Taking A Look At The Upright Row And Shoulder Impingement

I was recently reading the article “The Upright Row: Implications for Preventing Subacromial Impingement” that was published in the strength and conditioning journal in 2011 and thought I would highlight some of the key take home messages.   As an osteopath we are currently seeing clients present to the clinic regularly for the treatment of shoulder impingement and some of these clients are regularly undertaking resistance based training exercises such as the upright row.

Key Messages

  • Shoulder injuries/pain are common complaint for those who regularly weight train.
  • Common shoulder complaints include rotator cuff pathology, anterior shoulder instability and subacromial impingement.
  • Factor contributing to subacromial impingement include impingement of soft tissues, rotator cuff weakness, age related degeneration, congenital narrowing of the subacromial space and activities that lead to poor biomechanics.
  • From a resistance training perspective, exercises which require elevation of the arm overhead without proper mechanics may lead to impingement issues.
  • The upright row has been thought to strengthen the scapular stabilizers and is an important component of the high pull of the clean.
  • The upright row requires one to elevate the arm with the shoulder in an internally rotated position.
  • Normal biomechanics suggests that when elevating the arm overhead the shoulder should externally rotate to avoid subacromial impingement.   Therefore elevation with internal rotation may predispose one to a shoulder impingement.
  • Research has shown that subacromial impingement is most likely to occur when elevating the arm between 70-90 degrees without external rotation.
  • Modifications to help prevent impingement can include the following:  When pulling the bar, pull it as close to the body as possible to maintain stress on the middle deltoid, pull through the elbows and not the wrists.  Asymptomatic clients should perform the row to just below 90 degrees (shoulder height).  Those individuals with previously diagnosed impingement should decrease the angle of elevation to a point below that which causes symptoms.
  • For clients looking or needing to trian endurance, a volume of 2-3 sets of 12-20 reps at a load less than 67% of their 1RM is suggested.  For those requiring strength and hypertrophy, 3-6 sets of 6-12 reps of 67% – 85% of their 1RM is suggested.  A 60-90 second rest period between sets is suggested. For those individuals in the rehab setting where it is not safe to test ones 1RM, using higher repetitions and a prediction equation is suggested.

From a clinical perspective it is important to understand ones injury, previous history and goals to training.  Avoiding aggravation of symptoms is paramount and in some cases it might be wise to eliminate this exercise from ones training program if there is no clinical or conditioning indication to include this in ones workout.

This blog was written by Osteopath Heath Williams of Principle Four Osteopathy.

Principle Four Osteopathy

Principle Four Osteopathy is one of Melbourne City CBD leading Osteopathy clinics. At the clinic we treat a wide range of clients, ranging from the office worker, exercise enthusiast to athlete. We have 3 experienced osteopaths working across both of the clinics.

The Melbourne City CBD clinic is located at 29 Somerset Place (basement), close to the corner of Elizabeth St and Little Bourke in the Melbourne City CBD. Our premises adjoin the Jon Weller Personal Training Studio, a fully-equipped training space which allows clients to combine their osteopathy treatment with exercise tutorials or specific training programs and rehabilitation.

The Docklands clinic is located at 717 Bourke St (Ground Floor), beneath the Channel 9 building near the walkway from Southern Cross Train Station to Etihad Stadium. Our premises adjoin Pilates on Bourke, a fully-equipped pilates and yoga training space which allows clients to combine their osteopathy treatment with exercise tutorials, pilates or specific training programs and rehabilitation.

To speak to an Osteopath or book an appointment at Principle Four Osteopathy, please book online or call 03 9670 9290.