How to do an upright row correctly for strong shoulders

Posted by for Strength

Perfect form is essential when doing this shoulder building move. Here’s how to correctly execute upright rows for a stronger upper body. 

Rows are an integral movement in strength training. They can be done seated, bent over or inverted. You can use a barbell, dumbbells, TRX or even bodyweight. Basically, they’re a versatile pulling movement that will help you build a stronger back.

The upright row is one of the less well-known variations. “It is still a compound exercise, meaning it’s working multiple muscle groups, but it’s mainly focused on the shoulders rather than the back,” says Strong Women ambassador Emma Obayuvana. The focus of this move is mainly on the traps and delts, meaning it will fire up the front, back and sides of the upper body. 

Emma advises doing this move with dumbbells or kettlebells rather than a barbell, which means it’s perfect for home workouts: “Holding separate weights means hands are more free to move, so it will minimise injury. This move can also be quite problematic if you have any shoulder problems, so avoid doing it if you are struggling with any niggles.”

The upright row is all about quality not quantity, meaning that you should be executing perfect form rather than going super heavy. “Adding too much weight will put tension through your neck,” says Emma. “You don’t need to push loads and loads of weight to feel this one, so focus on technique.”

Emma Obayuvana shows how to do an upright row

How to do an upright row correctly

  1. Start by holding your weight with straight arms hanging in front of you and an overhand grip, so your knuckles are facing outwards and palms are facing towards your thighs.
  2. Make sure that your knees are slightly bent, your pelvis is tilted forward and your abs are tight so that you are not arching through your lower back.
  3. Lift the weights by bending the elbows until the hands come to just under the collarbone, making sure that the shoulders and traps stay down and relaxed.
  4. Return to starting position and repeat up to 12 times per set. 

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).

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