How to Save Your Shoulders While Doing Upright Rows

The upright row is a great exercise. It’s an excellent mass builder, and it’s one of the few compound exercises for the shoulder that targets the middle deltoid. Having bigger middle delts means you look wider and even more massive. The problem with upright rows, though, is their biomechanics. If done wrong, they can increase the risk of injury to the rotator cuff muscles and also create impingement problems and bursitis. All of this can create setbacks for an athlete or bodybuilder. So, how can you do an upright row properly?

There are two aspects to consider: how close the bar is to the body and how high the elbows come. The ideal form for the upright row is keeping the bar close to the body as possible, with the elbows not traveling past 90 degrees (the elbows should not come above the point where they’re parallel with the floor). Keeping both of these points in mind will help keep your shoulder healthy and help build the middle delts and give you a wide appearance. That doesn’t sound too bad.


Schoenfeld B, Kolber MJ, Haimes JE. The upright row: Implications for preventing subacromial impingement. Strength Cond J. 2011;33(5):25-28.

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