How to Barbell Upright Row

About the Barbell Upright Row

Whilst for names sake we have called this the barbell upright row, many athletes instead choose to perform the upright row with an EZ bar as it offers a more comfortable grip. There is some confusion over which is the primary target of the upright row, is it the deltoids or the trapezius?

When performing the upright row with a narrow grip there is greater scope for upward rotation of the scapula, and therefore recruitment of the middle and upper trapezius. Even with a narrow grip the shoulders play a primary role in lifting the elbows upwards towards the ears. As we widen the grip there is often less trapezius involvement and the emphasis is placed more greatly on the front and side deltoid heads.

Some athletes and personal trainers stay clear of the upright row due to concerns around shoulder health. We would recommend anyone who has had issues with their shoulders, especially involving the rotator cuff, to opt for an alternative exercise.

How to perform


  1. Load the barbell with the correct load, and place on safety collars
  2. Take a narrow grip on the bar, with your hands roughly six to eight inches apart (you can perform the upright row with a wider grip to target the deltoids more)


  1. Raise the bar to just below your chin, ensuring your wrists remain above the bar at all times and that the bar travels close to your torso
  2. Slowly lower the bar to the starting position
  3. Repeat for the desired numbered of repetitions

Other Shoulder Exercises