Shrug Your Way to a Stronger Back.

Dear Davey,

Do you know of any good trapezius exercises? I’m having trouble finding any.

From,
Jeff

Dear Jeff,

The trapezius is a large superficial muscle that runs along your upper back, shoulder blades and neck. It performs a number of important functions in the body – but it is often overlooked in workouts.

Recently, I’ve incorporated a very simple but powerful trapezius exercise called “shrugs” into my workout. You can perform shrugs at home or at the gym – it just requires a set of dumbbells, a resistance band, barbell or two equally weighted items (you could use two large water jugs, for example).

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Stand upright and hold the dumbbells at your side. Palms should be facing each other. Be careful not to move your head or bend your arms during the exercise.
  2. Keep your shoulders relaxed – and shrug them upwards as though you were trying to touch your shoulders to your ears.
  3. Hold here, then gradually lower to the starting position.
  4. Repeat as necessary.

If you’re looking to build your trapezius, you’d opt for heavier weights and lower reps. If you’re looking to maintain – or to increase strength and endurance – lighter weights with a higher number of reps is appropriate.

I hope that helps!

Love,
Davey

About Davey Wavey

Davey Wavey is a certified personal trainer and YouTube sensation with more than 250 million video views. For Davey's fitness tips and secrets, sign up for his free monthly newsletter - or download any of his affordable and effective workout programs.

Comments

  1. I read some time ago that you should NOT rotate your shoulders while you’re raising them, but rather just raise them straight up only, so I’ve been doing them this way whenever I do shrugs. Any comments on that?

    Oh and I’ve done, and observed others doing these with a barbell also. But I think I prefer to do them with dumbells.

  2. noahb87 says:

    So I want to build size so I’d be do heavier. So would 20 reps be to low or to much?

  3. I was told by my trainer at the gym to roll my shoulders back before I started shrugging. Its a great workout, I do these with 12kg dumbbells 12reps x 3sets.

  4. Mr Wavey,
    Seems like shrugs will be effective only for the portion of trapezius that originates on the neck. (This is certainly apparent on men like yourself with well developed traps on the neck and shoulders.) The portion that originates on the thoracic spinal raphe will require another motion. I would suggest an inverted plank position, holding a horizontal bar while suspending slightly off the floor or a bench, then “shrugging” to lift the thorax from toward the bar.

    (I’m a veterinarian and therefore had to interpret the anatomy of the dog in view of the screwed-up evolution of hominids. Our arms weren’t originally designed to do the things we ask of them. That’s why we have so many shoulder injuries.)

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