Pause at this position for at least a second and then return to the initial position. 
  5. Pause and repeat. 
  6. Try to complete 3 sets of 10-12 reps if you are a beginner. However, do not increase the reps unless you are on advanced level or unless you believe that you are in control of your body movements. Any rush or extra exertion during upright row exercise may cause injury. 

Variations of Upright Row

In case the basic barbell upright row gets boring after a while, you can try other variations to make sure you stick to the workout. Some of the best ones are: 

  1. Cable Upright Row

In this variation of upright row, you use a revolving curl bar on a cable machine or a straight bar to perform the upright row. There is, however, an additional movement in the cable upright row that makes it even better for muscle engagement. 

  1. Upright Row Resistant Band

If you want an upright row variation wherein you do not have to carry heavy weights or use a machine, upright row resistant band is perfect for you. It is also ideal in cases where you are travelling to another city or place and don’t want to miss on your workout. For this variation, you have to position the resistant band underneath your feet and hold its handles.  The instructions are the same as barbell or dumbbell upright row.  

  1. Plank Upright Row

If you want to make the upright row even more challenging, add a plank to the end of the movement. Just do the shoulder upright row and then drop the weight and come into the plank position. Hold it for a few seconds and start the shoulder upright row again. This is suitable for advanced fitness enthusiasts. 

Other than this, you can also perform rope upright row, snatch-grip upright row, or single upright row. 

Benefits of Upright Row

Whether you do a standard upright row, a rope upright row, or make it a dumbbell workout, the benefits will remain more or less the same. Some of the best benefits are: 

  • Upper Body Strength:¬†Upright row exercise helps in stimulating muscle growth and improving the overall strength. The¬†upright row muscles worked¬†also become toned and lean over time, giving you an amazing upper body.¬†
  • Coordination:¬†Since you are required to hold a heavy weight and handle its movement up and down, this increases your coordination abilities. If you perform it on a regular basis, you can notice impressive strength and comfort in handling heavy objects.¬†
  • Core Strength:¬†No doubt that upright row is mainly for upper body but your core muscles also benefit a lot from this exercise. When you perform this exercise, you are required to hold a still posture that leads to tension and stability in the glutes, abs, and lower back. This, in turn, solidifies your core and strengthens it.¬†

What are the most common mistakes to watch for?

Making mistakes either in the posture or the lifting movements during upright row can lead to serious injuries. This is why, you have to be extra careful, especially when you are performing the home workout. To help you, we have jotted down the common mistake people make while doing this upright row workout. Read and try to avoid them: 

  • Don‚Äôt lift your elbows too high. Instead, keep them at shoulder level only.¬†
  • Adding extra weight will cause more harm than good since the movement in upright row requires momentum. If the weight is too much, it will shift your focus from the shoulder or can put excessive pressure on them. This can lead to injury. Thus, choose a weight that is suitable for you. Barbell is also preferred for upright row since it allows a slow, and controlled movement.¬†
  • Always keep your torso upright. This helps in engaging the core muscles.¬†
  • Do not perform upright row if you have back pain as it can only worsen it.¬†


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December 21, 2021

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