Barbell Upright Row vs Dumbbell Upright Row (Is One Better?)


Barbell Upright Row vs Dumbbell Upright Row

Welcome to our comparison between Barbell Upright Rows and Dumbbell Upright Rows. Both of these exercises are popular options for targeting the shoulders and upper back, but they differ in how they are performed and the equipment required.

In this article, I will compare the two exercises in terms of muscle activation, difficulty, and overall effectiveness. I will also provide tips on how to properly perform each exercise to maximize results and minimize the risk of injury.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced lifter, this article will provide valuable information on the differences between Barbell Upright Rows and Dumbbell Upright Rows.


Barbell Upright Row


Equipment Needed

  • Barbell
  • Bumper Plates (or Iron Plates if not dropping the bar after sets)

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Starting position is with your feet shoulder-width apart, slight bend in the knee.
  • Grasp bar about shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold the barbell with an overhand (pronated) grip.
  • Start with the bar at arm’s length.
  • Pull the bar upward along the abdomen and chest toward the chin.
  • At the top, the elbow should be higher than the wrist, and above the shoulders.
  • Lower the bar slowly and under control to the front of the thighs.
  • Do not jerk.
  • Keep the bar close to the torso.

Coaching Points

The biggest mistake I see, by far, with Barbell Upright Rows is swinging way too much to lift the bar. A little swing is okay if you’re trying to grind out the last rep or two of a set.

However, if you’re having to rock your torso for every rep then the weight is too heavy. Take some weight off the bar and use proper form.

Benefits

The Barbell Upright Row is an upper body exercise that is primarily used to strengthen the muscles in the upper back, shoulders, and arms.

Some of the benefits of this exercise include increased upper body strength, grip strength and improved posture. Additionally, because the barbell upright row is a compound exercise, it can also help to increase overall muscle mass and improve coordination and balance.

FYI: If you’re simply looking a substitution for Barbell Upright Rows, you should check out my 10 favorite Barbell Upright Row alternatives.


Dumbbell Upright Rows


Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grab two dumbbells and start with them at arm’s length in front of the thighs, palms toward the body.
  • Flex your knees slightly and stand upright with good posture.
  • Pull the dumbbells upward along the abdomen and chest toward the chin.
  • At the top, the elbow should be higher than the wrist, and above the shoulders.
  • Lower the bar dumbbells and under control to the front of the thighs.
  • Do not ‘jerk’ or ‘rock’ the weight up and keep the dumbbells close to the torso throughout.

Coaching Points

The biggest mistake I see, by far, with Dumbbell Upright Rows is swinging way too much to lift the weight.

A little swing is okay if you’re trying to grind out the last rep or two of a set, however, if you’re having to rock your torso for every rep then the weight is too heavy. Grab some lighter dumbbells and use proper form.

Benefits

This exercise can help to strengthen the muscles in the upper back, shoulders, and arms, and it also has several other potential benefits.

Some of the potential benefits of the Dumbbell Upright Row include increased upper body strength, improved posture, and increased hypertrophy.

Additionally, because the dumbbell upright row is a compound exercise that involves multiple joints and muscle groups, it can also help to improve overall coordination and balance.

Barbell vs Dumbbell Upright Rows: Which is Better?

Now, let’s do a side-by-side comparison to see which variation is better for a couple of common lifting goals.

Better For Developing Size and Strength: Toss Up

It is difficult to say definitively which exercise is better for developing size and strength, as both barbell upright rows and dumbbell upright rows can be effective depending on the specific program and individual factors. Here are some points to consider when deciding which exercise is best for you:

  1. Equipment availability: If you have access to a barbell but not dumbbells, or vice versa, then that will obviously heavily influence your decision.
  2. Muscles worked: Both exercises target the muscles of the shoulder, specifically the deltoids. However, the barbell upright row may also activate the biceps and forearms to a greater extent, depending on grip width and technique.
  3. Load: The barbell upright row allows for a greater load to be lifted. This can be beneficial for increasing strength and size. However, the dumbbell upright row may allow for a greater range of motion and may be more suitable for those with joint issues.
  4. Exercise technique: Proper form and technique are important for both exercises to ensure that you are targeting the desired muscles and minimizing the risk of injury. Make sure to pay attention to your form and use a weight that allows you to maintain proper technique.

Ultimately, the best exercise for developing size and strength will depend on your specific goals and individual factors. It may be beneficial to incorporate both exercises into your routine to diversify your training and maximize your results.

Better For Beginners: Dumbbell Upright Rows

I generally recommended that beginners start with dumbbell upright rows as they allow for a more natural range of motion and may be easier to control. Using dumbbells can also be more comfortable on the wrists and/or shoulders for some lifters.

However, it is important to note that every individual is different and may have different needs and abilities.

In general, it is important for beginners to start with a weight that allows them to maintain proper form and technique and gradually increase the load as they become more comfortable and confident with the exercise.

It is also important to focus on proper breathing and bracing techniques to ensure that you are engaging the correct muscles and protecting your spine.

Final Thoughts

I’ve just spent the last section of this article comparing which is better – Barbell Upright Rows vs Dumbbell Upright Rows. However, the truth is, there is no reason you shouldn’t have both exercises in your strength training program.

Both are excellent exercises for developing size and strength in the upper back and shoulders. Incorporating both exercises into your training program can also add variety and keep your workouts from getting stale.

So, my suggestion would be instead of trying to decide between the two exercises, figure out how you can utilize both Barbell Upright Rows or Dumbbell Upright Rows in your training plan.

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Ryan Horton

Horton Barbell was created by Ryan Horton who has served as a Sports Performance Coach for almost 20 years. My mission is to create a training resource to help as many coaches and athletes as possible maximize athletic potential.

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