kettlebell Upright Row: Muscle Worked, Benefits

The Kettlebell upright row is a compound exercise that builds stronger and bigger traps, and rear deltoids (Shoulder).

No doubt, it is one of the best exercises for building upper back, but it’s also easy to get wrong. Typically, this will just result in you missing out on the muscle-building benefits of the move. Incorrect technique can also place undue pressure on your shoulders and increase your risk of injury.

You shouldn’t be scared out of integrating the kettlebell upright row into your routine. There are several ways you’ll need to look out to improve the technique.

Kettlebell Upright Row Muscle Worked

A real upper body powerhouse, the kettlebell upright row, mainly target your Traps and Lateral deltoid.

Some of the body’s most integral muscle groups worked during kettlebell upright row also, including:

Secondary muscle worked are: Anterior deltoid, Brachialis, Brachioradialis, Biceps Brachii,supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, teres minor.

Kettlebell Upright Row Benefits

Here are the benefits of a kettle bell upright row :

  • Muscle strength & growth: Due to its targeted pulling motion, a large group of major upper body muscles are targeted. Performing this exercise regularly is likely to accelerate your muscle growth and strength in your back, biceps, and shoulders.
  • Stability & conditioning: Upright row activates all major areas of the shoulders, making it excellent for upper body stability and conditioning. By doing frequent upright rows, you will improve your position while protecting yourself from injury.
  • Builds Traps: Traps are tricky to build. There are only a handful of exercises that mainly target your traps. A kettlebell upright row utilizes your traps just as much as it works your shoulders.
  • Arm power: It will make your arms more powerful, improving your performance in other exercises and activities as a result.
  • Improve your posture. When practiced with proper form, upright row exercises help build strength in your upper body stabilizer muscle groups, helping you stand up tall and keep your back straight.

Kettlebell Upright Row Exercise Guide

The Kettlebell Upright Row is a variation of the dumbbell upright row, and It allows more movement in your wrists and arms and is less likely to force any internal rotation of your shoulder.

Again, opt for a kettlebell in a bit less than half the weight of a barbell you were working with.

Kettlebell Upright Row

How To Do Kettlebell Upright Rows

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and the kettlebell in both hands.
  2. Tighten your core and lift the kettlebell by raising your elbows to your shoulders. Keep your elbows above your wrists.
  3. Control the kettlebell on the way back down, making sure to lower the kettlebell all the way down, so your arms are fully straightened.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Sets & Reps

Choose your sets and repetitions based on how well you can do the movement without losing good form.

  • Routine for Strength: 3 sets x 12-15 reps
  • Routine for Muscle Gains: 4-5 sets x 6-8 reps

Best Variation of Upright Row

One arm kettlebell upright row

Single arm kettlebell upright row is the unilateral variation on the kettlebell upright. The single-arm kettlebell upright row is a popular movement for building stronger and bigger traps and shoulders.

single arm kettlebell upright row

How To Do Upright Row With Single Kettlebell

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a kettlebell in your left hand at your side.
  2. Your arm should be long with a slight bend in your elbows. Before you start, tighten your shoulders and hips and squeeze your core.
  3. Slowly shrug your left shoulder up toward your lower chest.
  4. At the top, pause for a moment and contract the muscles.
  5. Slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.
  6. After completing all reps on the left side, repeat on the right sideRepeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Kettlebell Upright Row Form and Tips

The kettlebell upright row motion looks simple enough, but getting it wrong could result in disaster (injury) or, at the very least, waste valuable workout time. But, these form tips will help you get it just right:

  • Do not swing your upper body: try to keep your body steady and only move your arms. Keep a controlled motion and avoid jerky movements.
  • Don’t start with a weight that is too heavy: Try a lighter kettlebell at first and gradually increase the weight as your form improves, and your confidence grows.
  • Don’t slouch or roll your shoulders: Doing so will make the exercise ineffective and could place unnecessary wear and tear on your joints over time.
  • Brace your core and keep your torso upright: As with any lift, maintaining a strong and stable core throughout the lift will aid with bracing and thus protect the spine
  • Don’t pull the kettlebell too high: Pulling the weight too high can increase the likelihood of an impingement injury at the shoulder.

Kettlebell Upright Row Alternative

Before we deep dive into the best kettlebell upright Row alternatives. We must remember, a good kettlebell Upright Row alternative will be able to satisfy the following criteria:

1. Activate the deltoid and Trap muscle groups, which are trained in the upright row.

2. Isolate the muscle groups during execution

3. Train the deltoids muscle through a longer range of motion.

1. Dumbbell Upright Row

The dumbbell upright Row is a compound exercise that builds stronger and bigger traps, and rear deltoids (Shoulder). 

It’s a really simple exercise to perform. You hold a dumbbell in each hand and lift them vertically until they’re level with your collarbone, before lowering them back down.

Muscle Worked during Dumbbell Upright Row

2. Face Pull

Face pull is a cable machine exercise that primarily targets the deltoid and traps to a lesser degree and also targets the biceps and triceps.

Use a cable pulley machine to pull the weight straight toward your forehead.

This type of trap exercise and workout prevents muscular imbalance and builds overall shoulder strength.

Face Pull

3. Barbell Upright Row

The barbell upright Row is one of the excellent exercises to build huge Trapezius muscles and side delt.

Upright rows can be done with both narrow grips and wider ones.

The narrow grip focuses on the trapezius, and the wider focuses on the entire shoulder girdle. Furthermore, the wider grip allows some cheating movement, thereby allowing you to lift more weight.

Barbell Upright Row

People also ask

What muscles does kettlebell upright row work?

The kettlebell upright row is a compound exercise that targets muscle groups in your shoulders and upper back.

Are Kettlebell rows effective?

Kettlebell upright rows are a good upper-body exercise designed to work muscle groups throughout your arms, shoulders, and upper back. One of the main things about these exercises is that they are shoulder-friendly.


A kettlebell upright row can strengthen the posterior chain muscles, including the shoulders and upper back. With great attention to form, you’ll reap all the benefits.

I really hope that this article was useful for you, and you continue to use your kettlebell in a safe and effective way.

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Video illustration of Shoulder Kettlebell Upright Row

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