When it comes to upper body training, a big chest and a set of full, vascular biceps are worthy goals, but it’s that elusive V—shoulders as wide as barn doors with a narrow waist — that gets the most attention. In pursuit, you’ve tried every overhead pressing variation in existence, but that cannonball effect you’re after is still seemingly out of reach.

Enter the upright row—a seriously efficient move that targets your side deltoids and trapezius muscles as its prime movers as well as your front delts, rhomboids, and teres minor as synergists. By adding this lift to your repertoire, you’ll nail the majority of your shoulder and upper back muscles with one underutilized compound movement.

Start with the proper technique: a shoulder-width stance with your back ramrod straight. Hold your chest high with your eyes focused straight ahead. Grasp the barbell with an overhand grip, and think of your hands as hooks. As you raise the bar, your wrists will flex downward toward the floor.

Raise the bar toward your chin by leading with your elbows. When your upper arms are parallel to the floor, stop the pull, and lower the bar along the same path it was raised. At the top of your range of motion, your elbows should be higher than your wrists. When incorporated into a solid shoulder workout like the one on the following pages, you’ll build bigger and stronger delts, traps and rhomboids in no time. 

Shoulder Workout

4 Ways to Use Alternating Overhead Presses

Seated Dumbbell Military Press

Use a palms-facing out grip, resting a full two minutes between sets. 4 sets, 8 reps.


Barbell Upright Row

Hammer your shoulders with as much weight as you can handle using proper form, then rest for 90 seconds between sets. 4 sets, 12–15 reps.


Barbell Shrug

Go hard and heavy here, resting two minutes between sets. Shrugs are an excellent complement to upright rows, and your traps will be screaming throughout these sets. 3 sets, 8 reps.


Dumbbell Lateral Raises

“Run the rack” by starting with a dumbbell with which you can perform 15 reps. Do five, then grab the next lighter pair and do five more. Repeat this process until you get to the 5-pounders, then work your way back up the same way until failure.