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Daniel Mesa

Barbell Upright Row: How To & Benefits

barbell upright row

Ready to upgrade your shoulder workout? Discover the potential of the barbell upright row – a powerful move that targets your shoulder muscles. The barbell upright row is a dynamic and effective exercise that targets your deltoid and trapezius muscles. This combination exercise involves pulling oneself up by a rope by lifting a barbell vertically towards your chin. Incorporating the barbell upright row into your routine enhances your shoulder strength and sculpts a well-defined upper body.  

In this ultimate guide, we break down everything about the barbell upright row, from how to do it right to avoiding common mistakes and trying other exercises. Step up your workouts and unlock a new level of upper-body strength!

How To Do The Barbell Upright Row

Set up

Take an overhand hold on a barbell and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hands should be closer together than shoulder width.

Grip Position

Hold the barbell with your palms facing your body in the proper grip position. Straight wrists that are in line with your forearms are ideal.


Raise the barbell up toward your chin while exhaling, maintaining it close to your body. Your elbows should remain higher than your forearms and point to the sides.


Hold the raised position for a limited period of time while concentrating on tightening your deltoids and traps.


Take a deep breath in as you carefully drop the barbell back to the beginning position.


Carry out the desired number of times while keeping good form and slow, controlled motion.

Our Tips For The Upright Barbell Row

Tip 1: Maintain Proper Form

One of the key elements in performing a successful barbell upright row is to ensure you maintain proper form throughout the exercise. To achieve this, keep your wrist straight and raise the barbell toward your chin while putting your elbows higher than your forearms. 

By doing this, you may focus your trapezius and deltoid muscles while putting the least stress on your wrists and shoulders. In addition to maximizing the exercise’s advantages, this lowers the chance of discomfort or injury.

Tip 2: Mind Your Grip

The way you position your hands on the barbell can impact your overall experience and results. Try out several grip widths to determine which one feels most natural and works best for your body’s mechanics. 

Some individuals may discover that using a slightly narrower grip helps alleviate any potential shoulder discomfort. Finding the ideal balance in this area will improve your performance and safety because your grip serves as your connection to the weight.

Tip 3: Controlled Tempo

As with any exercise, it’s important to keep your movements under control. This applies to both the lifting phase and the descent during the barbell upright row. Prioritize a controlled tempo across the entire range of action rather than depending on momentum or sudden, jerky movements. 

By doing this, you increase the efficiency with which your target muscles are engaged and lower the possibility that you’ll use poor form, which over time, might cause damage. Instead of speeding through the exercise, concentrate on the quality of each repetition.

Common Upright Row Mistakes To Avoid

Mistake 1: Excessive Weight

Using excessively heavy weights can compromise form, reducing exercise effectiveness and increasing the risk of injury. Prioritize controlled form over heavy lifting to maximize results safely.

Mistake 2: Shoulder Shrugging

When doing the upright row, elevating the shoulders unintentionally diverts attention from the target muscles and uses extra neck muscles. To promote optimal muscular engagement, keep your shoulders down and back at all times.

Mistake 3: Elbow Position

It might be difficult on the wrists and restrict deltoid and trapezius activation to let the elbows descend below the forearms throughout the movement. In order to maximize muscle participation and improve workout safety and effectiveness, keep your elbows consistently up.

Barbell Upright Row Muscles Worked

The barbell upright row primarily targets:

  • Deltoid Muscles: Emphasizes the lateral deltoids for shoulder width and strength.
  • Trapezius Muscles: Engages the upper back muscles for improved shoulder stability and posture.
  • Muscle Synergy: Works in tandem to abduct and elevate the shoulder, enhancing overall upper body strength.

Upright Rows Benefits

The barbell upright row provides many benefits that contribute significantly to your overall fitness and well-being. These benefits include:

Benefit 1: Enhanced Shoulder Development

The barbell upright row offers a fresh way to work your deltoid muscles, giving your shoulders a rounded, attractive appearance. According to a study, this exercise is particularly effective for building those impressive shoulder caps that are often sought after.

Benefit 2: Functional Upper Body Strength

For many daily tasks and sports, strong traps and deltoid muscles are necessary. Using upright rows in your workout program can improve your capacity to push, pull, and perform overhead actions with more effectiveness and power.

Benefit 3: Improved Posture

Strengthening the muscles of the upper back through upright rows can have a positive impact on your posture by counteracting the adverse effects of rounded shoulders. This exercise encourages a straight-ahead posture, which benefits general postural health.

Alternatives To Barbell Upright Rows

Consider substituting exercises for the barbell upright row to give your shoulder workout even more depth and balance. These workouts can all enhance your fitness journey in their own special ways.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

The dumbbell lateral raise is a specific shoulder workout that isolates the lateral deltoid muscles, improving shoulder breadth and overall appearance. You work and build these muscles by raising the dumbbells laterally to the sides, which helps your shoulders look rounded and sculpted.

This workout focuses on the precise location that gives the appearance of width, making it very helpful for people who want to grow wider shoulders. Dumbbell lateral raises provide targeted muscle growth, resulting in an upper body that is more balanced and attractive to the eye.

Face Pulls

Face pulls are a versatile exercise that primarily targets the rear deltoid muscles and upper back, making them an excellent choice for achieving balanced shoulder development. The pulling motion of this exercise engages the muscles responsible for retracting the scapulae, aiding in maintaining a healthy posture.

By strengthening the rear deltoids, you create a harmonious balance with the front deltoids, ultimately supporting shoulder health and function. Face pulls can also contribute to enhanced upper back strength, crucial for overall upper body stability and functionality.

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The seated dumbbell shoulder press is a traditional compound exercise that works the entire shoulder complex, including the deltoids and trapezius muscles. You put your upper body’s stability and strength to the test by pressing the dumbbells above while seated. In addition to strengthening the shoulder muscles, this exercise also works the upper back and core stabilizing muscles.

Because of the seated position’s stability, you can maintain good form and controlled movement throughout the exercise. Sitting dumbbell shoulder presses encourage balanced and well-rounded shoulder growth while also enhancing upper body strength.

Bottom Line On Upright Rows

The barbell upright row is a powerful exercise that can build and shape your deltoids and traps, elevating your shoulder workout. For a thorough shoulder routine, follow the right technique, avoid common mistakes, and think about alternatives. With patience, consistency, and precision, watch your upper body transform towards your fitness goals.


Can I use an EZ-bar for upright rows?

While an EZ-bar may offer a more comfortable grip for some individuals, it’s important to ensure that your wrists remain in a neutral position throughout the movement to prevent strain.

How can I prevent shoulder discomfort during upright rows?

Focus on maintaining proper form, including keeping your elbows above your forearms. Additionally, consider using a lighter weight and performing adequate warm-up exercises.

Can upright rows lead to shoulder impingement?

Upright rows have been associated with shoulder impingement in some individuals. To minimize the risk, prioritize proper form, avoid excessive weight, and consider alternative shoulder exercises.

Should I perform upright rows behind the back? 

Performing upright rows behind the back can increase the risk of shoulder impingement and strain. Performing the exercise in front of your body is generally recommended, focusing on controlled movement and proper technique.


  1. McAllister, M. J., et al. (2013). Effect of grip width on electromyographic activity during the upright row. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 27(1), 181-187. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e31824f23ad
  2. Burd, N. A., et al. (2012). Muscle time under tension during resistance exercise stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional synthetic responses in men. The Journal of Physiology, 590(2), 351-362. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2011.221200