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Barbell Shrug

When it comes to training trapezoids, there are no thirty-six different exercises! The Shrug is one of the only movements to specifically target this region of your anatomy. And if you want to intensify the work on it, you have no choice, you will have to go through the Shrug! Of course, some will be satisfied with the solicitation brought by the other weight training exercises. But, if you want to have big trapezoids, it can be interesting to practice this exercise, which corresponds to a Shrug. This will be especially the case for those who have a good width of shoulders since the thickening of the trapezoids will not harm their build, unlike narrow people.

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How To Make A Barbell Shrug

1- Starting position

  • Grab a bar with the palms of your hands facing you (overhand grip) and a gap between them slightly greater than the width of the shoulders.
  • Stand with your feet wide apart to balance and your knees slightly bent to relieve the spine. Let the bar rest on the thighs, arms outstretched.
  • Keep your chest straight, your gaze facing you, and your abdominal muscles.

2- Execution of the movement

  • Take the chest out and keep your shoulders back during this part of the movement.
  • Raise the bar, raising your shoulders as high as possible vertically.
  • Do not use your biceps to lift the barbell, only the shoulders are involved. Keep your arms straight and don’t bend your elbows.
  • Once in the high position hold the contraction for one second for effective work, then slowly lower your shoulders without jerking.

Repeat the movement until the end of your series.

Targeted Muscles

The main muscles targeted by Shrugs are the trapezius muscles, especially in their upper beam. More secondarily the shoulders and especially the lateral beam. Finally, the forearms also participate in the exercise to maintain the bar.
The Shrugs are therefore movements of isolation that are especially useful to intensify the work of the trapezoids.

Risks And Mistakes To Avoid

  • Stretch shoulders to minimize the risk of injury.
  • Keep the shoulders back: if you cannot maintain the position, especially if you roll up the shoulders, reduce the loads or favor the variant with dumbbells.
  • Keep your head straight: be sure to look straight ahead to get there.
  • The movement must be perfectly vertical: do not bend your elbows, focus on raising your shoulders.
  • Avoid too heavy loads: although it is possible to lift a heavyweight at the Barbell Shrug, favor long series with reduced loads.

6 Training Tips

  1. Raise your shoulders as high as possible to shorten and contract the upper part of the trapezoid as much as possible.
  2. Using very heavy loads will reduce the range of motion and tend to pull your shoulders down during exercise (which can affect your posture) and could lead to lower back problems. To help you work in alignment, use reasonable loads, and keep your shoulders as far back as possible when you raise them.
  3. When running, do a movement from the bottom up, not a rotation, as this does not improve the efficiency of the Shrug and can place the shoulders in an uncomfortable position from a biomechanical point of view.
  4. Full amplitude work not only ensures better muscle development but also helps maintain the flexibility of the shoulder girdle. Loss of flexibility can lead to improper execution of exercises such as the vertical bench press and increase the risk of pinching and other shoulder problems.
  5. Keep your head straight and look directly in front of you during the exercise. If your head is tilted to one side, muscle development may be uneven on either side, which could lead to a more pronounced tilt of the head when you are not training.
  6. If you have trouble keeping your shoulders back, do this exercise with dumbbells.


  • Inspire when raising the bar.
  • Exhale during the descent.

For better balance and to use heavier weights, block your breathing during exercise.

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If you prefer, you can perform the Barbell Shrug positioned behind the legs, instead of in front. In this case, the medium trapezoids will be more heavily stressed.
Otherwise, the dumbbells can replace the barbell. The downside is that they may rub along your body during movement. The advantage is that you can place your arms differently, such as along the body, on the sides.

Of course, the exercise can be done on a smith machine or even on a machine specially designed for trapezoids. You can also practice unilaterally.
Finally, if you have no bar, barbell, or machine, it is possible to exercise on parallel bars or even between two tables. It is enough to stand on the outstretched arms, to descend to the lowest, and to rise to the highest by shrugging the shoulders.

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