Stop Doing Upright Rows. Try These Shoulder Exercises Instead.

This barbell-centric bodybuilding classic is hell on your joints. Give 3 alternative moves a chance for safer workouts.

The upright row is a popular exercise, but according to MH experts, it shouldn't be.

Sure, it may add size to your delts and blast your traps as well—and hey, the move worked for Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime—but the inevitable injury risks far outweigh the minimal rewards your shoulders may receive from this highly overrated exercise.

Another argument against performing upright rows, according to Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. and Advisory Board member David Otey, C.S.C.S., is that there are plenty of safer, and equally (if not more) effective exercises that you could be doing in place of these.

Let’s start on why you should avoid upright rows at all costs.

Why You Shouldn't Do the Barbell Upright Row

  • Fixed Hand Position

      Locking your hands and wrists into a fixed pronated position while pulling a barbell upward can create unneeded stress on the joints, especially because each side of your body may have its own set of mobility issues. A lot of wrist and shoulder strain could be prevented by incorporating an exercise in which each arm can pull independently.

      • Internal Rotation

          Lifting heavy loads with your shoulders internally rotated is never a good idea. Your goal should be to train smarter, not harder—and especially not in a way that can cause unnecessary pain and injury. By hoisting a heavy load while placing your shoulder blades in an awkward range of motion, you’re doing this.

          • Poor Range of Motion

              For this exercise to properly work through a healthy range of motion, your arms need to move in the same rhythm as your shoulder blades, and that’s not always the case with upright rows. As you continually twist your wrists in an unsafe manner, you’re also creating chaos with your movements that can lead to injury over time.

              • Not in the Scapular Plane

                  Properly performing a lateral raise requires you to lift in your scapular plane (slightly in front of your body), which is the safest spot when it comes to training. Upright rows do not allow you to easily find this position.

                  3 Alternative Exercises for the Upright Row

                      3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

                      What’s best about this exercise is that it allows your hands and wrists to move independently in a more natural manner. This allows you to get a more explosive drive and getting a better back squeeze with each pull.

                          3 sets of 8 to 12 reps

                          This variation hits your rear delts hard as well as working your traps. And because you’re leaning forward a bit on the bench, you’re now able to incorporate a lot more back work with this row. One final advantage: You can lift heavier weight much more safely.

                          • Rear Delt Fly

                            3 sets of 12 to 15 reps

                            The goal was to hit the rear delts, and that’s what you do with this classic delt destroyer. Because your shoulders and arms are moving in a synchronized rhythm, you’ll be able to lift at a higher rep count that will help fatigue the muscle quicker while reducing your fears of potential injury.

                              This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at
                              Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
                              More From Fitness