Is the Upright Row Exercise Dangerous?

24 Apr

The upright row exercise (pictured) is popular with bodybuilders, athletes, and general fitness enthusiasts.  It is usually performed to increase upper-back and shoulder muscle size.  The upright row also tends to increase neck girth, making it especially popular with football and rugby players.

Although it is a common strength training exercise, the upright row is not particularly functional, from an athletic performance (movement) training perspective.  Additionally, there are concerns about the short- and long-term safety of this exercise.

The problem occurs when you raise your arms and add resistance in that position.  Every time you raise the weight, a small tendon in your shoulder gets pinched (known as impingement) by the bones in the shoulder.  This  may not hurt immediately.   It may not even hurt for a long time.  The problem is, the tendon can gradually become worn down and damaged.  You may not even know you have a developing problem until serious injury occurs.

The upright row involves considerable medial or internal shoulder rotation. This action creates significant torque within your shoulder joints. This torque, in turn, places a potentially injurious load on the small muscles that control the stability of your shoulder joint, specifically your rotator cuff. Some exercisers find that upright rows place their shoulders in a mechanically disadvantageous position that can result in shoulder pain.

Use a wider grip and limit the range of motion of the upright row exercise by not lifting your upper arms past parallel to the floor, since this increases your risk of shoulder impingement and injury.  If you find upright rows hurt your shoulders, perform lat raises or shrugs for your trapezius muscles instead.


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