Quite a few bodybuilders use upright rows to train the shoulders.
But where to grip the bar may be a big help in getting the most out
of your training. Most videos you see showing how to do an upright
row show the hands in almost a close grip on the bar. However
current research shows that this particular grip might not be the
best for big shoulders.
McAllister, MJ, Schilling, BK, Hammond, KG, Weiss, LW, and Farney,
TM. Effect of grip width on electromyographic activity
during the upright row.J Strength Cond Res
27(1): 181Ė187, 2013.
The upright row (URR) is commonly used to develop the deltoid and
upper back musculature. However, little information exists
concerning muscle recruitment during variations of this exercise.
Sixteen weight-trained men completed 2 repetitions each in the URR
with 3 grip conditions: 50, 100, and 200% of
the biacromial breadth (BAB). The load was the same for all
grip conditions and was equal to 85% of the 1RM determined at 100%
BAB. Repeated measures analyses of variance were used to compare the
maximal activity of the anterior deltoid (AD), lateral deltoid (LD),
posterior deltoid (PD), upper trapezius (UT), middle trapezius (MT),
and biceps brachii (BB) during the 3 grip widths for eccentric and
concentric actions. Significant differences (p < 0.05)
were noted in concentric muscle activity for LD (p <
0.001) and PD (p < 0.001), and in eccentric muscle
activity for AD (p = 0.023), LD (p < 0.001), UT
(p < 0.001), MT (p < 0.001), and BB (p
= 0.003). Bonferroni post hoc analysis revealed significant pairwise
differences in the concentric actions from the LD (50% vs. 200% BAB
and 100% vs. 200% BAB) and PD (50% vs. 200% BAB and 100% vs. 200%
BAB), and eccentric actions of the LD (all comparisons), UT (all
comparisons), MT (50% vs. 200% BAB and 100% vs. 200% BAB), and BB
(50% vs. 200% BAB), with large-to-very-large effect sizes (ESs).
Moderate-to-large ESs were noted for several nonsignificant
comparisons. The main findings of this
investigation are increased deltoid and trapezius activity with
increasing grip width, and correspondingly less BB activity.
Therefore, those who seek to maximize involvement of the deltoid
and trapezius muscles during the URR should use a wide grip.
In the study of anthropometry, biacromial breadth is the
distance between the most lateral
points of the two acromion processes in a subject standing upright
with arms hanging loosely at the sides. It is a measure of shoulder
width. Se the picture below:
So according to the is study the close grip (50%), arms straight
down (100%) and arms at about 30 degrees from the body (200%) were
all tested using EMG while doing the upright row. The 200% grip
showed the most activity in the deltoids as well as the traps.
Researchers concluded that those who seek to maximize involvement of
the deltoid and trapezius muscles during the upright row should use
a wide grip. Is this wise advice?
Well letís take a look at pro-bodybuilder Jay Cutler who is known to
have some of the best shoulders in the business. When you look at
the first few minutes of this video note that Cutler not only uses
dumbbells but he uses a wide grip. Also notice that he cuts the
range of motion to about chest high to no doubt maximize deltoid
involvement and minimize the involvement of the upper fibers of the
trapezius. Since the upper fibers of the trapezius contract to move
the scapula upwards what we are trying to maximize in this
particular movement in order to concentrate more on the deltoids.
Cutler also feels free weights are much more effective than machines
and adds he prefers dumbbells over barbells because dumbbells allow
for isolateral movements which prevent differences in growth from
one side of the body to the other..