Synergists: Anterior Deltoid, Supraspinatus, Brachialis, Brachioradialis, Biceps Brachii, Middle and Lower Trapezius, Serratus Anterior, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor
Important stabilizers (not highlighted): Upper Trapezius, Lavator Scapulae
Set the Smith machine bar to mid-thigh height.
Set the safety pins to prevent the bar from dropping below your thighs.
Stand behind the bar and grasp it with a shoulder-width or wider overhand (pronated) grip.
Unlatch the bar by rotating it backwards.
Exhale as you pull the bar up to your lower or middle chest. Do not pull the bar up any higher.
Hold for a count of two.
Inhale as you slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.
Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions.
Rotate the bar forward to latch it back on to the rail.
Comments and tips
In some people, the upright row can lead to shoulder impingement. This is why it is considered a controversial exercise. Depending on one’s anatomy, the tendon of the supraspinatus muscle can repeatedly get pinched in the shoulder joint. This repeated pinching can lead to damage and injury. To reduce your risk of shoulder impingement, make sure that your grip is shoulder-width or wider; do not pull the bar up higher than chest level; keep close to the bar; and keep your torso upright, your chest out and your shoulders back. Making these adjustments will give your shoulder joint more room to move and allow for clearance of your tendon, which underlies the joint.
If you experience pain while performing the Smith machine upright row, stop performing it. Learn more about the risks of upright rowing exercises in the Upright row concerns section of the barbell wide-grip upright row page.