Upright Rows: An easy exercise to get completely wrong!
You really have to watch your form here. In THT training I recommend hitting the traps with a couple of ‘direct stimulation’ sets.
This is because the traps come into play so much with your shoulder and back days that they don’t need a lot of direct action.
One great way of getting the job done (and the one I am currently using) is with upright rows.
The danger here is in using the shoulders more than the traps themselves. I have a few little tricks that ensure I’m really hitting the traps primarily.
But before we get into that, check out the video. Front and side view are shown to hammer the points home…
(apologies: I look terrible in the vid. This is because I felt like heck when it was recorded. I had hardly eaten anything for a couple of days due to a short period of sickness – I was SO gutted, I haven’t been sick in years!).
(1) It’s best to lift the bar from a racked position, rather than off the floor. In fact, you should bear this in mind for all your standing barbell lifts.
The reason is simple: you want to preserve as much energy and strength for the working set as possible.
(2) Do a comfort test first! For upright rows, we use a narrow grip. However, how narrow depends on your own structure.
Take a barbell with no loaded weight and grab it with a ‘narrower-than-shoulder-width’ grip. Now raise it so that the bar is in line with the bottom of your neck. How do your wrists feel at this point in the movement?
If you’re not comfortable, you can expect an actual weighted set to feel much worse. Experiment with (slightly) wider and narrower grips to find where you feel most comfortable at the top of the rep.
(3) Now you’re all set. Take the bar and let the weight ‘hang‘ on your arms, don’t bend at the elbows or allow the upper arms to take the weight.
Allow your torso to fall a little forward. At this point ‘engage’ the traps. By this I mean allow your arms to become like ‘dead weight.’ Relax the arm muscles momentarily and you should feel the load really engaging the traps. I came up with this manoeuvre myself out of sheer frustration; I just couldn’t ‘feel’ upright rows at all before this.
(4) Now, in a smooth fashion, start raising the bar. Initiate the movement with the traps and once moving, allow the body to move back to an upright position.
The top of the rep is when the bar is about neck level; you’ll naturally stop here anyway.
(5) Now lower the bar slowly and under control of the traps. This is important; upright rows really demand a slow negative (lowering) aspect to get maximum trap stimulation.
(6) Let the torso come forward to the starting position, again fully engaging the traps.
When you start to use this form, you’ll really feel and see the difference in your trap development!