This topic has been debated for years. I see people ask questions in different fitness forums about whether upright rows are bad for you or not. I’m surprised to hear all the various answers that contradict one another like, “I’ve been doing them for years and my shoulders are fine”. “If it doesn’t hurt them, then keep doing them”. “Upright rows are a great exercise and can be done with an EZ bar”.
Seriously? It’s obvious these comments are not coming from an experienced weightlifter or anyone in the medical field.
Upright Rows are one of the most harmful exercises you can impose on your shoulder muscles. The problem with the exercise is the position your arms must be in in order to perform the movement involved. This position is called “internal rotation.”
Internal rotation is not necessarily bad for your shoulders. The problem comes when you raise your arms and have resistance in that position. Every time you raise the barbell or dumbbells, a small tendon in your shoulder gets pinched/impinged by the bones in the shoulder.
This movement may not hurt immediately. The problem is the tendon will gradually become worn down and damaged. It may take years before you feel any of the damage it’s creating. You may not even know you have a problem until one day you are seeing an orthopedic doctor about the intense pain shooting through your neck and shoulders.
So if it “feels ok while you are doing it”, that doesn’t mean its ok to be doing it. If you are addicted to this move and really feel it is giving your shoulders the mass you are looking for, try grabbing the bar at shoulder width opposed to the traditional close grip. This will take some of the stress out of the neck/trap area. Also, as we all know, form is everything. As you pull the bar up, be sure you are pulling your chest up and your shoulders down and back as you exhale. Do not shrug your shoulders and traps in an upward position.
Most people pull the bar all the way to just below the chin. Try raising it only to the upper chest area. Also, holding your breath during this move will also cause you to impinge the entire upper back area.
Exercise, if done properly, can be safe and will produce the results you desire. Have fun. Be Healthy. Stay Balanced.