Exercise Profile
  • Target Muscle Group
  • Exercise TypeStrength
  • Equipment RequiredBarbell
  • MechanicsIsolation
  • Force TypePull (Bilateral)
  • Experience LevelBeginner
  • Secondary Muscles
    Shoulders, Upper Back
Target Muscle Group


Traps Muscle Anatomy Diagram

Barbell Shrug Overview

The barbell shrug is a great exercise for those looking to build their trap muscles.

Heavy shrugs are a favorite among many professionals who use the exercise to build bigger traps.

The shrug can be incorporated into your shoulder workouts, back workouts, upper body workouts, or full body workouts.

Barbell Shrug Instructions

  1. Position the safeties just below waist height in a rack.
  2. Assume a standing position with the bar in front of your body.
  3. Hinge forward, inhale, and grab the bar with a double overhand grip.
  4. Stand up tall and ensure your spine remains neutral.
  5. Contract the traps to elevate the shoulders. Squeeze hard at the top and slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Barbell Shrug Tips

  1. Looking slightly up while shrugging may enhance the contraction as traps help to control movement of the skull. This motion should be smooth and controlled, as a ballistic movement could result in a neck injury.
  2. The traps tend to respond well to high reps and explosive movements (e.g. snatch grip high pulls) so program your accessory work accordingly.
  3. Limit momentum and excessive jerking or bouncing of the weight. No one cares about how much you shrug.
  4. Don’t allow the head to jut forward excessively as you squeeze the traps, this can put the neck in a compromised position and result in an injury.
  5. Adding a pause at the top of the movement can help to enhance the mind muscle connection.
Posted on: Mon, 03/25/2024 - 07:59

can i do the exercise with dumbells instead of barbell

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 03/27/2024 - 20:27

Yes, and I actually prefer doing them that way.


Andy D
Posted on: Thu, 09/12/2013 - 05:29

@Christian Rivas - Perform a 'mangina' prior to barbell shrugs

Posted on: Mon, 05/27/2013 - 11:54

I love shrugs, but they tend to screw up my neck. After one workout, I could barely turn my head for a week and my hands kept falling asleep. I'm sure I did something wrong, but I don't want to chance it. What would you recommend for a replacement here? Thanks. Good workout.

Akash Debnath
Posted on: Sun, 01/28/2018 - 10:17

it is the best....do it

Posted on: Tue, 04/23/2013 - 14:30

This is decent form, however in my experience you get a better pump/activation of your traps by slightly rolling your shoulders back. This is the same motion you make when you want to show someone your traps so it makes sense to me.

Posted on: Fri, 10/26/2012 - 05:17

Just let it brush against your manly parts. And use straps when weight exceeds grip strength

Posted on: Fri, 10/05/2012 - 13:06

As I've gotten stronger doing these my hands and forearms haven't caught up. What can I do if the weight is too much for them?

Posted on: Sun, 10/07/2012 - 10:59

get some of them grip strengtheners the look like what you put on the end of a bench press bar to keep the weights on do some everyday untill you cant do any more and your grip and fore arms should get stronger

Posted on: Sat, 06/09/2012 - 12:31

I'd recommend using dumbbells. The dumbbell shrug hits the same muscles and having two individual weights rather than a single bar, gives you better meanouvre-ing ability

Christian Rivas
Posted on: Wed, 05/23/2012 - 18:05

When I do these shrugs my manly part gets in the way. Is it okay to keep it not that close to your body?

Posted on: Tue, 07/09/2013 - 16:36

Dont lean back, if anything lean forward. just make sure your chin is up, eyes are forward and back is straight. this will also thicken your lower traps, and that is very nicer

Posted on: Fri, 08/23/2013 - 03:12

I don't have that problem. Then again, I'm extremely poorly endowed.

Posted on: Tue, 11/05/2013 - 04:18

HAHAHAHHAAA I have the same problem dude

Posted on: Mon, 05/26/2014 - 22:39

Hi Christian, You may also opt for dumbbell shrugs as it will also helps you to focus and control the weights while lifting from traps and not the biceps.
happy training!