3 Shoulder Workout Exercises to Swap for the Barbell Upright Row

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

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.

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.

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.