What is a Shoulder Shrug?

B. Miller

A shoulder shrug is a type of weightlifting exercise that is designed to target the trapezius muscles, located in the upper shoulders and back of the neck. In the exercise, one will hold a weight or weights in each hand, with the arms straight down the sides or the front of the body. Without bending the elbows or using the arm muscles in any way, one will then lift the shoulders straight up, attempting to get them to touch the ears. One will then hold that position for one or two seconds, and then release the shoulder muscles in a controlled, slow movement.

Shoulder shrugs work the trapezius muscles.
Shoulder shrugs work the trapezius muscles.

Weightlifters or even people who just want more noticeable, defined shoulder muscles will use this simple yet effective shoulder shrug exercise because it makes a big difference in the overall strength and appearance of the shoulders. The trapezius muscles can be somewhat difficult to target without using a machine such as a shoulder press, but a shoulder shrug allows one to exercise those muscles with just the use of hand weights or a barbell. The hand weights may be held at either side of the body, or the barbell may be held with both hands in front of the body; as long as the arms are kept straight and the shoulders are lifted directly up, the exercise will be effective.

The shoulder shrug is used to strengthen and build up the trapezius muscles.
The shoulder shrug is used to strengthen and build up the trapezius muscles.

One of the keys to getting the most out of the shoulder shrug exercise is to use slow, controlled movements and to gradually increase the amount of weight and repetitions over time so the muscles do not adapt to the exercise, and continue to be challenged. Using fast movements will encourage the body to use momentum rather than actual strength, and could potentially even cause injury. In addition, try to increase the amount of time in which the shoulders are held in the contracted position to further build up the muscles.

In addition, it is important to be mindful of the rest of the body when doing the shoulder shrug. This means being conscious of maintaining proper posture, with the spine straight and the tailbone tucked under, usually with the feet about hip width apart. In addition, contracting the abdominal muscles while doing the shoulder shrug can ensure that the whole body is engaged in the exercise, which can make any exercise more effective. Do not simply drop the shoulders back down, as this can stretch and overextend the muscles. A shoulder shrug may also be combined with a shoulder press to really work the muscles of the shoulders and upper back.

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