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    Kettlebell Upright Row

    by Sam Franklin

    How to Master The Kettlebell Upright Row: A Surefire Shoulder & Bicep Booster

    If you’re looking for a kettlebell exercise that maximises the back, shoulders, and biceps in one big movement, you’ve found it with the kettlebell upright row.

    One of the most popular upper body pulling moves around, the kettlebell upright row is an excellent muscle-builder—but, only if you get it right.

    Want to give it a go? Here’s everything you need to know to get started with the kettlebell upright row.

    How to do a kettlebell upright row: video tutorial

    Before we dive into the benefits of kettlebell upright row, watch our quick tutorial video by Luke Baden, Kettlebell Master Trainer. 

    Luke will take you step by step through the entire movement, ensuring your form is correct and you get the absolute maximum out of the exercise.

    Step by Step Guide to the Kettlebell Upright Row

    Step 1: The Kettlebell Upright Row

    The Kettlebell Upright Row is an upper-body focused movement which uses the deltoids and the traps.  To start, approach the bell, find your hip hinge, put both hands on the bell and push to standing.

    Step 2: The Kettlebell Upright Row

    This is the start position.  Keep the abs locked in and the feet screwed to the floor.  Squeeze the glutes and the quads.  

    Step 3: The Kettlebell Upright Row

    From there, drive up, leading with the elbows, so the hands are just below the face.  

    Step 3: The Kettlebell Upright Row

    Control the bell down with an inhale, then drive back up with an exhale.  Make sure you lead with the elbows and don't cover the face.  When you are done with your reps, park the bell.

    The body-boosting benefits of the kettlebell upright row

    The kettlebell upright row is powerful, dynamic, and effective. Here are the main body-boosting benefits of weaving it into your regular workout routine:

    • Muscle strength & growth: Due to its targeted pulling motion, a large group of major upper body muscles are targeted during the kettlebell 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 kettlebell 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.
    • Arm power: The upright row is great for the biceps which will make your arms more powerful, improving your performance in other exercises and activities as a result.

    What muscle groups does the upright row work?

    A real upper body powerhouse, the kettlebell upright row targets some of the body’s most integral muscle groups, including:

    • The shoulders: Working on the deltoids, rhomboids, and trapezius 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.

    Kettlebell upright row form tips

    What to do

    The kettlebell upright row motion looks simple enough, but getting it wrong could result in disaster (injury) or at the very least, waste valuable workout time. But, these form tips will help you get it just right:

    • Position & posture: After picking up your kettlebell safely with flexed knees and straight back, you will be ready to get into starting position. Place your feet hip-width apart with your toes facing forwards. 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. Starting with the kettlebell held in the middle of your body down at arm’s length, pull the kettlebell up to your chin in a slow, controlled manner.
    • The reverse: Once you’ve reached chin height, hold the kettlebell in position for a moment before slowly reversing the move, dropping the weight back down to arm’s length. And, repeat.

    What to avoid

    To make sure you avoid forming any bad kettlebell upright row habits, here’s what to avoid when performing this powerhouse of an exercise.

    • Don’t start with a weight that is too heavy. Try a lighter kettlebell at first and gradually increase the weight as your form improves and your confidence grows.
    • Don’t slouch or roll your shoulders. Doing so will make the exercise ineffective and could place unnecessary wear and tear on your joints over time.
    • Don’t yank the kettlebell up to your chin as you will miss out on all of the upright row’s muscle-boosting benefits—and you could pull something.
    • Don’t use poor quality equipment. Invest in kettlebells that are sturdy, well-crafted, and built for frequent long-term use. 

    Related kettlebell upright row exercises

    To get the very most from your kettlebell workouts and add to your upright rowing efforts, here are three other exercises you should try:

    • Kettlebell row
    • Kettlebell push press
    • Kettlebell halo.

    Kettlebell Upright Row video transcript

    This is the video tutorial for the Kettlebell Upright Row. 

    So, this is an upperbody focused movement where we’re going to be using the deltoids, and the traps.

    So, this is the Kettlebell Upright Row. 

    I’m going to approach the bell, find my hip hinge, pull to standing. 

    This is my start position. 

    I’m keeping the abs locked in.  I’m screwing the feet into the floor.  Squeezing the glutes and the quads. 

    From there I’m driving up, leading with the elbow to this position. 

    I control down with an inhale and then I drive up with an exhale. 

    I’m keeping this nice and strict, so my lower body is not helping in any way. 

    Driving those elbows up.  Not covering the face.  Leading with the elbows. 

    Once I’ve done my reps, I park the bell.    

    That’s the video tutorial for the Kettlebell Upright Row.

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