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Avoiding Wrist Pain with Upright Rows

7301-smart2Q: I’ve heard that upright rows are one of the best primary exercises, but all I get is severe wrist pain. Should I bother doing them?

A: The upright row has created some controversy in personal-training-certification circles. I agree that it is a primary pattern exercise, but unfortunately it does not suit everybody’s anatomical structure. Here are five tips that can make it easier for you to perform it:


1) Use an EZ-curl bar and grip where people normally put their hands for curls. The angle on the bar will permit pain-free movement.

2) You can also use one of those triceps-pressdown ropes with the bulky rubber ends. Simply secure the attachment to a low pulley. You’ll feel the movement pattern being freer for your shoulders. To make this exercise more effective, you can sit on an 85-centimeter Swiss ball or on a high stool. That will prevent you from using your legs or lower back to heave the weight up, which will make the isolation on the deltoids much better.

3) When performing regular barbell upright rows, do not lift the bar past clavicle height. Otherwise, you may create an impingement in your shoulders.

4) The width of your grip is very important, as a narrower grip shifts emphasis to a greater recruitment of the elbow flexors. Make sure your index fingers are just outside your quadriceps.

5) If you are still getting wrist pain, enlist the help of a soft-tissue specialist. To alleviate the pain and heal the tissues, ask the practitioner to concentrate on the flexor carpi ulnaris, the wrist retinaculum and the collateral ligaments.

If you apply those five tips, I’m confident you’ll be able to enjoy this rewarding exercise again.


Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Games. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit Also, see his ad on the opposite page.   IM


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