Whether you are looking to build bigger traps or fix your posture, shrugs can help! I know for me (someone who sits at a desk all day) … shrugs are an essential part of my routine.
They’re also a super easy exercise that virtually anyone can do. It’s great for those who work desk jobs or spend a good portion of their day hunched over like me. Nowadays, there aren’t many of us who don’t!
However, this poor posture can lead to muscle imbalances in your upper body which could lead to upper-crossed syndrome. This is when the muscles of your shoulders are pulled forward in an unnatural way.
There are a lot of different corrective exercises you can do to avoid and fix this issue … and shrugs are one of them!
At the same time, shrugs are a great exercise to build big and strong upper trap muscles. These rounded muscles sit on top of your shoulders and span across your back.
Let’s cover everything you need to know about shoulder shrugs, so you can also make them a part of your weightlifting routine!
Shoulder Shrugs: The Muscles Worked
Even though shoulder shrugs are mainly for strengthening your upper trap muscles, they also work quite a few other muscles too.
These are all the muscles that are getting the bulk of the work in a traditional shoulder shrug:
• Serratus Anterior
So, as you can see, shrugs can be quite beneficial for your upper back, and even grip strength! But other than that, what are some of the other benefits?
Benefits of the Shoulder Shrug
I believe that shoulder shrugs get a bad rap. In fact, a lot of people say they aren’t all that beneficial or necessary.
Yes, they may have fewer benefits than some other compound lifts like the bench press, squat, or deadlift. However, they can still offer a wide range of benefits.
When done properly, shoulder shrugs can help:
• Promote better posture
• Increase shoulder strength
• Increase upper back strength
• Increase neck muscle strength
• Reduce neck pain
• Reduce strain on the shoulder and neck muscles
Clearly, there's much more to shrugs than meets the eye. I’m sure you’re wondering how to do them. Well, it’s a lot easier than you’d think. Let’s get into it…
How to Do Shoulder Shrugs
Making sure you maintain good form will be important here. Just like any other exercise, good form can help prevent injury and maximize the benefits of the exercise.
Shoulder shrugs can be done with a pair of dumbbells, a barbell, kettlebells, bands, and even on a cable machine. To keep things simple, I’ll explain how to do them as if you’re going to be using dumbbells.
Start by standing tall with your feet planted flat on the floor. Grab a pair of dumbbells in each hand and keep your arms at your sides with your palms facing inward.
From here, bend your knees slightly and look straight ahead. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to pull your shoulders down and back.
Inhale, then raise your shoulders as high as you can as if you’re trying to cover your ears with your shoulders. When you can’t bring your shoulders any higher, squeeze your traps and hold this position for a brief second or two.
Now, exhale as you slowly lower your shoulders back to their starting position. Repeat this for reps, making sure to stay upright with your shoulders pulled back.
…and that’s how you perform a shoulder shrug! As I mentioned, you can also perform shoulder shrugs with quite a few different pieces of equipment.
Let’s cover some of the variations you can try out if you’re not a big fan of dumbbells or don’t have access to them.
Shoulder Shrug Variations
Other than using dumbbells, what other options do you have? Quite a few. Try them all out to see which variation you prefer the most.
1. Barbell Shoulder Shrugs
Barbell shoulder shrugs are another classic way to shrug. They are also performed the same way as the dumbbell shoulder shrug.
Just make sure to grab the bar with an overhand grip so your palms face you. This will help ensure your traps get most of the work.
2. Hex Bar Shoulder Shrugs
Hex bar shoulder shrugs are another great variation to this exercise. On top of that, I find that you can typically add a little more weight than with a barbell or dumbbells.
This variation is also performed virtually the exact same way. So, if you have a hex bar available to you, give it a try!
3. Kettlebell Shoulder Shrugs
Kettlebell shoulder shrugs are exactly the same as dumbbell shoulder shrugs. Consider it another option you have if you don’t have access to dumbbells or you prefer the grip of a kettlebell more.
4. Single-Arm Shrugs
This is one of my favorite shoulder shrug variations. The single-arm shrug can also be great for correcting muscle imbalances. If one of your traps is slightly stronger than the other, I would encourage you to do these.
When it comes to performing a single-arm shrug, you’ll want to use either dumbbells or kettlebells. Try lighter weight and keep your core tight as you shrug with one shoulder at a time ... then build from there.
5. Seated Shoulder Shrugs
If you have a weak core or some sort of back injury, this variation may make a lot more sense for you. By sitting down, you take a lot of the demand on your core out of the exercise.
Other Tips For Shoulder Shrugs
Many people can benefit from adding shrugs to their routine. In today’s world, most of us are constantly slouched over our phones, computers, or desks. By adding shrugs consistently, you can help improve your posture over time!
Are shrugs the only exercise that can help you adjust your posture? Absolutely not. But, it’s a great place to start.
If you’re looking for bigger and stronger traps, shrugs are for you as well. Just realize that exercise is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to building muscle.
You have to be consistently getting enough protein and calories amongst several other factors as well. That’s where we can help.
Regardless of what interests you about shrugs, I’m sure you have health or fitness goals you’re looking to reach. We all do!
Well, whether you need help with your nutrition, workouts, or even more corrective exercises … we have the perfect tool for you, called the 1st Phorm App.
Inside the app, you’ll be able to:
• Track your food
• Get a custom macro plan
• Choose between a full library of workout programs for your goals
• Work 1-on-1 with your own certified advisor
• Watch educational live streams and videos
• Measure your body metrics and progress
...and so much more! All you have to do is download the app and get started now!
If you have any additional questions, don’t hesitate to reach out! Our team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and Nutrition Coaches are more than happy to help out. Just give us a call at 1-800-409-9732 or send us an email at CustomerService@1stPhorm.com anytime!