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Kettlebell Moves: Upright Row

The upright row is a fantastic exercise, and there’s a whole lot more on my Kettlebell Moves page!


  • Shoulders
  • Traps (Upper Back)
  • Biceps

The upright row is a controversial exercise due to the amount of strain that can be placed on the shoulder joints and the rotator cuff. Doing this exercise with a kettlebell allows for a more naturally oriented grip and places less strain on the shoulder joint overall. If you have shoulder issues, you might want to avoid this exercise, or modify the move by raising the bell to sternum height as opposed to neck or head height.

I prefer to do this move starting from the ground, and lowering back to the ground, as it will then also work the hamstrings, glutes and lower back.

Upright Row

  1. Set your feet shoulder width or slightly wider with toes slightly pointed out. Scoot your butt back as if you’re going to sit on a stool, and grasp the handle with an overhand grip.
  2. Keep your head up and eyes out in front of you in order to keep your back nice and straight.
  3. Drive the feet into the ground, straighten the legs and pull the kettlebell off the ground, raising it to chin height. Raise the elbows higher than the handle of the kettlebell to squeeze the upper back and shoulders.
  4. Breathe out as you raise the kettlebell and engage your abdominals, glutes, and shoulders.
  5. Lower the bell with control, back to the starting position and repeat for repetitions, or a set duration.

kettlebell upright row


  • Maintain scapular retraction. If you keep the shoulders firmly pulled back into their sockets, you will prohibit arching of the spine.
  • Keep your back nice and straight. Make sure to sink your hips as you squat down into the lower position. You should be able to look forward.
  • In the full upright position, make sure that your glutes are squeezed and your abdominals are engaged as if you are bracing for a punch.

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