There are a lot of exercises that can (and should) be performed in the gym. I am a big fan of strength training and believe "bigly" in that it is absolutely crucial to overall health - perhaps even more important than cardio, although you should always do SOME cardio anyway.
I see a lot of lost souls in the gym who probably just turned up to do some curls and use the machines and then be on their way and this is fine, but time-and-time again I see people doing dangerous exercises that can cause unintended long-term harm. The reason they are doing these is unknown but probably because they saw someone else doing it and don't really know how to use the free weight area of the gym.
The upright row is one of the more dangerous exercises in existence and can cause life-long problems that you definitely don't want to get involved with.
I will admit that I used to do these and every now and then I would feel a "tinge" in areas that were not in my shoulders "which is what the exercise is meant to engage" and then one time I was doing a set of these and I had to drop the barbell to the ground and sit down and massage my neck for quite some time. It was at that point that I decided to do a bit of research and found out that there are many cases of people suffering exactly the same fate as I did.
This lady experiences "other issues" with getting the weight to her chin that is not a factor for me
Upright rows "feel good" because with even a small weight it feels as though you are doing a tremendous amount of work but this is because the movement is very unnatural and I challenge you to think of any natural instance in which you would perform this movement in lieu of some other, more efficient method to lift anything in your day-to-day life.
Lifting any sort of weight, be it barbell, dumbbell, or kettle bell, up to your neck in this form places undue stress on your wrists as well as compresses nerves in multiple places on your shoulder and extends all the way to nerves in your spine.
Any time you are impacting your spine in an exercises you should probably look for an alternative. I know quite a few older folks who appear to be in fantastic shape but have terrible back and neck issues from years of ignoring the obvious and subscribed to the "no pain, no gain" mantra. We have learned a lot in the past 20 years as far as safe lifting is concerned and while you don't need to get into the nuts and bolts of things a good rule of thumb is that if it is hurting your neck or back and you are NOT doing a neck or back exercise, you should probably look for an alternative.
A good alternative for the upright row is a front or lateral shoulder raise.
I prefer lateral shoulder raises but that is just because my shoulders are more developed than the rest of my body and I get to pretend that I am Triple-H doing his ring entrance for a moment. These can be performed sitting, standing, or even bent over (be careful with the last one because done incorrectly it can accidentally engage your lower back.)
You might feel compelled to go with a huge weight to show off but like most things in the gym you should really check your ego. There is a good chance that if you are around my weight that 7-10 Kg is more than enough and just like everything in the gym it is better to start small, see how it feels the following morning, and then gradually step it up.
At the end of the day I really feel as though most people in the gym are "doing it wrong" and dont even realize that this is the case. I'm just trying to help people to avoid chronic pain and even worse, serious spinal and lower-back issues later in life which unfortunately, happens to a lot of people.