Why A Wide Grip Upright Row Is The Best Shoulder Exercise You’re Not Doing

If there’s something most guys in the gym would like to find out, it’s not just how to get big, it’s how to get wide.

best shoulder exerciseBecause there’s something special about a wide set of shoulders.

We want the kind of deltoids that stop traffic.

Yeah, the kind of shoulders that make us consider entering a room sideways to avoid rubbing the paintwork off the door frame.

Heck, I’d say there are literally zero other muscle groups which can add as much “bang for your buck” to the male physique as a well-trained pair of deltoids.

So today I’m going to talk about the one great shoulder exercise that nobody is doing.

In my recent article on The Best Triceps Exercise, I surprised a number of readers with the information that the best movement for activating muscle fibers in your three-headed-monster is the dumbbell kickback, an exercise which is often unfairly ignored in favor of more popular exercises you see everyone else doing.

Today, you’ll meet another long-forgotten and totally underestimated diamond of an exercise.

Time To Go Old School

The exercise I’m talking about is a modified version of a lift you may have tried before.

I’m talking about the wide grip upright row.

And the wide grip upright row is among the very best exercises for building your shoulders into the kind of cannonballs that say you don’t need a doctor, you need a vet.

But there’s something wrong in the fitness world…

Because in our quest to look for ever-more complex, unheard-of methods and training theories, the old classic exercises are often completely overlooked.

So today we’ll discuss this old-school compound lift and go through it’s various benefits.

wide grip upright row

Give Your Shoulders A Hard Time

The shoulders are a muscle group which are highly underestimated by most guys and, in many cases, severely undertrained.

Like the calves and abs, they recover quite fast due to the amount of stress placed on them on a daily basis through everyday life.

Your shoulders also work as an assisting muscle group on many of your other big lifts, such as the flat and incline bench press.

So don’t underestimate the strength within this muscle group.

Get it right and it can set off your whole physique, making you look much more muscular and, as Arnold Schwarzenegger put it, even making your waist appear tighter.

best shoulder exercises

Wide Grip Upright Row

You have probably already used regular upright rows as part of your workout routine.

It’s a good exercise for hitting the traps, but the tight grip can wreak havoc on our forearms and renders any potential benefits to the background over time.

But by altering your grip position you can drastically change the area which you are targeting.

Now, it becomes a fantastic exercise for developing the middle deltoids. And it’s damn good at doing it, too.

Think of this as a heavier version of a lateral raise.


In a 2013 study published by the Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research compared the effects of altering grip position on muscle activity across the traps, front, middle and rear deltoids. (1)

To achieve this, the participants in this trial used a close grip, a shoulder-width grip and a wider-than-shoulder-width grip.

They researchers noticed that a wider-than-shoulder-width grip resulted in more stimulation for the medial delts, rear delts and traps than any other grip placement.

In fact, they recorded an overall improvement in muscle activity of 20%!

How wide should your grip be on a wide grip upright row?

Try to go a little wider than your shoulders, as this will allow you to create a 90 degree angle when your arms become parallel with the floor, stimulating the best response from your medial deltoids, without placing unnecessary stress on the forearms.

Here’s a video guide of how to perform it correctly:

In Order To Get Wide, Go Wide

I highly recommend slotting the wide grip upright row into your shoulder routine and noting the effects for yourself.

Here’s a sample shoulder workout which includes this move along with other proven muscle building favorites of my clients.

Click the exercise for a video demo:

If you’ve enjoyed this post on the wide grip upright row, all I ask is that you are kind enough to share it with others.

Be sure to jump on my email list at the end of this article (for notifications of future training tips), and go here for workouts.


  1. McAllister, MJ, et al. Effect Of Grip Width On Electromyographic Activity During The Upright Row. J Strength Cond Res: Jan 2013.

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