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4 Tips on How To Fix Your Upright Row to Increase Shoulder Size

Make your upright rows more effective.

Learn how to fix your upright row to build bigger shoulders and avoid shoulder pain.

“The upright row is actually a pretty fantastic exercise if performed properly,” says pro natural bodybuilder and YouTuber Jeff Nippard.

As a multi-joint compound movement, it primarily targets the lateral deltoids.

How to fix your upright row?

  • Take a slightly wider grip: a 2013 paper found that a wide grip in the upright row leads to more EMG activation of the lateral delt that a shoulder width grip or a close grip.
  • Perform around 8-12 reps: as a compound movement, you can load this exercise reasonably heavily.
  • Bring your elbows up to just under shoulder height: anything higher will increase your risk of shoulder injury.
  • Keep the bar close to your body: this is not a front raise, you want to target your lateral deltoids.

Is the upright row dangerous?

Over a third of injuries in weight training occur at the shoulder complex, a 2011 report found. The upright row has a potential for shoulder impingement, but you can modify the exercise to avoid pain and prevent injury.

Additionally, the report found that upright rows can still be safe and effective if you follow proper form.


Source: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc.
  1. Keep the bar close to your body
  2. Keep tension on the lateral deltoid
  3. Keep elevation of the arm more on the scapular plane
  4. Pull through the elbows rather than with the wrists
  5. Keep elevation just below 90 degrees / below shoulder height

Muscles worked

The lateral deltoids are primarily targeted with the upright row. Additionally, this exercise works the upper traps through scapular elevation.

Secondary, your biceps are worked when performing the elbow flexion.


  • Standing Rope Upright Row: this allows for more freedom at the shoulder joint
  • Lying Rope Upright Row on Seated Cable Machine: this variation locks you in, preventing cheating and shifting the tension onto the delts
  • One Armed Dumbbell Upright Row: this allows you to focus on isolating one shoulder at a time
  • Banded Upright Row: allows you to switch up the resistance curve

Learn more

Learn how to Build Huge Triceps with These Vital Dumbbell Exercises, try the Dumbbell Lateral Raise or challenge yourself with this 30-Minute Total Arm Workout With Dumbbells.

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