Your Ultimate Guide To Shoulder Shrugs

Your Ultimate Guide To Shoulder Shrugs

clock-circular-outlinePosted 6 Sep 2023

Are you chasing a wide back and tapered Physique, looking to improve your performance in the gym, or on a quest for better posture at work?

Whether you answered yes to one, or all of the above, it's important not to skip trap-day.

Neglecting the traps for more appealing muscle groups is an easy mistake. After all, compound lifts should be a priority when time is of the essence.

But, maybe, just maybe, you're missing out on some serious gains... And building a bigger, stronger back requires more than just barbell rows.

The importance of our trapezius muscles goes much further than filling out the collar on your favorite shirt. In fact, the traps are a vital muscle group for daily movements and can help improve performance and reduce injury.

Let's delve a little deeper into the shoulder shrug exercise, and how you may benefit from including them in your regular training routine.

What Is A Shoulder Shrug?

Shoulder shrugs are a resistance exercise typically done in the gym or at home with weights. The key focus of the shoulder shrug exercise is to isolate the trapezius muscle, developing size and strength for improved aesthetics and performance.

Despite targeting the upper trapezius muscle, shoulder shrugs also help develop the shoulders and neck.

A relatively self-explanatory exercise, the shoulder shrug is essentially 'shrugging' your shoulders, adding resistance when 

What Is The Trapezius Muscle?

Despite being barely visible on untrained athletes, this muscle plays a vital role in our daily lives, and developing this muscle group can contribute to improved athletic performance.

The Trapezius muscle, also known as the traps, is a triangular-shaped muscle that extends down the back of the neck and upper back.

The muscle group consists of three functional regions that all contribute differently to providing support, movement, and posture to the back, neck, and shoulders.

The Benefits Of Shoulder Shrugs?

Shoulder shrugs are a fundamental exercise when it comes to developing stronger trapezius muscles, so what are the benefits?

Is it worth adding to your pull day? We think so.

How To Do Shoulder Shrugs: Correct Shoulder Shrug form

We've touched home on the importance of shoulder shrugs, and the benefits of training your trapezius muscles.

Shoulder shrugs are a staple exercise when training traps, and are suitable for all abilities.

  1. Choose an appropriate dumbbell weight

  2. With a dumbbell in each hand, stand up tall with slightly soft knees.

  3. Maintain a neutral posture and relaxed arms.

  4. Shrug your shoulders, aiming to bring the cap of your shoulder up towards your ear.

  5. Be sure to focus on elevating the traps, rather than retracting your neck/chin.

  6. Slowly lower your shoulders back to the start position.

  7. Repeat for your set number of reps.

If you're new to this exercise, start with a light weight and focus more on the control of the movement through each rep. Aim for 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions.

What Muscles Do Shrugs Work?

Shrugs are a back exercise, specifically targeting the trapezius muscle. The exercise does, however involve a few other muscles, to a lesser degree:

  • Trapezius Muscle - the main muscle worked when performing the shrugs exercise.

  • Forearms - you're holding the weight, somehow? Going heavy with your shrugs will no doubt place more demand on your forearm and grip.

  • Rhomboids - These muscles are worked to help retract and elevate the scapula when performing shoulder shrugs.

3 Shoulder Shrug Variations

The shoulder shrug is a relatively isolated movement, and therefore, the variations for this exercise typically relate to how the resistance is applied for the shoulder shrug movement.

For example, shrugs are typically done with a dumbbell in each hand - this allows for a complete range of movement throughout the exercise, however the dumbbells can be substituted for other pieces of equipment.

Here are 3 variations of the shoulder shrug exercise:

  1. Barbell Shoulder Shrug

  2. Trap Bar Shoulder Shrug

  3. Kettlebell Shoulder Shrug

Want more trap exercises? Check out our article on the five best exercises to build bigger traps.

Will shoulder shrugs be part of your next back workout? We think they should be. After hitting your main compound movements, throw them into a superset and train them with biceps to make the most of your time at the end of your back workout.

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Chris Beck is Senior Editor at Gymshark, with a passion for curating informative conditioning and health content. Chris is an experienced Personal Trainer, and also holds qualifications in Nutrition, Sports Performance and is a certified Crossfit Level 1 Trainer.

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Chris BeckBy Chris Beck

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