Cable Upright Row: Muscle Worked, Benefits, Form

If you want to build bigger and stronger traps and deltoid, the cable upright row is a great exercise to do. The cable upright row is a variation of the upright row and an exercise used to build the muscles of the shoulders and traps.

A cable pulley machine can be used for an upright row in that it provides constant tension on the target muscles as you move the weight through the range of motion.

The cable straight-bar upright row is an isolation exercise for the traps and the medial deltoids. It’s important to do the cable row correctly to reduce the risk of getting hurt.

What is Cable Upright Row

The Cable upright row is a movement that targets many of the large muscles in the upper back, shoulders and arm.

It is performed using a cable machine with an attached handle or bar. The exercise involves pulling the handle or bar vertically upward while keeping the elbows higher than the forearms.

The cable upright row differs from the traditional upright row, which is typically performed with a barbell or dumbbells.

The cable variation provides a constant tension throughout the movement and allows for a smoother range of motion. It’s ultimately increasing muscle activation and hypertrophy.

Upright rows are an exercise that nearly everyone can do using a wide variety of grip widths.

Cable Upright Row Muscles Worked

The dumbbell upright row engages the deltoid muscles (specifically the front and side heads), the trapezius muscles, and the biceps.

It also activates the forearms and upper back muscles, including rhomboids, for stabilization and support.

A handful of other muscles worked or play the role of stabilizer muscles during cable upright row include your,

Muscle Worked In Upright Row Exercise

Benefits of a Cable Upright Row

Here are the benefits of a machine upright row :

  • 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.
  • Stability & conditioning: Upright row activates all major areas of the shoulders, making it excellent for upper body stability and conditioning.
  • Builds Traps: Traps are tricky to build. There are only a handful of exercises that mainly target your traps. The upright row works your traps as much as it works your shoulders.
  • Arm power: It will make your arms more powerful, improving your performance in other exercises and activities as a result.
  • 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.

How To Do Upright Row With Cable

Cable Upright Row

Step to perform the exercise correctly:

  1. Attach a straight bar to a low cable pulley.
  2. Position yourself in front of the cable machine with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  3. Grab the bar using a shoulder-width or wider overhand grip.
  4. Stand close to the pulley with your body upright, your shoulders pulled back.
  5. Exhale as you pull the bar up the front of your body until it reaches the level of your lower or middle chest.
  6. Do not pull the bar up any higher. Hold for a count of two.
  7. Inhale as you lower the bar to the starting position.
  8. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Sets and Reps

How many sets and reps you should do for cable upright rows depends on your fitness goals, and overall workout routine.

Here are some general guidelines you should consider.

Strength and Muscle Building:

  • Sets: 3-5 sets per workout.
  • Reps: 8-12 reps per set.
  • Rest: 60-90 seconds between sets to allow for recovery.

Endurance and Toning:

  • Sets: 2-3 sets per workout.
  • Reps: 12-15 reps per set or more.
  • Rest: 30-45 seconds, to maintain a higher intensity.

The right and safe way to do Upright Cable row

Like any exercise, it’s important to perform the upright row with proper form and technique to avoid injury and maximize your results.

Here are some common mistakes to avoid when performing the exercise:

1. Make sure your hands aren’t too close together

Placing your hands too close together can result in injury at the wrist, and it can be easily avoided by simply moving your grip width to be slightly wider so that it is more comfortable for you as you lift.

2. You’re lifting too much weight

If your weight is too heavy, the movement will require momentum. Heavy lifting will take the focus away from the shoulders or, even worse, put too much stress on them.

3. Don’t pull the bar too high

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

Controlling the movement and limiting your elbows to reach the same height as your shoulders ensure you are not exerting your shoulder and potentially causing an injury.

4. Brace your core and keep your torso upright

When it comes to upright rows, this will also help to reduce or prevent swinging the weight away from your center of mass.

5. Don’t roll shoulder forward

When lowering the weight, make sure your chest is proud and shoulders pulled back/together.

Upright Cable Row Variations

There are several variations and modifications of the cable upright row exercise that you can incorporate into your workout routine.

These variations target different muscles or provide different challenges to keep your workouts varied and engaging.

1. Narrow Grip Cable Upright Row

Instead of using a wide grip, bring your hands closer together on the cable handle or bar.

The narrow grip upright rows places emphasis more on the upper trap and a little lesser on the lateral delt and rear delt.

2. Wide Grip Cable Upright Row

The wide-grip upright row places heavy emphasis more in the lateral and rear deltoid and little lessor on the upper and middle trap

3. Cable Rope Attachment Upright Row

Replace the traditional handle or bar with a rope attachment. Grasp the ends of the rope with a neutral grip and perform the upright row motion.

This variation helps to engage the rear delts and upper back muscles to a greater extent.

4. Single-Arm Cable Upright Row

Perform the upright row exercise using one arm at a time. This variation enhances unilateral strength and stability, allowing you to focus on each side independently.

Alternative Exercises For Cable Upright Row

I will make recommendations on the best alternatives for the cable row.

Even if you love this exercise, it is always good to have alternatives to keep your body challenged and your training program fresh. Each variation has subtle differences in technique.

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. Kettlebell Upright Row

The Kettlebell Upright Row is a variation of the 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.

People Also Asked

What Muscles Does The Cable Upright Row Work?

The cable upright row is a compound exercise that targets muscles in your shoulders and upper back.

Are Cable Upright Rows Safe?

One of the main things about Cable upright exercises is that they are shoulder-friendly.

It provides constant tension on the target muscle group as you move the weight through the range of motion.

How often should I perform the cable upright row?

You can perform the cable upright row 2-3 times per week. Be sure to incorporate it into a well-rounded workout plan that targets different areas of the upper body.


A cable 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.

Kindly let us know, in the comment section below, your valuable suggestions!

Thanks for reading.

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