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-taper physique that everyone is really searching for. With shoulders as wide as barn doors with a narrow waist it’s the physique that gets the most attention. In pursuit, you’ve tried every overhead presses in all its variation, but that cannonball effect you’re after is still seemingly out of reach. Enter upright rows.

Upright rows are 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. So lets get into the gist of how to do upright rows.

How To Do Upright Rows

Begin performing an upright rows 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 upright rows are incorporated into a solid shoulder workout like the one below, you’ll build bigger and stronger delts, traps and rhomboids. Remember with bigger rounder shoulders with a wide chest you’ll achieve that v-taper physique that Frank Zane will be jealous of.


Frank Zane's Tips for a Classic V-Taper

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Shoulder Workout

  • 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.

Shoulder and Back Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Seated Dumbbell Military Press 4 8
Barbell Upright Row 4 12-15
Barbell Shrug 3 8
Dumbbell Lateral Raises To Failure