Are Upright Rows Good or Bad?

Are Upright Rows Good or Bad?

Hey Joe, not sure if you’ve covered this in your articles already but, what do you think about upright rows? Some people say they’re okay if you use light weight, or only do partials, others say they’re okay to do heavy weights, full range of motion without any long term impingement issues on shoulder ligaments. What are the best alternatives? Also how can I better target the posterior delts, to even out disproportionate strength in the anterior chain. -Anthony

Thanks for your question Anthony. First off, people will always find reasons to not do an exercises. “Don’t squat because it will hurt your knee’s”, “deadlifting hurts my back”,”bench pressing hurts my shoulder”. The problem isn’t always the lift itself but instead how the lift is being performed. In addition to the technique being used, the functional anatomy of the individual also comes into play.

The best advice I can give you when it comes to program design is make sure there is a reason behind the exercise your doing. Do not just do an exercise to do it. Personally, I never program upright rows into training programs for a couple of reasons. ¬†First off, I don’t like the idea of lifting with internally rotated shoulders. I much rather hit the delts with various pressing exercises. Overhead presses, bench presses etc… offer a much better bang for your buck. If your performing exercises like this, upright rows are just overkill. Your delts are already getting beat up from pressing, why compound this?

Here are great alternatives to target the posterior delts:

  • Face pulls
  • 1 Arm DB or KB shrugs
  • BB Shrug (underhand grip)
  • DB “power cleans”
  • Chest supported rows
  • Band Pull Aparts
  • Scarecrows
  • Reverse Flys
  • Farmer Walks **My favorite by far**

Check out this video with a ton of great exercises for the posterior delts and upper back:

Hopefully this gives you a better understanding of why I am not a fan of upright rows. Everybody is different, some people will respond well to doing them and will never have any shoulder pain, you just have to see what works for you. If you enjoyed this post, please help share it with your friends by clicking the “like” button below.


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  • Anthony

    Thanks Joe, gonna have to integrate some of these alternates into my routine. I’ve never been a fan of upright rows, and they’ve always given me a problem the few times I’ve used them; going to try underhand shrugs and band pull aparts next time around. Time to start doing farmer walks again.

  • Anthony,

    Let me know how it works out for you. Try doing 100 BPA’s every workout, you can even do them every day. Go HEAVY on farmer walks!

    Thanks for checking in,


  • gus

    upright rowing works the anterior deltoid lateral deltoid trapezius and bicep forearm tie in,not much stress on the posterior delt.

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