kettlebell Upright Row: Muscle Worked, Benefits

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

When it comes to building a strong trap, few exercises can match the effectiveness of the kettlebell upright row. But it’s important to be careful when you do this exercise because bad form can slow you down and even hurt you.

You shouldn’t be scared out of integrating the kettlebell upright row into your routine. There are a many ways to improve the technique.

In this guide, we will ensure that you are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to perform the kettlebell upright row safely and effectively.

What is Kettlebell Upright Row

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.

The kettlebell upright row is a compound exercise that targets multiple muscle groups at once, making it an excellent choice for those looking to build strength and tone their muscles.

The exercise mainly targets the trapezius, deltoids, and biceps, while also focusing on core stability.

It is performed using a kettlebell, a type of weight with a handle attached.

Want to take your gains to the next level? Discover your daily calorie needs with our free TDEE calculator

Kettlebell Upright Row Muscle Worked

A real upper body powerhouse, the kettlebell upright row, mainly targets 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 Muscle Worked

Kettlebell Upright Row Benefits

Here are the benefits of a kettle bell upright row :

1. 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.

2. Stability & conditioning

Research shows that the upright row is one of the best exercises for building shoulder strength and stability.

The exercise targets the smaller, stabilizing muscles of the shoulder joint, which are essential for proper shoulder function and injury prevention.

The enhanced strength and stability gained from this exercise may result in enhanced performance in sports and other physical activities.

3. Builds Traps

It’s hard to build traps. There are only a handful of exercises that mainly target your traps.

A kettlebell upright row works your traps as much as it does your shoulders.

4. Increase Arm Strength

Along with the upper back and shoulder muscles, the biceps are also activated during the kettlebell upright row.

This exercise helps build and strengthen the biceps, which in turn makes the arm stronger and more defined.

5. 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.

6. Versatility

The kettlebell upright row can be modified or combined with other exercises to add variety to your routine. You can target specific muscle areas by adjusting the grip width.

How To Do Kettlebell Upright Rows

Kettlebell Upright Row
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, keeping a slight bend in your knees.
  2. Place a kettlebell on the floor between your legs.
  3. Bend down and grasp the kettlebell handle with both hands, using an overhand grip.
  4. Make sure your palms are facing your body.
  5. Maintain a neutral spine, engaging your core muscles for stability.
  6. Begin the movement by keeping your elbows close to your body and pulling the kettlebell up towards your chest.
  7. As you lift the kettlebell, focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together and engaging the muscles of your upper back.
  8. Continue pulling the kettlebell up until it reaches your chest or close to it.
  9. Keep your elbows slightly higher than your forearms.
  10. Pause for a moment at the top of the movement, feeling the contraction in your upper back muscles.
  11. Slowly lower the kettlebell back down towards the starting position, keeping control of the weight.
  12. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

Sets and 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
Know More: Best Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises & Workouts For Mass

Best Variation of Kettlebell Upright Row

The variations of the kettlebell upright row are important for a variety of reasons. They target different muscles, stimulate greater muscle growth, prevent plateaus, and cater to specific goals. They also promote muscle balance.

With variations, you will be able to challenge your muscles in new ways and achieve a stronger upper body.

One arm kettlebell upright row

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

With one hand gripping the kettlebell, you can achieve a greater range of motion during the upright row.

This exercise variation helps strengthen your grip and forearm muscles, which can carry over to other exercises and daily activities that require grip strength.

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.
  3. Before you start, tighten your shoulders and hips and squeeze your core.
  4. Slowly shrug your left shoulder up toward your lower chest.
  5. At the top, pause for a moment and contract the muscles.
  6. Slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.
  7. After completing all reps on the left side, repeat on the right side
  8. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

kettlebell Squat To Upright Row

The kettlebell squat to upright row combines the lower body squat movement with an upper body upright row.

It effectively targets the muscles of the legs, glutes, core, upper back, and shoulders, making it a comprehensive full-body exercise.

Kettlebell Squat to Upright Row

How To Do kettlebell squat to upright row

  1. Hold the kettlebell in front of your thighs with both hands, feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Squat down by bending your knees, pushing your hips back, and keeping your chest lifted.
  3. As you stand up, lift the kettlebell towards your chest, pulling it close to your body in a rowing motion.
  4. Pause at chest level and squeeze your shoulder blades together to engage your upper back muscles.
  5. Lower the kettlebell and simultaneously lower your body back into the squat position.
  6. Repeat the desired number of reps.

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:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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

5. Don’t pull the kettlebell too high

Pulling the weight too high can increase the likelihood of an impingement injury at the shoulder.

6. Kettlebell Grip

Optimize your grip for kettlebell exercises by avoiding grabbing the top of the handle with both hands. Instead, use the rounded corners at the edge of the handle to widen your grip by a few inches.

This small adjustment improves wrist mechanics, provides better stability, and enhances your overall lifting technique

Caution when doing a Kettlebell Upright Row:

Shoulder impingement can be caused by the closed grip and internal rotation of the shoulders during kettle upright row.

Subacromial impingement occurs when the tendons and bursa in the shoulder become compressed or irritated, leading to pain and limited range of motion. Some people argue that the mechanics of the upright row exercise can contribute to this condition.

It’s important to be mindful of shoulder health and consider alternative exercises or modifications to reduce the risk of subacromial impingement.

Consider alternative exercises that don’t compromise shoulder positioning such as Turkish get-ups, overhead press, windmills, clean and presses, or kettlebell swing.

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:

  • Activate the deltoid and Trap muscle groups, which are trained in the upright row.
  • Isolate the muscle groups during execution
  • 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.

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.

3. Wide Grip 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.

4. Renegade Row

This dynamic exercise targets multiple muscle groups, including the upper backshoulders, and core, to build strength, stability, and balance.

The Renegade Row is a compound movement that involves using weights and a plank position to challenge your body in new ways.

Renegade Row can be done with dumbbells, kettlebells, or even a pair of water bottles.

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.

Leave a Comment