Barbell Shrugs – Trapezius Exercise Guide with Photos

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Barbell shrugs are an often neglected exercise that can have a big impact on your physique. If someone has paid attention to their trapezius muscles then you know they are a lifter. There are few exercises that work your shoulders better than barbell shrugs. Here’s some more information on one of the best isolation exercises for one of the most important muscle groups.

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Muscles Targeted: The barbell shrug targets your upper trapezius and your rhomboids primarily. Your trapezius muscles are responsible for supporting your neck and bringing your shoulders closer to your ears. Your rhomboids control the movement of your shoulder blades. Your biceps and forearms get worked indirectly on this exercise.

Exercise Instructions: Stand with your legs about shoulder width apart and hold a barbell with both hands. Using an overhand grip, allow the barbell to hang down in front of your body so that your arms are fully extended. To execute this movement, simply shrug your shoulders up while keeping your arms completely straight. Be sure that you hold your shoulders in the shrug position for a one-count at the top of the movement. Return to the start position and repeat for the desired amount of repetitions.

Why This Exercise is Important: Barbell shrugs are a great way to target your trapezius muscles. These muscles are responsible for protecting and supporting your head and neck. Anyone who has ever gotten a crick in their neck knows how critical these muscles are. Dedicated shrugging can help improve your posture. It can also help prevent injuries in high impact sports such as wrestling and football. When fully developed the trapezius lets other lifters know that you are capable of handling heavy poundage. Lifters can work up to very respectable weights when performing barbell shrugs and this can give the lifter a psychological boost when using heavy weights on other lifts. This can lead to decreased anxiety about heavy poundage and increased performance on other exercises.

Things To Avoid: You want to maintain good posture when you are performing barbell shrugs. Don’t bend forward or backward at the waist as this will expose your lower back to additional strain. Use good technique when lifting and don’t use any leg drive to pull up the weights. Don’t jerk the weights up, pull smoothly and focus on the contraction at the peak of the exercise. Avoid having your shoulders move in any direction other than up or down when lifting. Gravity only works in one direction and you are not working anything by going back and forth. Don’t pull the weight up with your biceps or bend your wrists when lifting.

Reps and Sets: Typically barbell shrugs are performed fairly heavy. Many lifters prefer to use wrist straps on this exercise as the weights can quickly fatigue your grip well before your trapezius muscles. For size, use sets of 2-4 and reps from 6-12. If you’re looking for strength to help the lockout on a deadlift exercise, then stick with sets of 3-5 and reps from 3-6.

Other Exercises To Use: Use this exercise in conjunction with barbell deadlifts to really round out your upper back. Power cleans are another good substitute for barbell shrugs. If you have an upright posture while performing barbell rows, they also hit your trapezius and rhomboids in a similar manner. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the trapezius muscles.

Mix barbell shrugs frequently into your routine so that you will gain all the benefits of this important isolation exercise. People will really take notice of you after you’ve made progress on barbell shrugs as your posture improves and your shoulders grow. Make sure you are shrugging your shoulders up and down and not back and forth. Not only will you look silly but you could end up hurting yourself.

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