Dumbbell Upright Row Exercise Guide
Dumbbell upright row is almost the same as the basic exercise (barbell upright row), but using dumbbells instead of the barbell.
The shoulder workout does not differ substantially in this variant. However, the dumbbells not only allow for either a narrow or wide grip, they also allow unrestricted range of movement.
Dumbbell Upright Row Exercise Instructions
Follow these guidelines to ensure safe exercise technique. Barbell upright row is a very safe exercise but only if performed properly.
STARTING (INITIAL) POSITION: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, grasping the dumbbells so that your palms face your body (overhand grip) and your knuckles point away. Keep your knees slightly bent and your chest up. Your arms are extended in the start position so that the dumbbells touch your upper thighs.
EXERCISE EXECUTION (MOVEMENT): Pull your hands directly up (parallel to the line of your torso) until your elbows and forearms are virtually parallel to the ground. The dumbbells should end in front of your collar bones. Slowly lower the dumbbells down to the arms’ extended position. Lifting the dumbbells close to your body targets the lateral deltoid. Keep the weights the same distance apart throughout the exercise.
Additional Tips & Key Points
Some helpful hints (key elements to consider) on how to perform this side deltoid exercise safely and effectively.
- Look for your arms to rise simultaneously; your hands should never be higher than your elbows (if the elbows are raised above shoulder level, the trapezius takes over the work).
- Be sure that your hands stay as close to your body as possible at all times.
- Pull the dumbbells up along your abdomen and chest toward your chin.
- Look for an upright posture to be maintained throughout the movement.
- Keep your head up and your eyes looking forward throughout the exercise.
- Avoid an excessive shrug or rounding your shoulders.
- Stabilise by keeping you spine solid and in a neutral position, keeping your eyes and head forwards, your chest and ribcage high, bending your hips and knees slightly.
To work the middle (lateral) deltoid more, begin with your hands farther apart so that the dumbbells are outside your thighs, not in front of them.
Upright rows can be done using a bar, dumbbells, or a low pulley.
We recommend that you practice the exercise using a cambered (E-Z Curl Bar) bar at first. This is usually much easier on the wrists and shoulders than a straight barbell. After you’ve mastered the perfect form methods, you can begin using two separate dumbbells for variety.
Muscles Engaged in Dumbbell Upright Row
This movement will strengthen your shoulders, chest, biceps, and forearms.
- Main muscles: deltoid (lateral; side)
- Secondary muscles: trapezius, levator scapulae, supraspinatus, biceps, forearm flexor muscles, rhomboids, lower back muscles
- Antagonists: latissimus dorsi, pectoralis major, triceps
Performing this exercise with dumbbells instead of a barbell (straight or E-Z bar) increases the level of difficulty.
Furthermore, using dumbbells for the upright row works each arm independently, and prevents your elbows from rising much further than parallel to the floor, arguably making this a safer exercise because you are less likely to damage your rotator cuffs.
Finally, you must place your hands at a proper width if you want to focus the work on the deltoid (lateral) rather than the trapezius. The wider your grip, the less the trapezius will be involved. When the hands are closer together, the trapezius muscles do more of the work.