Frank Mikulka's Weekly Fitness Tip
The Proper Form for Upright Rows (June 28, 2005)

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Do you happen to know the exact biomechanical reason as to why upright rows, when taken above nipple level, cause shoulder impingement in terms of internal abduction, rotation, etc.? (Alex)Answer

Upright rows pulled to just under the chin have a built-in weakness - the risk/reward ratio. Executed this way, there is an exaggerated alignment of the wrists, elbows and the shoulders. The shoulder is put in a position to abduct from an inward rotated position. Inward rotation at the shoulder joint combined with abduction increases the risk of impingement at the rotator cuff its almost bone on bone. The muscles that this exercise is supposed to target, upper traps, mid-posterior deltoid and elbow flexors are really poorly aligned against the force, so the line of pull is ineffective.

In spite of all that, if you choose to do this exercise, use a wider grip, dumbbells or cables so there will be less stress on wrists, elbows and shoulders. Pull to the sternum or where the elbows are in line with the shoulders parallel to the ground. However, consider long-term that the risks outweigh the benefits.

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