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Wide Grip Upright Row: Exercise Guide & Tips

Wide Grip Upright Row | myworkoutdiet

Deadlift | Cardio | Triceps | Chest | Rhomboid | Glutes

The barbell upright row is a classic shoulder and trap building exercise that has stood the test of time. But did you know that simply widening your grip on the bar can take this exercise to the next level? The barbell wide grip upright row targets the shoulders and traps from a different angle, recruiting more muscle fibers in these key areas.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dig into perfecting barbell wide grip upright row form, muscles worked, tips to maximize results, common mistakes to avoid, and suggested upright row alternatives. By the end, you’ll have a complete understanding of how to incorporate this underestimated exercise variation into your next back and shoulder workout to ignite new muscle growth. So widen your grip and let’s get rowing!

How to Perform Barbell Wide Grip Upright Row:

Barbell Wide Grip Upright Row | myworkoutdiet
  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart gripping a barbell using an extra wide overhand grip, hands beyond shoulder width. Keep your elbows extended with arms straight in front of your thighs. This is the starting position.
  2. Initiate the movement by pulling the barbell straight upwards towards your chin, leading with your elbows as you slightly extend through the knees and hips. Keep raising the barbell until it nearly touches your chin.
  3. Focus on pulling your elbows up and outward as you lift the bar. Keep the bar near your body throughout the movement pattern.
  4. Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position in a controlled motion to complete one rep. Avoid swinging the barbell.
  5. Breathe normally and keep your torso stationary as your elbows and arms move the weight.
  6. Complete 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions using a weight you can lift with good form. Rest 60-90 seconds between sets.

The wide grip targets more muscle fibers in the shoulders and traps by allowing greater shoulder joint rotation and scapular retraction.

Wide grip upright row muscles worked

The wide grip upright row is an excellent mass and strength builder specifically for the shoulders and traps (trapezius). By taking a wider than shoulder-width grip on the barbell during this compound pull exercise, you increase the overall muscle recruitment in these areas compared to a standard close grip upright row.

The widening of your hands requires greater shoulder joint mobility and engagement of surrounding musculature. The primary movers during the wide grip variation are the side and middle deltoid heads located on top of the shoulder joint. As you retract and lift the shoulder blades while raising the elbows out and up during the movement, the trapezius is heavily targeted, including the upper, middle, and lower trap regions running down the upper back.

Secondary muscle groups activated to assist the upward pulling motion include the levator scapulae of the upper neck, rhomboids of the middle back, supraspinatus rotator cuff muscles, and serratus anterior along the ribcage. The widening grip also reduces biceps involvement compared to narrower upright row positions.

Tips to maximize results when performing the barbell wide grip upright row:

  1. Use a Shoulder-Width Grip : Position your hands just outside shoulder-width apart for the ideal mechanics to engage the shoulders and traps. Going too wide reduces stability.
  1. Lead with the Elbows : Concentrate on keeping your elbows pointed outward and above your hands as you lift. This forces greater activation through the traps.
  1. Use a Full Range of Motion : Lower the bar all the way down to fully lengthen the working muscles before explosively driving your elbows upward during the contraction for maximum results.
  1. Maintain a Neutral Wrist : Avoid bending the wrists back during the lift which can strain the tendons. Keep wrists straight and rigid by gripping the bar tightly.
  1. Stabilize the Core : Keep the core tight and torso stationary as you row. Don’t swing the body to lift momentum. Strict controlled form maximizes muscle results.
  1. Moderate Weight & Volume : Lift a weight that allows 8-12 reps for 3 sets with good form. High volume pumps extra blood flow feeding muscle growth.

Following these wide grip upright row techniques will help intensify muscle fiber activation both within sets and long term for optimal size and strength adaptations.

Common mistakes to avoid when performing the barbell wide grip upright row:

  1. Excessive Swinging or Cheating : Avoid using momentum by swinging the torso or hips to lift the weight. This reduces tension on target muscles. Strict controlled form is key.
  1. Overarching the Lower Back : Maintain a neutral spine without excessive arching of the lower back as you row. This places undue strain on the lumbar vertebrae.
  1. Behind-the-Neck Pull : Raising the barbell behind the head stresses the rotator cuff. Keep the bar always in front of you.
  1. Elbows Dropping Down : Lead with the elbows pointed outward and upward, not downward next to your torso which decreases muscle activation.
  1. Wrist Bending : Avoid flexing wrists back when gripping the bar which can lead to wrist strain or tendon impingement over time.
  1. Holding Breath : Breathe normally on exertion. Never hold in your breath which causes intra-abdominal pressure.
  1. Lifting Too Heavy Weight : Chasing maximal loads with sloppy form increases injury risk. Use appropriate weight for 8-12 strict reps.

Performing with proper wide grip upright row mechanics stimulates maximum scapular retraction and shoulder adaptation. Always prioritize quality form over using heavy weights.


In conclusion, the barbell wide grip upright row is an underutilized shoulder and trap builder that deserves more attention. By taking a wider than shoulder-width grip on the barbell, you can increase activation of the deltoids and trapezius muscles compared to a standard close grip upright row.

Focus on leading with the elbows pointed up and outward as you drive them toward the ceiling to lift the bar. Keep the torso stationary and wrists neutral throughout the movement pattern. Lift at a moderate weight that allows pristine form for 3 challenging sets of 8-12 repetitions for optimal muscle results.

Avoid common mistakes like excessive swinging, overarching the lower back, letting elbows drop, and bending wrists when gripping the bar. Prioritizing flawless technique each rep stimulates maximum gains over time.

Complement the mass and strength benefits of wide grip upright rows by pairing the exercise with overhead presses, lateral raises, and farmer’s walks. Implement this forgotten variation into your next shoulders and traps workout to ignite new muscle growth!

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