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.