Upright Pulley Row
Using a low cable pulley for the upright row (instead of dumbbells or barbell) offers you a steadier and more stable resistance through the movement than is possible when working with a barbell. But just make sure that you stand close to the pulley and keep the bar to your body. Use a close (narrow) grip to preferentially work your upper back (trapezius muscle), or wider to engage your shoulders in the exercise. Because the upright row puts pressure on the shoulder capsule, do not perform this exercise if you have shoulder problems.
Upright Pulley Row Exercise Instructions
STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Stand in front a low pulley with a T handle (short straight bar attachment) on the cable. Keep your back straight, your knees slightly bent, and your feet shoulder-width apart. Grasp the bar with a shoulder-width overhand grip (palms toward your legs) and your arms extended so that the bar touches your upper thighs. Allow your shoulders to relax slightly, but don’t slouch.
EXECUTION (MOVEMENT): Pull the short bar straight up until your elbows and forearms are virtually parallel to the ground (up to chest level). Your elbows should point up and out. Hold for a moment, then slowly lower the weight to the starting position.
Make it easier on your shoulders: For more shoulder comfort, stand 2 to 3 feet away from the stack. This shifts some of the work to your rear delts and traps. Your elbows come back as well as up, and your forearms are almost parallel to the floor at the top position.
Cable Upright Row Key Points & Common Mistakes
- Grasp the bar with your hands a little less than shoulder-width apart.
- Keep the bar close to your body throughout the movement.
- To emphasize the side deltoid (not the trapezius muscle), raise the bar only until your elbows and forearms are parallel to the ground (raising the bar and elbows as high as possible toward your chin emphasize the trapezius muscle).
- Your elbows should rise and remain higher than your hands.
- If you separate your hands further in a wider grip, you will shift even more of the work onto the deltoid.
- Keep your head up and your eyes looking forward throughout the exercise.
- Be very careful with how much weight you use for this exercise. Too much weight leads to bad form, which in turn will cause shoulder injury.
- Common mistakes: lifting the hands higher than the elbows; rocking the body to gain momentum; and raising the bar outward and lowering it immediately on reaching the top of the movement.
Upright Pulley Row Variations (Replacement Exercises)
Muscles Involved in Upright Pulley Row
The muscles worked depends on the grip used. In general, any hand spacing five inches or less puts most of the stress on the traps. The wider the grip, the more the side deltoids come into play.
- 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
Cable upright row (upright pulley row) is identical to the barbell upright row and most of the same comments apply. This lateral deltoid exercise belongs in the multiple-joint exercise category because the shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints are mobilized.
It is a heavy exercise for the trapezius and deltoid (especially the latter) and if you separate your hands (wider grip), you will shift more of the work onto the shoulders. Most bodybuilders use medium-grip upright rows to target both areas equally and to avoid too much wrist strain from close-grip uprights.
Finally, raising your arms too high forces your shoulder joints to rotate in an unhealthy manner. Your shoulders will start to rotate a little as your hands reach the level of your lower chest. Past that point, your shoulders are forced to rotate more and more. Extreme rotation will be required for your upper arms to break parallel with the floor.