Why The Cable Upright Row Is A Great Shoulder Building Alternative

cable upright row

Boost shoulder growth with this awesome exercise in the cable upright row.

Building our shoulders can be a challenge but it is not impossible with great exercises like the cable upright row. The right shoulder exercise will allow you to target those often overlooked or underworked muscles so you can see them grow without fail. Using cable machines and taking advantage of them can work wonders for your gains by adding time under tension with the increased support of the machine for constant tension.

Strong shoulders work for a number of ways in terms of strength and size while also adding to a well-rounded physique. Those boulders can make your arms pop, as well as your entire upper body aesthetic. Also working for increase stabilization and posture, you can better prepare yourself for other lifts that require your full support.

Let’s take a look at the cable upright row and see what makes this exercise so great with a complete guide and cable upright row tips. From what it is, to muscles worked, the benefits around this exercise, and how best to perform it, you will have a complete guide into the cable upright row as you seek the best for all your gains.

cable upright row

What Is The Cable Upright Row?

The cable upright row is a great alternative to the traditional upright row used with a straight bar in that instead of using a barbell, you use the cable machine, both of which are a favorite among lifters (1). Cable machines are in the gym for a reason and serve as a great way to add that increased time under tension while having the support of a machine.

With proper form, you are able to target your shoulders and give yourself that increase to strength and size you need most. A relatively easy exercise to learn, by putting this into your routine, you will better tackle those gains while taking advantage of cable machines and move away from the straight bar for a bit.

Muscle Worked

The cable upright row is primarily a shoulder workout, really targeting those delts so you see the best growth possible. For secondary muscles, your biceps and smaller surrounding muscles will get work done as part of the grip and necessary movement. Your trapezius muscles will get work done as well as these serve as important stabilizers for this lift.

shoulder mobility

Benefits Of The Cable Upright Row

The benefits of the cable upright row will work wonders for your gains and allow the chance to see delt growth where you otherwise haven’t seen it before. With great benefits to strength, size, and overall shoulder development, these are hard to ignore with this great exercise.

Benefits of the cable upright row include:

  • Overall shoulder development: A great workout to target your shoulders, you allow for overall shoulder development for great aesthetic gains (2).
  • Better strength: Building muscle is key and this is an efficient exercise to boost shoulder growth and increase muscle mass.
  • Assisting with pulling motions: As an effective pulling motion, you allow yourself to improve on all other movements related to it without shoulder impingement.
  • Increased stability: By working those stabilizer muscles around your shoulders you allow for increased stability and gains to alleviate pain and injury (3).
  • Plenty of variations: A lot of variations exist so you can get a great workout while diversifying your exercises without sacrificing gains. Plus, they keep you more engaged by changing it up.
  • Get cable work done: Too often do we not involve cables into our routine but this exercise forces us to get that extra time under tension for better growth and use those all important machines that sit idle in the gym.

How To Perform It

Here are the steps for performing the upright cable row. Knowing how best to perform this will better allow you to tackle technique, maintain proper form, and stay away from unwanted pain and injury. Cable upright row instructions are as follows:

  1. Set your cable station with the desired amount of weight. The handle will be on the lowest options.
  2. Grab the handle with an overhand grip and have your feet shoulder width apart. Engage your core and keep a neutral spine to maximize support and stability.
  3. When ready, bring the handle up your body, past your chest, and stop at around your upper chest to lower neck area. Your elbows will be parallel to the ground as you get the full range of this exercise.
  4. In a controlled motion, slowly lower back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for your desired number of sets and reps.

shoulder mobility

Cable Upright Row Alternatives

When it comes to seeing the best growth, having the best exercises in your routine can be a game changer. With the right approach to training, you can better tackle all of those gains you want to. Alternative exercises are nice for they will add diversity to your workouts while not sacrificing gains with the same muscle groups. Plus, they will keep your workouts engaging so you see the best gains possible.

  • Cable Face Pulls
  • Barbell Face Pulls
  • Dumbbell Lateral Raise
  • Barbell High Pull
  • Single Arm Dumbbell Power Snatch
  • EZ Bar Upright Row

Best Exercises To Pair With It

For building more shoulder gains and tackling those upper arms, the right exercises to pair well with cable upright rows are important to know. As you look to mix this exercise into your routine, the right approach can make or break those gains so those boulder shoulders really take shape.

Working with exercises like the Viking press and military press can enhance those rounded and strong shoulders. Of course, front and lateral raises are always great to mix into your routine for these will work to provide targeted movements for all three of those delt muscles.

Wrap Up

The cable upright row is a great exercise to give you the best benefits to growing your shoulder and aiding in all things shoulder development for those fitness goals. With the right approach, you can better tackle those gains so you only see the best results. Knowing what it is and how best to perform it can work wonders for your gains as you look for an effective approach to building your delts. Put this exercise into your routine and watch those shoulders really take shape.

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*Images courtesy of Envato


  1. Schoenfeld, B.; et al. (2011). “The Upright Row: Implications for Preventing Subacromial Impingement”. (source)
  2. Fenwick, C.; et al. (2009). “Comparison of different rowing exercises: trunk muscle activation and lumbar spine motion, load, and stiffness”. (source)
  3. Suarez-Garcia, M.; et al. (2021). “Improved shoulder stability through plyometric, proprioceptive and strength exercises in rugby players. A randomized clinical trial”. (source)
Austin Letorney
Austin Letorney is a writer, actor, and fitness enthusiast. As a former rower, he has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge of the fitness world and strength sports with others.