Kettlebell Upright Row Muscles Worked

David Lawrence
• Friday, 11 December, 2020
• 9 min read

If there is one exercise that makes me cringe and fear for peoples safety it’s when I see them performing the upright row with a kettle bell. The upright row is performed by holding a kettle bell with both hands by the handle and then pulling it directly upwards to around upper chest height.

kettlebell upright rows bust workouts booster
(Source: www.firstforwomen.com)


In principle the exercise appears quite straightforward but it is what is happening to the shoulder and rotator cuff muscles that is cause for concern. In short, the shoulder is placed in a position that it is naturally not designed to be in and through repetition starts to aggravate the soft tissue.

Many people can perform the upright row without feeling any pain at first but over time shoulder issues will start to present themselves. As a personal trainer and kettle bell instructor one of the common problems I get presented with is an over activation of the upper back or trapezium muscles.

Due to most peoples daily routine of sitting in front of computers, mobile phones, or TV’s, bad posture is more common than ever. One of the easiest ways to further exacerbate upper back and neck issues is by performing the kettlebelluprightrow.

The kettle bell is an incredible workout tool that can produce some truly great results quickly and efficiently. The reason that many people perform the kettlebelluprightrow is to develop the upper back and shoulder muscles.

However, as I’ve mentioned above over activation of the upper Trapezium muscles can lead to serious postural issues and pulling a weight while your arms are internally rotated can damage your shoulders. First you should work on your shoulder stabilization with exercises including the Turkish Get Up, Overhead Holds and Windmills.

kettlebell upright workouts using week row kb bobby berk drift feel away start they
(Source: bobbyberk.com)

Then second progress to more prime mover shoulder based exercises including the clean and overhead press. One final point to bear in mind is how the kettlebelluprightrow has no real impact on your daily life activities.

Using exercises that have a natural carry over into daily life are generally safer and utilize your full body. Not only is the farmers carry practical but it’s also an excellent exercise to develop the shoulders and trapezium muscles in a way that is better for counteracting bad posture.

The farmers carry pulls the trapezium muscles down rather than elevating them which is what happens when sat at a desk all day. You can choose much more effective kettle bell exercises for both the shoulders and upper back that are both safe and will help prevent further postural issues.

By using kettle bells for this exercise you take stress off the shoulder capsule. The upright row is a controversial exercise due to the amount of strain that can be placed on the shoulder joints and the rotator cuff.

Doing this exercise with a kettle bell allows for a more naturally oriented grip and places less strain on the shoulder joint overall. Scoot your butt back as if you’re going to sit on a stool, and grasp the handle with an overhand grip.

(Source: www.originalkettlebell.com)

Raise the elbows higher than the handle of the kettle bell to squeeze the upper back and shoulders. Lower the bell with control, back to the starting position and repeat for repetitions, or a set duration.

If you keep the shoulders firmly pulled back into their sockets, you will prohibit arching of the spine. In the full upright position, make sure that your glutes are squeezed and your abdominal are engaged as if you are bracing for a punch.

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Muscle strength & growth: Due to its targeted pulling motion, a large group of major upper body muscles are targeted during the kettle bell upright row. As a result, performing this exercise regularly is likely to accelerate your muscle growth and strength in your back, biceps, and shoulders.

Stability & conditioning: The kettle bell upright row activates all major areas of the shoulders, making it excellent for upper body stability and conditioning. By doing frequent upright rows, you will improve your posture while protecting yourself from injury.

kettlebell squat row shutterstock upright sumo
(Source: www.theactivetimes.com)

The shoulders: Working on the deltoid, rhomboids, and trapezium muscles, the upright row is perfect for building strength, muscle, and stability in the shoulder and upper back region. Rhomboids: Upper back muscles that connect the shoulder blades and offer a great deal of support, working on your rhomboids will improve your posture.

Biceps: As major arm muscles (also known as ‘guns’), building your biceps will significantly enhance your upper body strength as well as general upper body resilience. The kettlebelluprightrow motion looks simple enough, but getting it wrong could result in disaster (injury) or at the very least, waste valuable workout time.

Stand with a straight back, making sure your shoulders aren’t rolled forward, and flex your knees slightly. The activation: Standing In the starting position, making sure that you’re clasping the kettle by the handle with both hands, flex your elbows slightly.

The reverse: Once you’ve reached chin height, hold the kettle bell in position for a moment before slowly reversing the move, dropping the weight back down to arm’s length. Try a lighter kettle bell at first and gradually increase the weight as your form improves and your confidence grows.

To get the very most from your kettle bell workouts and add to your upright rowing efforts, here are three other exercises you should try: I’m going to approach the bell, find my hip hinge, pull to standing.

kettlebell upright row arzadon jay shows engaged handles keeping holding while core start its chris thestar
(Source: www.thestar.com)

I’m keeping this nice and strict, so my lower body is not helping in any way. Strategically Digital Marketing Ltd Trading as Original Kettle bell.

The above is an excellent exercise for people who are still new to the idea of using kettle bells for fitness as well as those that want to better their workout routine. It is for this reason that you will also find the bells in varying quality depending on the manufacturing brand.

Additionally, this form of the upright row will help to increase the flexibility of your shoulder joints, help you gain swiftness, build your endurance and also boost your cardiovascular body activities. There is no point in over indulging i.e. too many reps and using heavy weights when you are just starting out unless you are a pro fitness enthusiast.

Just start simple and slow and move on only when you feel like your body is ready for an additional challenge. The kettle bell exercise as also stated in the first paragraphs is very fundamental in building upper body muscles and strength.

Step 1: Warm Up As you get started with your work routine, the first thing you should always do is to warm up to avoid muscles snaps as cold muscles do snap easily. To prevent injury, in this case, heat up your body by doing some light cardio or aerobics for at least 10 minutes.

kettlebell workouts using week rows upright
(Source: bobbyberk.com)

You can choose to light jog, dance, cycle or even just brisk walk in the gym or wherever you are exercising from. So assuming you have good quality bells with you, hold them with both hands in front of your body and using the over hand grip (gives you a steadier and firm hold for this type of exercise). At this stage, ensure that your upper body is tipped forward and your hips are slightly pushed back.

Step 4: Pull The Weight With both of your hands gripped on the handle of the bell, pull the weight off the ground in a controlled movement until it is slightly below your chin (shoulder height). Anytime you work out, there are a few things that you must take into account to perform the exercise correctly and to get desirable results.

Using a reasonable amount of weights especially for a beginner exercise Always maintain a shoulder stance when doing the exercise while standing In the upright position, ensure that you engage your abdomen and gluteus for better results i.e. by contracting them when pulling the bells upwards. Always rest in between sets to regain momentum and to avoid exhaustion Ensure that your shoulders are pulled back to prevent arching of the spine Maintain a straight back and also keep your head straight and eyes focused When pulling the kettle bells, always raise your elbows high up than the handles of the bells.

Find the best time when you can efficiently workout and organize your exercises focusing on your needs and how you can attend to them. It will also help you to achieve an efficient workout routine whose results will not just show physically but also internally.

Conclusion Evidently, the kettlebelluprightrow is an exercise that if performed in the correct manner and enthusiasm can be very beneficial to one’health and fitness goals. So if you were figuring out whether you should try it out, I believe this article has convinced you enough to make the exercise a part of your upper body workout routine.

(Source: slidedocnow.blogspot.com)

There you have it, a very simple, efficient and convenient kettle bell exercise that will provide you with unbeatable cardio conditioning, and muscle workout. Each rowing variation gets progressively more challenging so start at the top and work your way down.

The KB bent over row is a fundamental exercise that will add muscle and strength to the back. Lean forwards about 45 degrees so the kettle bell hangs around shin height.

Your lower back position is important, it should be kept flat from shoulder to hips. Pause for 2 seconds at the top of the exercise and squeeze your shoulder blades together then slowly lower the kettle bell back down.

Start with the feet close together and place the non kettle bell hand across your belly. Row the kettle bell up and towards the hip using one arm, pulling from the elbow and not the upper back.

Pause at the top of the movement for 2 seconds before lowering the kettle bell slowly back down. Symmetry throughout the exercise is important so make sure you pull and lower the kettle bells at the same time.

(Source: mensfitness.co.uk)

Practice : as the double kettlebellrow is more of a strength based exercise repetitions can be reduced. The kettle bell plank row on a bench will activate more of the lower back and core muscles.

Beginners should be comfortable holding the top of a push up position for at least 30 seconds before attempting this kettlebellrow variation. The key to this rowing variation is holding your body in a straight line from heel to shoulders without letting your hips drop.

With one hand on a bench or box brace your core and row the kettle bell back towards the hips. Those new to this exercise must feel comfortable holding their body in a plank position on top of two kettle bells.

Care should be taken when on top of the kettle bells that they do not topple over sideways and trap your fingers. Take your time and work on good body alignment through this rowing exercise.

The kettle bell high pulls exercise is a dynamic standing kettlebellrow variation. Unlike the other 5 rowing variations this kettle bell exercise will challenge your cardio, hips, hamstrings, buttocks and back muscles.

(Source: ninacheriefranklin.com)

Keep your wrist tight at the top of the pulling movement and forearm inline with the kettle bell. Be careful when you first start to practice this exercise that the kettle bell doesn’t hit you in the face.

The kettle bell row is an important kettle bell exercise to develop the back and core muscles. Horizontal pulling exercises are important to balance out all the pushing movements often overused in workouts.

Above I’ve listed 6 different rowing variations starting at the easiest and progressing to the most challenging. The bent over kettlebellrow activates the muscles in the back of the body namely the trapezium, rhomboids and lats.

If you suffer with lower back problems then you need to be very careful when performing the kettlebellrow because excellent core stabilization is required.

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1 kettlebellsworkouts.com - https://kettlebellsworkouts.com/top-5-kettlebell-doubles-exercises/
2 www.onnit.com - https://www.onnit.com/academy/4-double-kettlebell-workouts-for-mass-strength/
3 www.menshealth.com - https://www.menshealth.com/uk/building-muscle/a758657/the-7-best-kettlebell-exercises-to-build-muscle/