Upright Row Close Grip

Start Position
End Position

Starting position:

  1. Grasp the EZ bar with a closed, overhand grip.
  2. Grip width should be just narrower than shoulder width, accommodating to the inner handles of the EZ bar.
  3. Stand straight up with feet in a stable stance and slight bend in the knees.
  4. Extend arms, keeping a slight bend in elbows, with bar rested at your upper thighs.

Upward movement/concentric phase:

  1. Pull the bar upward until elbows are at shoulder height (do not go higher than that).
  2. Your elbows should remain above the levels of your hands throughout the movement.
Keep the torso and legs motionless throughout the movement.

Downward movement/eccentric phase:

    1. In a controlled fashion, slowly lower the bar by reversing the movement to starting position.
Do not hold your breath. Exhale during the concentric phase and inhale during the eccentric phase.


Exercise Data

  • Primary Muscles: Middle deltoids, upper trapezius
  • Synergists: Biceps brachii, brachialis, teres major
  • Stabilizers: Rhomboids and rotator cuff muscles
  • Type: Strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance
  • Mechanics: Shoulder abduction, scapular elevation and elbow flexion
  • Equipment: EZ Bar
  • Lever: 3rd class lever
  • Level: Beginner to advanced
  • FAQ'S & FACTS ABOUT Upright Row Close Grip

    What Is An EZ Bar Close Grip Upright Row

    A close-grip upright row is a compound resistance exercise, which targets the middle deltoids and upper trapezius. This exercise is performed with an EZ Bar. It is performed standing with a close grip on the inner handles of the EZ bar.

    The concentric portion of the lift is shoulder abduction, scapular elevation and elbow flexion. The eccentric portion is elbow shoulder adduction, scapular depression and elbow extension as the bar is lowered.

    The purpose of the close-grip upright row is to strengthen the deltoids and trapezius while also promoting the hypertrophy (increases in size) of these muscles.

    Why Do An EZ Bar Close Grip Upright Row

    The close-grip upright row activates the middle deltoid and upper trapezius. The close-grip provides a greater range of motion compared to using a wider grip, however, the lifter must acknowledge that a greater range of motion is not necessarily an advantage.

    The upright row places the shoulders in an internally rotated position as the arms are elevated. This is an abnormal movement for humans and can cause subacromial impingement. Therefore, lifting the elbows too high places negative stress on the shoulder joint and may cause rotator cuff injury.

    Activating the middle deltoids with a close-grip upright row promotes the hypertrophy of the shoulder muscles, providing the roundness and width.

    In addition to serving as an exercise that enhances the aesthetics of the deltoids and trapezius, upright rows also complement weightlifting performance as the mechanics simulate the high pull portion of the clean. Performing upright rows with an EZ bar provides an alternative to the barbell that may be easier on the wrists.

    Anatomy Of An EZ Bar Close Grip Upright Row

    The deltoid is a thick, multipennate muscle that forms a curtain around the shoulder. It is the primary muscle involved with arm abduction. When developed, the deltoids give the shoulder their round shape. The abduction of the shoulder joint as the bar is lifted activates the middle fibers of the deltoid. The origin of the deltoid is located at the insertion of the trapezius, lateral third of the clavicle and the acromion spine of the scapula. Its insertion is located at the deltoid tuberosity of the humerus.

    The trapezius is the most superficial muscle of the posterior thorax. It is a flat and triangular-shaped muscle. The upper fibers of the trapezius elevate the scapula (as the shoulders shrug) during this exercise. The origin of the trapezius is located at the occipital bone of the posterior skull, the ligamentum nuchae located behind the neck, and at the spines of C7 and all thoracic vertebrae. Its continuous insertion points are located along the acromion and spine of the scapula and lateral third of the clavicle.

    The biceps brachii consists of two heads, the long head and the short head. The long head tendon helps stabilize the shoulder joint and its origin is located at the tubercle and lip of the glenoid cavity of the scapula (shoulder blade). The short head origin is located at the coracoid process of the scapula (shoulder blade). The long and short head unite as the muscle bellies run down the front of the arm. Both heads merge, sharing insertion into the radial tuberosity of the elbow joint. The biceps brachii flexes the elbow joint as the bar is lifted upward.

    The brachialis lies underneath the biceps brachii, originating at the front of the lower end of the humerus bone. Its insertion is located at the coronoid process of the ulna at the elbow joint. The brachialis is a primary elbow flexor.

    The teres major is a thick muscle located underneath the teres minor. It helps to form the posterior wall of the axilla. This muscle internally rotates the humerus during this exercise. Its origin is located at the posterior surface of the scapula at the inferior angle. Its insertion is located at the crest of the lesser tubercle on the anterior humerus (its tendon fused with that of the latissimus dorsi).

    The rhomboids and rotator cuff muscles play an essential role in stabilizing the shoulder joint during this exercise.

    Variations of an EZ Bar Close Grip Upright Row

    Barbell upright row, dumbbell upright row, cable upright row.

    How To Improve Your EZ Bar Close Grip Upright Rows

    Performing the upright rows with a wider grip (two times wider than shoulder width) places less stress on the shoulder joint and also activates the posterior deltoid.

    Focus on the concentric portion of the contraction, concentrating on “squeezing” as the elbows reach the level of the shoulders.

    Emphasis on eccentric contractions, prolonging the eccentric portion of the contraction, may also be incorporated in a training program focused on increasing strength. This should be implemented accordingly and with adequate muscle recovery as eccentric contractions cause substantial damage to muscle tissue.

    It’s important to note that your repetition and set volume will depend on your goals (e.g. strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance). It is also important to allow adequate recovery days in between shoulder training days to allow muscles to repair.

    Common Mistakes When Doing EZ Bar Close Grip Upright Rows

    Raising the hands above the level of the elbows not only minimizes the tension on working muscles, but also promotes excessive elevation of the elbows. Raising the elbows too high can cause injury to the rotator cuff muscles (e.g. impingement syndrome) or reinstate a pre-existing shoulder injury.

    It is advised that lifters with healthy shoulder joints elevate their arms to a maximum of 90 degrees, at the height of the shoulders.1 Lifters with a history of shoulder injury or present state of injury must avoid this exercise and/or consult with a physical therapist.

    Swinging the torso and/or moving the legs throughout the movement minimize the activation of the working muscles and increase the risk for injury. Do not use body momentum to lift the bar during concentric phases. Do not drop the weight on its way down. The concentric and eccentric phases should be controlled.

    1. Schoenfeld B, Kolber MJ, Haimes JE. (2011). The upright row: Implications for preventing subacromial impingement. JSCR. 33(5): 25-28.

    Injuries Or Ailments & Their Effects Regarding EZ Bar Close Grip Upright Rows

    If the lifter has a compromised range of motion with the shoulder joint and/or performs this exercise incorrectly, this exercise can increase the risk of injury and/or exacerbate a previous injury.

    If proper technique and recovery are not adhered to, impingement syndrome, rotator cuff injuries, and glenoid labrum tears may result. Therefore, it’s best to avoid upright rows when addressing impingement syndrome/rotator cuff injury unless advised by a physical therapist.