Muscles Targeted: Being somewhat of an isolation lift, barbell shrugs primarily targets both the upper and middle trapezius muscles. Secondarily, this exercise stimulates the levator scapulae (neck muscle), and the forearms. Barbell shrugs are an amazing exercise to train on shoulder days or on back day, depending on preference and routine. Doing barbell shrugs are one of the best ways to develop strong and toned trapezius muscles (also called traps).
Exercise Advice: Barbell shrugs should be performed while standing up straight with good posture. Your feet should be placed shoulder width apart throughout the exercise. In addition, your hands should be placed with an overhand grip and positioned slightly wider than shoulder width, depending on comfort. While working with heavier weights, you may have trouble getting a good grip on the bar. Since a strong grip is vital for this workout, using chalk or straps is recommended for those who can’t grip the bar very well or have a weak grip. To perform a repetition, while keeping your neck at a neutral position, shrug your shoulders upwards until you reach your peak. For the negative, lower the bar slowly, concentrating on the downward motion lowering the weight to the starting position. Once you have reached your starting position, you will then be ready to start a new repetition.
Thing To Avoid: Barbell shrugs are a simple movement to master, however there are many common mistakes that lifters do. One mistake many beginners do is to overload the weight on the bar and try to shrug a weight that they can not handle. Doing this can cause injury to the neck and will not work the trap muscles to their potential. To fix this, start with a very light weight, and slowly work your way up to a heavier, workable weight. Make sure that for the workable weight you use, that you can complete the full range of motion with it. Another common mistake many do is to jerk the bar up with the biceps, instead of shrugging it with the trapezius muscles. This can be dangerous as you could pull your neck muscles or injure your traps. To fix this, you should focus on sticking with strict form throughout both the upward and downward motions of this exercise. As mentioned before, using a lighter weight will help to maintain strict form. Your arms should remain straight and all of the work should be focused on the trapezius muscles.
Reps and Sets: Being an isolation exercise, doing more reps per set is more effective than doing a small amount of reps for each set. Barbell shrugs are most commonly done in reps of 8-12 for each set. The number of sets commonly range from 3-5 for this muscle group. Some advanced lifters may choose to use a very heavy weight and do a low amount of reps per set, which can be somewhat effective depending on the lifter’s experience and overall goals.
Other Exercises To Use: Barbell shrugs are best used when combined with compound workouts. For example, deadlifts, upright rows and military presses work well in combination with this trapezius exercise. As a reminder, barbell shrugs are best done towards the end of your workout and after your compound movements, since it is an isolation movement and you want to reserve most of your energy for the mass building exercises earlier in your workout.