"Learn Why Upright Row Exercise Savages Your Shoulders!"

Is your barbell upright row exercise savaging your shoulders?

Learn how to build your shoulders safely in 5 steps.

Photo courtesy of darkpatator

Savage Shoulders

Back in the decade that gave us a time-traveling DeLorean, most of the muscle mags and fitness publications promoted the upright row as an ideal way to train and build the shoulders.

So were the 1980s magazines right?

Perhaps not. As research has since shown the upright row - and barbell upright row exercise in particular - could be causing your shoulders more grief than good.

Rotator Cuff Ravager

Authors Jerry Robinson and Joseph Horrigan write about shoulder problems and how to avoid them in their bestselling book "The 7-Minute Rotator Cuff Solution", recommending the elimination of the upright row exercise from strength-training programs.

Robinson and Horrigan describe how "the exercise places the shoulder in internal rotation as the arm is raised, making it difficult for the greater tubercle to clear the acromium. In the 'proper form' for the upright row, the athlete is required to pull the elbows as high as possible. This movement simply increases the degree of internal rotation and magnifies the danger of impingement." The authors report how "that since upright rows accelerate the degeneration of the rotator cuff, they increase the risk of developing tendinitis or bursitis."

Check out these common shoulder injuries:

  • Shoulder separation
  • Subdeltoid bursa
  • Shoulder impingement
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Damaged rotator cuff.

So how can you avoid savaging your shoulders?


Barbell Upright Row Exercise Dangers - How to Build Your Shoulders Safely


    1. Exercise your shoulders less.

    Many shoulder injuries often occur through overuse due to the repeat pounding your shoulders take during training - here is where an abbreviated muscle building routine can prove so valuable to the beginner and even seasoned trainee.

    2. Work your shoulders effectively.

    This means avoiding those muscle building exercises which cause you pain or discomfort (the early warning signs your choice of exercise or routine is causing you harm).

    3. Train muscles used in upright row.

    Select those shoulder exercise alternatives you CAN train pain-free. For example, many trainees select the overhead barbell shoulder press to build their shoulders, only for the exercise to cause them discomfort. Listen to your body. Just because a particular exercise works well for somebody else doesn't mean it will work for you, and vice versa. Instead, select an exercise which works the same muscles used in upright rowing. The benefits to you? You get to strength train effectively.

    4. Prevention is better than cure.

    An ounce of prevention truly is better than a pound of cure, which is why you should do everything in your power to protect your shoulders from possible injury. How? Exercise less; cycle your training; rest well; practice a positive mind-set (yes, this really does work); train those upright row alternatives like the deadlift exercise or the shrugs exercise - two proven mass builders which work the shoulders indirectly.

    5. Practice your 4 steps to injury recovery.

    Often an injury to the shoulder will require some help when healing, which is why injury rehab is crucial to your recovery. Injury rehabilitation (or RICE) is the simplest and most efficient home-help remedy for a host of sports injuries, yet many trainees fail to practice it. So what is RICE and why should you use it? RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, and these four components combined can reduce swelling and restrict the spread of bruising, both of which can slow down the healing process.

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