Cable Upright Row vs Barbell Upright Row (Which is Better?)


Cable Upright Row vs Barbell Upright Row

Are you looking to build strength in your upper body and back muscles? The Cable Upright Row and Barbell Upright Row are two popular strengthtraining exercises that target the shoulders and upper back.

This article will compare and contrast these two exercises, and discuss which one might be the best choice for your workout routine.


Cable Upright Row


Cable Upright Rows

Equipment Needed

  • Cable Machine

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Attach a straight handle* to a cable machine and lower the attachment pin to the bottom of the beam.
  • Grab the handle with an overhand grip and stand tall with the handle starting right in front of the thighs.
  • Flex your knees slightly and stand upright with good posture.
  • Pull the cable handle 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 handle under control back to the front of the thighs.
  • Do not ‘jerk’ or ‘rock’ the weight up and keep the handle close to the torso throughout.

Coaching Points

*You can use multiple different attachments other than a straight handle. The Rope Attachment is another popular attachment for Cable Upright Rows.

Don’t stand too far away from the machine. Try to stay close to the tower so the row is as vertical as possible.

Related –> 10 Cable Upright Row alternatives that don’t require a machine.


Barbell Upright Row


Equipment Needed

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

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Grasp bar about shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold the barbell with palms down.
  • Start with the bar at arm’s length.
  • Flex your knees slightly.
  • 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.

Cable Upright Row vs Barbell Upright Row: Which is Better?

Now that you’re an expert on how to do both variations of upright row, let’s compare how they stack up against one another.

Note: Both exercises are very similar to one another. Even though I give an edge to one variation over the other, the truth is, both exercises are very close to one another when it comes to learning proper technique, developing strength and building muscle.

Better For Developing Strength: Barbell Upright Row

Both Cable Upright Rows and Barbell Upright Rows are effective for developing strength in the shoulders and upper back.

However, the Barbell Upright Row is generally thought to be more effective for developing strength because it allows for heavier weight to be lifted and requires more stabilization from the core muscles. The Cable Upright Row is a good option for those who have limited access to heavier weights and who need to focus on form and control.

Better For Building Muscle: Barbell Upright Row

For building muscle, the barbell upright row is generally a better choice than the cable upright row. This exercise allows for heavier weights to be lifted, making it more effective for stimulating muscle growth.

Additionally, the barbell upright row requires more stabilization from the core muscles, which can help to further engage the target muscles and promote muscle growth.

Better For Beginners: Cable Upright Row

For beginners, the cable upright row is generally a better option than the barbell upright row. This exercise allows for lighter weights and more control, making it easier for beginners to learn proper form and technique.

Also, with the cable upright row, it is easier to adjust the weight and make progress as you become stronger.

Final Thoughts

I’ve just spent an entire article comparing which is better – Cable or Barbell 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 strong shoulders and upper back. 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 Cable Upright Rows and Barbell 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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