Shoulder Training – Upright Rows

The upright row is an effective exercise that targets both your delts and your traps. This article describes the basic strength training technique for this exercise.

Muscles Exercised

Upright rows focus on your delts and traps. It also exercises your biceps to a degree.

Exercise Technique

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, and your knees bent slightly.
  • Hold the barbell with a double overhand grip about shoulder width apart.
  • Begin with the barbell resting against your quads.
  • Take a deep breath and pull the barbell up along your body until it reaches your chin. Lead the pull with your elbows.
  • Lower the barbell in a smooth, controlled fashion, exhaling as you do to complete the repetition.
  • Keep your upper body stationary as you perform your reps. Keep the barbell close to your body as you raise and lower it.
  • Upright rows should be performed with relatively light weights and high repetitions. Select a weight that you can perform all of your repetitions using proper technique.
  • On your last 1-2 sets, your last repetitions should be difficult, but you should not have to relax your form to complete them.


The shoulder is a vulnerable joint. Take care to prevent injury to the shoulder. Use weights that you are able to control each repetition with strict form.


  • Grip Width: Shifting to a narrower grip increases emphasis on your traps and reduces emphasis on your delts. The range of grips should be from a narrow grip just wider than a hand width to a wide grip at shoulder width. Note: I’ve found that a  narrower grip increases strain on my wrists and elbows, and prefer shoulder shrugs to build my traps.

Building Shoulder Strength: As with any muscle group, you need to train with balance. To build strong shoulders, you need to train the anterior, middle, and posterior delts. You also need to train supporting muscle groups such as your traps. Selecting from the exercises below may help you build a well balanced shoulder strength training program.

Additional Shoulder Exercises

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