The upright row is an often demonized exercise that "wrecks your shoulders" - not so fast, Dr. Internet.
Just customized execution and body awareness. If an exercise doesn't fit you your body will complain. Your joints start aching and you can't train heavy. Next, you conclude that particular exercise is bad because you're hurting. It is your responsibility to customize execution to your anthropometrics.
The barbell won't bend so your knees don't hurt. The dumbbell won't turn into a marshmallow so your elbows feel all fuzzy and nice. It is your job to make adjustments.
So if a particular exercise hurts you can do the following:- Reassess your execution. This will make the biggest difference but often requires a second pair of eyes and coaching.- Change the attachment (rope, straight bar etc.) if you're using cables. Often switching from the barbell to dumbbells is the cure since you're working each side individually allowing for independent movement. For any vertical pulling I prefer rings as they allow for natural wrist rotation across the entire ROM. Change the bar if you have that luxury. Nothing nicer than switching to a safety squat bar if your elbows and shoulders are beat up from regular barbell squats. Play around with foot/hand placement on machines. Machines are not built to fit everybody. Sometimes you have to get creative to make them work for you, not against you.
So again, there are no good or bad exercises. There's the reality of physics, torque, moment arms and your structure that orchestrate how you lift something.
BONUS: use a sumo stance to avoid bending the knees when doing upright rows. The wider base requires you to pull more with your shoulders by inhibiting any momentum being created by the lower body. You'll have to reduce the weight with this variation.