How to build the outer head of the shoulder: Upright row

Nothing builds muscle faster and bigger than good old compound movements. Compound movements bring out the belly of the muscle, the fullness and the thickness. Whereas isolation movements are used to shape, define and perfect the muscle as desired.

A perfect V-taper is a very much acquired feature for a bodybuilder, which is having a small waist and broad shoulders. However, some people have natural small waists while others don’t. I, for one, don’t have a very small waist and actually even broadened my waist further by doing some heavy squats and deadlifts a couple years ago. But now that I have stopped and started doing other quad exercises (still squats, but not the regular squat), my waist is actually shrinking again.

So what people with broader waists can do, to increase their V-taper, is to build their middle/upper back (teres major) and the lateral head of the deltoid.

There is no better exercise for building the lateral head of the deltoid than the upright row.


So here’s how you do it.

Take a barbell in hand with a little wider than shoulder width grip, stand erect, hunch your shoulders (not your back) forward, with the bar resting against the front of your thighs. The reason for the hunched shoulders is to eliminate the traps in this movement. The more backwards the shoulders are, the more the tension shifts to the traps and away from the delts. Next, slowly raise the weight up to chin height, about 45cm away from your body, contract your delts maximally before lowering slowly. Keep your arms slightly bent during this exercise with your elbows slightly higher than your hands. The upwards phase should be about 1-2 seconds, pause 0.5 second at the top, lower back down for about 1-2 seconds and repeat. Keep constant tension on the muscle and don’t bounce or jerk at the bottom of the movement. Use very strict form. You can go to failure, but never compromise your form. Do about 8-12 repetitions on this exercise and rest no longer than 60 seconds between sets. If you can get more than 12 reps go heavier.

NS_upright row.jpg

During the movement focus and visualize which aspect of the muscle you are working and how you want that muscle to grow, how you want to develop it.

This exercise, when done right, will significantly increase the size and separation of your deltoid. Remember, focus on feeling the tension and the burn, more on the lateral to posterior part of your deltoid, rather than the lateral to fronterior part of the deltoid.

Give it a try and let me know how it worked for you.

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Published by Hans Amato

Hi, I'm Hans and I'm a physique, strength and nutrition specialist/coach. My passion is building the best physique naturally (both functional and super strong) and enabling others to achieve their dream physique and health goals as well. Nothing is impossible if you set your mind and heart to it - not even you're "genetic limit" will be able to stop you then.

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