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Wide Grip Upright Row With Free Weights Or Resistance Bands

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Wide Grip Upright Row With Free Weights Or Resistance Bands

The wide grip upright row is an intense muscle-building exercise designed to target the shoulders and back. It’s an excellent exercise for building your physique, but it’s easy to strain your back or injure your shoulders in the process!

To safely complete this move with free weights, you need solid shoulders, excellent posture, and practice. Stair-step your way up to using free weights by preparing your body with the help of resistance bands. 

Keep reading for our step-by-step guide to the wide grip upright row with free weights and resistance bands!

Performing a wide grip upright row: Safe posture is critical!

The wide grip upright row is a muscle-building exercise most commonly performed using a barbell or dumbbells. As we’ll show, though, it’s also possible to practice an upright row wide grip exercise using pull up bands.

The wide grip upright row is a variation of the standard, close grip upright row, which also hits the back and shoulder muscles, but uses a narrower, close grip. The wide grip row is typically viewed as a safer version of the exercise because it offers more stability and puts less strain on the shoulders. 

However, we should note that this is an advanced bodybuilding exercise when performed with free weights. Ensure you have good posture throughout the entire movement, and don’t be afraid to drop the weights if you feel like they’re too heavy for you. If you’re prone to back or shoulder injuries, then this is not an exercise you should be doing!

Wide grip barbell upright row 

This workout requires a barbell loaded up with an appropriate amount of weight. Stand on a gym mat in case you need to drop the barbell. 

  1. Select your weight, then stand in front of the barbell, keeping your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Place your hands on the barbell, with palms facing down (in an overhand grip) and slightly wider than shoulder-width apart (in a wide grip.)
  3. Bend at the knees while maintaining a good, straight posture.
  4. Pick the barbell up off the floor and stand up straight. 
  5. Engage your core to help stabilize your body.
  6. Raise the barbell up to your chest. Your elbows should bend outwards and upwards, and your shoulders flatten.
  7. Keep the weighted barbell as close to your body as possible while raising it up towards chest height.
  8. Hold the barbell at chest height, then slowly lower it. 
  9. Repeat the exercise. 

Wide grip resistance band upright row 

Learn the technique and movements with a long pull up resistance band while also building a base layer of muscle and toning existing muscles. 
  1. Take up the start position by standing with both feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on top of a long pull-up band. 
  2. Using a wide grip, place your palms facing down on top of the pull-up resistance band. 
  3. Standing tall, engage your core, and pull the resistance band upwards towards your chest. 
  4. Keep your elbows high, and hold the position for a few seconds. 
  5. Lower the resistance band towards the floor, then repeat the exercise. 

Other wide grip upright row exercises

You can also use the same movements and technique to practice the wide grip upright row with other weights and gym machinery.

The wide grip upright row dumbbell exercise allows you to control your movements better and adjust your grip more fluidly. 

The wide grip cable upright row can help you improve your technique and increase the weight you can support if you don’t have a barbell on hand. 

What muscles are targeted by wide grip upright rows?

Regardless of which variation you prefer (resistance bands or free weights), the wide grip upright row targets the same muscles when performed correctly. 

We’ve already noted that wide grip upright row muscle exercises primarily target the back and shoulders, so let’s look at a detailed breakdown of the specific muscles that feel the burn. 

These include:
  • Front deltoids (shoulder)
  • Middle deltoids (shoulder)
  • Trapezius (back)
  • Rhomboids (upper back)
Along with these major groupings, training with wide grip upright row movements will also strengthen your arms, including your biceps and triceps. To a much lesser extent, you will activate leg and core muscles during weight training. 

Wide grip vs. close grip upright row 

The wide grip upright row is a slightly different take on the close grip upright row. Both use a very similar technique, with the significant difference being the width of the grip. Wide grip exercises require movements at shoulder width, whereas close grip exercises keep the movements much tighter. 

Wide grip and close grip upright rows will both hit your back and shoulder muscles (as well as other minor muscles), but the wide grip is considered to be less stressful. If you suffer from shoulder pain, the close grip can exacerbate these injuries (even more so than the wide grip exercise) as it puts much more stress on the deltoids and offers far less support. 

However, the close grip upright row also hits the front deltoids more effectively than the wide grip. If this is your aim, then the close grip is a good choice when performed safely. The close grip will also utilize your arms more than the wide grip will, offering more chance to hit the triceps as you complete the movements. 

With both exercises, it’s essential to be confident with the weight you choose, so we recommend using resistance bands to get the technique right before trying with a barbell. As always, remember to warm up and stretch before commencing your strength training session!

Wide grip upright row: The last word

The wide grip upright row is a bodybuilding exercise that works your shoulders and your back. Remember, if you’re practicing barbell wide grip upright rows, then you need a strong back and strong shoulders - don’t try it if you’re prone to back or shoulder injuries!

Using resistance bands is a great upright row alternative that will help you learn the correct posture and movements for the exercise and help you build and tone the necessary muscles. 

If you’re looking for advanced back and shoulder exercises to try, give the wide grip upright row a go!

Katherine Holden

Katherine Holden

Katherine is a CrossFit expert with humble origins. Starting out on a ranch, ever since she was nine, she spent most of her life roping and competing in team roping. After finding bodyweight exercises interesting she sought after a career in CrossFit and dedicated her life towards achieving the body of her dreams. Today Katherine is a personal trainer that loves to travel the world and change the lives of her clients.

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