What Muscles Do Shrugs Work?

For a bodybuilder, it is important to utilize workout routines that promote the development of muscle mass. One of the most popular bodybuilding exercises is the shrug. As you might expect from the name, this one incorporates a shrugging motion. Hence, the exercise focuses on the shoulder and upper back of the body. But what muscles do shrugs work, exactly?

In this article, we will discuss the specific points of the body that this exercise focuses on and certain tips and techniques you can apply in order to maximize results of the shrug exercise.


What Muscles Do Shrugs Work?

Introduction To The Shrug Exercise

What Muscles Do Shrugs Work?

The shrug exercise has you doing an up and down motion using your shoulders. Sounds simple enough. But in order to develop muscle mass simply doing an up and down motion won’t be enough. This is why bodybuilders incorporate a dumbbell and a barbell with this exercise. You can check out the CAP Barbell Hex Dumbbell as it offers weight of 5 lbs. to 50 lbs. which offers a good selection depending on your skill and strength level. If you prefer to use a barbell then the CAP Barbell Olympic Bar is a good choice for an all-around workout as it can support up to 1,200 lbs. weight capacity.

Basically, you will be needing to raise a barbell (positioned in front of your thighs) or dumbbell (side of your thighs) and lift your shoulders as close to the level of your ears as possible. Lower it back again and repeat. Pretty simple, right? But it can be extremely tiring for beginners so never use a weight that is above your limits.

Which Muscles Benefit From This Workout?

The main focus of doing a shrug is your shoulders, the trapezius muscle to be precise. The trapezius muscles, or traps, is a triangular muscle located on your upper back which connects the shoulder blades, back of the neck, and down to the spine.


When you are doing the shrug exercise, your shoulder blades does a rotating motion. That motion is accomplished with the help of the traps. The upper, mid, and lower portions of the traps all do their part during this exercise. The middle part of the trapezius retracts the shoulder blades while the lower trapezius assists the arms.

Other than the trapezius, there are also other muscles that get a good workout during this exercise. The levator scapulae will also be doing its part during shrugs. The levator scapulae muscles act as support by stabilizing your body when doing a shrug exercise.

Tips For Maximizing The Effectiveness Of Shrugs

One of the most common mistakes people do when doing shrugs is by rotating their shoulders in a circular motion. Doing that won’t give you much benefit as the key essence of shrugs is doing against gravity to promote muscle gain. Obviously, pulling your shoulders upwards while carrying weight delivers optimum results rather than simply rotating the shoulders in a circular motion.

As we have stated earlier, shrugs are extremely simple to accomplish. However, I’m also going to give you some tips and pointers on how to fully maximize the benefits of this workout routine. Check out the tips I compiled below:

Use a power rack. This makes it easy to setup the barbell for the shrug. Simply place spotter pins just below your range of motion. Pick up the bars then start the exercise. Once you need a break you can simply place it back on the spotter pins. You won’t need to put the barbell down back to the floor.

Remember to take an athletic stance similar to weight lifters. This means you should position your feet at shoulder-width apart. This increases stability which is vital when lifting weights.

Pick up the bar with arms hanging straight down and outside the width of the hip. If you feel sore from the double overhand grip then you can switch to the alternating grip to alleviate some of the strain.

Common Shrug Exercise Mistakes People Do

Common Shrug Exercise Mistakes People Do

Source: Flickr.com

If you are planning on doing shrugs then it is vital that you do it properly to gain maximum benefits and avoid injuries. I have seen people improperly do shrugs one time too many at the gym which is why I decided to list down some of the most common shrug mistakes. Avoid these at all cost and you are on your way to developing ripped traps.

  • Do not load too much weight

While you might want to impress other people by loading a considerable amount of weight, do you really need to risk pulling a muscle for a couple of approving nods? Of course not. Never try to lift more than you actually can. Stay within your limits and build up your strength. Don’t over do it.

  • Take it slow and don’t use momentum

Using momentum to bounce the barbell up and down will only increase the risk of injury. Plus, bouncing the barbell up and down quickly will not help build muscles. Shrugs should be done with a slow and steady pace. It is not a race but a marathon. People tend to go through shrugs as fast as possible but that should not be the case. Take your time and incorporate a full range of movement with this exercise. Below is a quick video tutorial on how to do shrugs properly:

Final Thoughts

Shrugs can deliver amazing results in building lean muscle mass on your upper back and shoulders. However, as simple as it sounds there are key factors you need to consider. Doing traps incorrectly will barely deliver results and might even cause injuries. Remember the tips written above to ensure maximum results. If you need a good quality weight then I suggest that you check out the CAP Barbell Hex Dumbbell and the CAP Barbell Olympic Bar. As always, leave a comment down below if you have any thoughts about this discussion. Don’t forget to share this and spread awareness about healthy living!

Harvie Brenton