How to Shoulder Shrug to Build Huge Shoulders

The shoulder shrug is an exercise in weight training. To execute the exercise, the lifter stands erect, hands about shoulder width apart, and raises the shoulders as high as possible, and then lowers them, while not bending the elbows, or moving the body at all.

Shoulder shrugs are used to develop the upper trapezius muscle. Shoulder shrugs are generally vertical in relation to the body. Larger gains in strength, endurance and muscle hypertrophy are gained when the exercise is done with added resistance, although the lifter may not have as large a range of motion as in a normal shrug done for active flexibility. An overhand, inside, outside, underhand or mixed grip can be used.

Shoulder Shrug Exercise for Building Big Traps


A barbell or smith machine may be used for added resistance, held in front of the thighs, resting on the quadriceps, or behind, resting on the hamstrings. Using these excludes inside and outside grips. One or two dumbbells, kettlebells or resistance bands can be used, together or opposite one another.

A trapbar can also be used, necessitating an inside grip. Calf raise machines can also be used to execute the shrugging movement, by resting the pads on the shoulders and trying to raise the shoulders as high as possible. Many weight trainers favour this method because it does not involve gripping any weight.

A variation is the “Hise shrug” wherein the weights are placed on a bar, the bar is placed across the shoulders, behind the neck, and the bar is “shrugged” upwards. This places undue stress on the upper body and does not develop the arms in a natural pulling motion, and may not be a functional exercise.

The shoulders can also be shrugged up and down (relatively) in a handstand, creating a unique stressor for the shoulder girdle.

More like this in the Strength Training section

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