Upright Row Muscles Worked (Let’s Investigate)

The majority of the exercises that facilitate shoulder development are only confined to vertical presses and raises. But there is one such exercise that can take your shoulder development to a whole new level. And that exercise is the upright row.

The upright row is a compound exercise. Numerous muscles get used in its execution. If your shoulder gains have stagnated, then performing upright rows can resolve that issue. It can also add an element of variety to your shoulder training routine.

In this post, we will be throwing light on the muscles that get engaged when you perform upright row.

Let’s get started.

Muscles Worked in Upright Row

Upright Row Muscles Worked

The upright row has earned a bad reputation for itself in the community of liters. Many lifters claim that the execution of upright row puts the deltoids in an unsafe position which may lead to a shoulder injury.

But that is just a myth. If you perform the upright row with strict form, you will surely see some noticeable gains in your upper body. It is a great exercise to strengthen your shoulder girdle and upper back.

When you perform upright row numerous muscles get activated.

Let’s have a look at all the muscle groups that get used in performing upright row:-

Side Deltoids

The side deltoids play a crucial role in making your shoulders look wider and muscular. And the upright row serves as the perfect compound exercise that enhances the development of your side delts.

Your side delts get activated when you abduct your arms. And the execution of upright row requires you to do so.

One of the best things about upright row is that it gives you the option to train your side delts with heavy weights. This is something that you can’t do while performing lateral raises for your side delts.

If you intend to train your side delts with heavy weights, use a barbell to perform upright rows. This will enable you to load more weight on the bar and will stimulate your side delts adequately.

While performing upright row to hit the side delts, you must also grip the barbell keeping your palms shoulder-width apart or slightly wider than that. This will allow you to primarily target your side deltoids with the exercise.


Well-developed trapezius muscles give your torso a big and muscular appearance. And the upright row is one such compound exercise that targets the trapezius muscles pretty well.

So if you have been performing shrugs for a while and want to perform a different exercise to hit your traps, give the upright rows a shot.

To ensure that the execution of  upright row primarily hits your traps, you must perform them with a narrower grip. That means you must keep your palms slightly narrower than your shoulder width.

Also, to stimulate your traps adequately, you must squeeze your traps fully in the concentric phase and stretch your traps completely in the eccentric phase of this exercise.

To make the upright row more effective for your traps, you must perform it with a heavier load. A little bit of cheating is allowed in executing the upright rows especially when you are performing them with heavier weights.

Front and Rear Deltoid

The upright row also targets your front delts to a great extent. It enables you to create a separation between your front delts and pectoral which makes your upper body more aesthetic.

The execution of the upright row also requires you to pull your elbows slightly back in the concentric phase of it. This in turn activates your rear delts facilitating their growth.

Latissimus Dorsi

The latissimus dorsi muscles are the largest muscle group in the upper body. Their origination starts from the rear delts and goes all the way down to your lower back.

Your lats play a crucial role in giving your torso a wide and muscular appearance. And the execution of upright row engages them significantly.

When you perform upright row, you are required to keep your back steady and firm. Your lats enable you to do so while you do upright row.

Also, the lats assist in lifting your arms upwards in a straight line in the execution of upright row.

Moreover, upright row also contributes towards making your back more muscular and defined. So if you want to build a defined back, you must include upright rows in your back training routine.


Even though the upright row is not a typical bicep exercise, its execution does engage the biceps.

Any upper body pulling exercise that involves the flexion of the shoulder and elbow joint engages the biceps. And an exercise like the upright row falls in that category.

When you perform upright row, your biceps contribute a lot in executing the movement. Especially, the brachialis muscle that is present in between your biceps and triceps assists you in lifting the weight upwards to your chin. 


The execution of upright row also gives a decent workout to your forearms. To perform upright row, you are required to hold the barbell or dumbbell with a pronated grip.

Doing so activates the brachioradialis muscles in your forearms. Well-developed brachioradialis muscles add inches to your forearms. They also make your forearms look more aesthetic.

Also, the flexors and extensors in your forearms get decent activation when you pull the weight upward while performing upright row.

Performing upright rows also enhances your grip strength. Especially, when you perform them with heavy weights.


When you perform upright row, you have to make sure that your body remains as upright as possible. This in turn engages your core muscles.

Your core muscles have to work excessively hard to keep your body tight and firm as you lift the weight up. This further gives your core muscles a decent workout.

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Final Words

By now you must have got a clear idea regarding how effective performing upright row could be. If you haven’t performed it ever, it can be a great addition to your shoulder workout routine.

All you need to do is to make sure that when you perform this exercise you must start your sets with a lighter weight. Once you get comfortable with the execution of upright row, you can gradually increase the weight.