Barbell Shrug: Benefits and How to Do It Correctly

The barbell shrug is a crucial exercise that helps develop the upper back muscle, known by”the “traps.” Although the motion might seem easy, it’s more complex than you imagine. The barbell shrug is examined from all angles to help answer your queries regarding this crucial exercise.

Barbell shrugs are perhaps the most underrated exercise, the most over-used and futile exercise that people use to test and increase their traps. If you’ve come across this article, you’ve been hitting the barbells for a long time with no outcomes to show for it, or you’re struggling to be able to feel your traps functioning effectively during this workout.

The reason is that it’s simple to load the bar with lots of weight (which will always look good in the gym, and I’ve done it myself); however, you must do barbell shrug using MINIMAL mobility. Also, you require a large amount of leg force and force to raise the bar.

The barbell shrug could be an excellent trap-building tool; however, for most people, it’s hard to realize any benefit to them unless you’re in an area with really great genetics. Thus, exploring different options could be what you’re looking for to alter your approach and see some growth in your trap.

The Barbell Shrug: Working Muscles

The Barbell Shrug Working Muscles

Primary Muscle Group

The trapezius and rhomboids are performed by the barbell shrug. They are located in the upper back and upper back; these muscles work to support and pull your shoulders back.

Secondary Muscle Group

The barbell shrug is a second way to engage both the abdominal muscles of the core and forearms. While lifting this weight, your core muscles are activated to stabilize your upper body.

Additionally, the barbell shrug boosts your forearm strength, as the brachioradialis muscle engages to hold the barbell in place.

The Barbell Shrug: Benefits

The Barbell Shrug Benefits

#1 Strength Gains

As we’ve said before, the barbell shrug is an excellent exercise to build muscles in your traps since it is a great way to activate the muscles of the back of the upper part. In addition, it will provide you with a more rounded appearance. Still, your strength in this region will assist you in other compound exercises like deadlifts and squats.

Bodybuilders and weightlifters often tend to overlook the traps to focus on bigger muscles like the pecs or the lats. If you haven’t gotten rid of the traps for a while, the barbell shrug is for you!

#2 Better Posture

Upper back muscles, like those of the traps and the rhomboids, are responsible for keeping your shoulders high and keeping them from the “hunchback,” the slouched posture of the neck which develops in time.

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If you perform the barbell shrug, you build the appearance of a larger layer of muscles in your back. that allows you to exert less to keep good posture. This workout is crucial to your physical and posture health in the long run.

#3 The Isolation Of The Traps

Barbell shrug can be among the top trapezius strength exercises due to its isolation exercise. It is a means of saying that it only concentrates on only one muscle segment. The repetition of compound exercises can trigger the traps but not as much as an isolated exercise, like the barbell shrug.

The Barbell Shrug: Instructions


For the barbell shrug, you’ll require a barbell and some weights. Start with light weights to learn the posture, and then gradually add weights as needed.


  • Set up the barbell on a rack just below your waistline.
  • Assume a standing place facing the barbell.


  1. Tighten your abdominals and grip the barbell using an upper hand grip.
  2. Contract your traps and lift your shoulders upwards and slightly to the back simultaneously.
  3. Slowly bring the barbell back to its starting position.
  4. Repeat this movement until you’ve completed the number of repetitions you want to complete.


There’s no need to put plates on top and shrug off a heavy weight for three repetitions. Instead, pick an easier weight and perform three sets with 10-12 reps.

The Barbell Shrug: Mistakes

The Barbell Shrug Mistakes

#1 Affecting Too Much Weight

Suppose you are putting onto too much load for the barbell shrug. You are forced to use momentum to push upwards. In that case, you’ll fail to attain the greatest range of movement, which increases the risk of injury.

Using too much weight can result in the body “bouncing” at the top of each rep, which puts too much strain on joints and tendons. Instead, you should focus on feeling each force of your traps by using a lighter weight!

#2 Running Straight Up And Down

A lot of people shake their shoulders in a completely vertical plane. Although this is not a way to cause injury, it isn’t a good way to maximize what your traps can do to contract or the upper back. If you just shrug your shoulders straight both ways, you actually engage the levator scapulae, more than the traps.

The elevator is a smaller muscle connected to the neck and responsible for lifting shoulders upwards.

Although levator scapulae training is important, the traps are the purpose of the barbell shrug. When you do barbell shrug, make sure to lift your shoulders and back slightly while feeling stronger tension within your traps.

The Barbell Shrug: Variations

#1 Reverse Grip Front Shrug

The front shrug with reverse grip is a fantastic alternative to the barbell shrug that is commonly used. The reverse grip will assist people in shrugging up while also improving the mind-muscle connection of the traps.

#2 Behind The Back Barbell Shrugs

The back shrug behind is what activates the middle back portion of the traps. This method could be awkward, but it’s definitely efficient.

#3 Dumbbell Shrugs

It is also possible to dumbbell shrug to get a greater movement. In the same way as the barbell shrug and get rid of the traps!

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The Barbell Shrug: Alternatives

If you’ve enjoyed the barbell shrug, check out these additional trapezius exercises to boost your upper back strength:

#1 Close Grip Upright Rows

Take a band of resistance (or dumbbells) with your palms facing the inside. Use your traps to bring your hands up. Keep your elbows above your wrists!

#2 Lying Superman Raises

While your forehead is on the ground, use your traps to lift the upper part of your body from the ground. Be sure to keep your abs strong throughout this exercise!

#3 Resistance Band Side Shrugs

Take a resistance band and shrug upwards in a similar form to barbell shrug.

The Barbell Shrug Workout

You can also do fun workouts with supersets and as-many-reps-as-you-can (AMRAP).

Supersets are a great way to superset the barbell shrug. Combining it with the barbell shrug will surely bring about some serious growth.

Also, there’s the option to go for the most reps you can get.

Another way to achieve this is to set a goal of 100 total reps and then do every rep you can for each set. In other words, if you complete between 50 and 50 reps in the first set, you can then take a break for 60 seconds before continuing. Each set gets more challenging, so it’s a great method to add more intensity into your traps.

Be aware that traps have more growth over greater reps and more powerful moves.

The rep counts mentioned above are already at the upper end (for both the bodybuilding and strength training). However, it’s important to keep in mind when trying to integrate the exercise into your training routine. The explosive motion will result from the way you execute the barbell shrug, which brings us to other suggestions to consider when doing barbell shrug.

Tips And Tricks

While the barbell shrug can be an easy move, the fact that you can make use of a large amount of weight implies that optimizing your the form is essential to avoid injury and to make your exercise more efficient. The most important thing is to pay attention to the position on your head. First, it is not advisable to allow your head to move far forward when you press the traps. In this way, you’ll compromise the neck’s posture and could result in injury later down the line.

You want to do with your head to glance upwards.

Shrugging upwards while looking up can help improve the contraction of traps, as traps can control the movements in your head. If you decide to glance upwards, you shrug and ensure that the motion is restricted and not violent.

Is Barbell Shrug Really Effective?

Is Barbell Shrug Really Effective

Suppose you’re looking to create larger traps. In that case, barbell shrug isn’t necessary, and I’d even say that most people place too much importance on this workout without realizing the expected returns they would hope for.

This is because the barbell shrug is only training the upper part of the trap muscles and does this with a poor movement range. There is the possibility of achieving an entire range of motion. Still, as we’ve mentioned, it is not a common practice to utilize a weight that is light enough to do this using the barbell.

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The role of the traps is to extend the scapula (upper traps) upwardly and also to draw the scapula back (mid traps). The lower traps enlarge to facilitate upward extension. and The upper traps expand to aid upward extension. For your upper traps to be fully contracted, you must fully compress them. traps doing a barbell shrug your shoulders should be closing each rep as close your ears as they can be.

Suppose you’re using an unnatural grip of the barbell with your arms begin to move the front of your body slightly. In that case, it is much more difficult to fully contract. The movement range will be restricted, particularly when compared to shrugs that have an even grip with arms to your sides as the trap bar or dumbbell shrug.

So, while barbell shrug are not required to build your traps, they may be holding people from truly activating and stimulating the muscles.

Can You Create Traps Without The Barbell Shrug?

Can You Create Traps Without The Barbell Shrug

The barbell shrug is an extremely popular exercise due to a reason. the shrugging motion is essentially the function of the traps in the upper part of the body. If you can take your muscle through its entire range of motion. At the same time, put it under an external force, it is a crucial component for muscle development.

I’ve had to give the barbell shrug an uphill battle to date. Still, it’s because the barbell isn’t an ideal choice to utilize when using barbell shrug within your routine. If we think of the shrug as a whole and not rely on it for other purposes, it’s an effective exercise as well as the principal movement to build your traps.

Since traps serve distinct functions regarding scapular stability, retracting, and extension, it is essential to incorporate more exercise options into your routine. It’s harder to construct traps with no shrugging exercises; however, it is possible to build traps that do not require barbell shrug.

The range of exercises available is more limited; however, as you’ll see in the following section, shrugging isn’t the only thing that will create traps (though it’s an important one that you should not overlook! ).


  • Timothy P. Carnes

    Timothy P. Carnes is a certified personal trainer with a Bachelor's degree in Exercise Science from the University of Florida. With over 8 years of experience in the fitness industry, Timothy is an expert in strength and conditioning, body composition, and overall health and wellness. He also holds certifications in strength and conditioning through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and corrective exercise through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). As an author at FitGAG, he shares his knowledge and expertise on a variety of topics, including strength training, body composition, and overall health and wellness tips. Timothy believes that consistency and discipline are the keys to achieving fitness goals, and he strives to inspire his readers to prioritize their fitness and wellness journey. Through his articles, Timothy aims to empower his readers to take control of their health, enhance their performance, and live their best lives.

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