How To Do Kettlebell Upright Row

Kettlebell Upright Row (How To, Muscles Worked, Benefits)

Kettlebell Upright Rows are a great upper-back exercise. They’re also a good supplemental movement for bigger Olympic movements like Snatches and Cleans.

Here is how to do a Kettlebell Upright Row, what muscles this exercise works and a few alternatives if you’re unable to do upright rows with a kettlebell.

How To Do Kettlebell Upright Rows

Equipment Needed

  • Kettlebell

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Starting position is with your feet shoulder-width apart, slight bend in the knee.
  • Hold the kettlebell with both hands in an overhand (pronated) grip.
  • Start with the kettlebell at arm’s length.
  • Pull the kettlebell 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 kettlebell slowly and under control to the front of the thighs.
  • Do not jerk.
  • Keep the kettlebell close to the torso as you row.

Coaching Points

The biggest mistake I see, by far, with Kettlebell Upright Rows is swinging way too much and turning them into more of a Kettlebell Swing. A little swing is okay if you’re trying to grind out the last rep or two of a tough set, but for the most part, the upper body should stay still.

If you’re having to rock your torso for every rep then the weight is too heavy. Grab a lighter kettlebell and use proper form.


The Kettlebell 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 Kettlebell Upright Row is a compound exercise, it can also help to increase overall muscle mass and improve coordination and balance.

How Many Reps?

Kettlebell Upright Row is an upper-body supplemental strength exercise. I generally program upright rows as 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps per set.

Muscles Worked

Upright Rows work the entire Trapezius as well as the Deltoideus and Brachialis. In plain English – the upper back, shoulders and biceps.

Kettlebell Upright Row Alternatives

If you’re unable to do Kettlebell Upright Rows, for whatever reason, or you’re just wanting to mix up your workout a bit here are a few alternatives you may be able to use as a replacement.

Dumbbell Upright Rows

The simplest alternative if you don’t have a kettlebell is use dumbbells instead for Dumbbell Upright Rows. The movement itself is pretty much exactly the same and it may even be more comfortable for some lifters’ wrists.

Using a single dumbbell can also work well for anyone who is limited on one side of their body.


Barbell Shrug Muscles Worked
Barbell Shrugs work the upper trapezius. (Photo Credit: Makatserchyk /

While not an exact substitution, Shrugs are another great upper back/trapezius exercise. Shrugs come in multiple variations as well – barbell or dumbbell and different grip widths on the bar all can change up the lift.

More Links and Info

Need more Upper Body Strength Exercises? I have a growing collection of guides in my Exercise Library – all available for free.

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