All those years of shrugging your shoulders as a child with an "I don't know" response were doing more than irritating your parents. You were improving your posture. As an adult, when you add resistance to a shoulder shrug, you increase the muscle strengthening and posture benefits of this easy-to-do exercise.
Although you can use various types of resistance for a shoulder shrug, your choice of a barbell shows a serious commitment to the exercise. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold onto the barbell with both hands at shoulder-width apart. Straighten your arms along your front and face your palms toward your legs. Exhale and shrug your shoulders toward your ears. Lift until your shoulder slant is at least horizontal with the floor. Inhale and lower your shoulders to the starting position.
Select a weight that you can shrug eight to 12 times. Slide weight plates onto the barbell if needed. An Olympic barbell weighs 45 pounds and weight plates between 2.5 and 45 pounds can be added to it. Aim to perform two or three sets with one minute of rest in between. Add the shoulder shrugs into your workout routine two or three times a week with at least one day of rest in between. If you split your workout days into muscle groups, include the shoulder shrug with your back or shoulder workouts.
The upper trapezius performs a shoulder shrug. The trapezius is part of your back. It attaches at the base of your skull, runs down your spine and the top extends out to the sides to attach to your shoulder blades. A portion of the upper fibers also attach to your collar bone. You've probably felt tension in your upper trapezius during stress and rubbed the sides of your neck to relieve the tension. Your trapezius keeps your shoulder blades pulled back and slightly down, which results in an upright posture. Since the traps connect to your neck, strong muscles keep your neck in alignment so your chin remains parallel with the floor.
The purpose of strengthening your traps is not to hold more stress; it is to stabilize your shoulder blades. Shoulder blades are moveable, but you do not want them to wing out to the sides, as your shoulders lower and your posture droops because you have a weak trapezius. A barbell shoulder shrug strengthens your traps, which strengthens the stability of your shoulder blades, keeping your shoulders tall and your upper back straight. A strong and firm trap also supports your neck preventing your head from falling forward.
A mother of two and passionate fitness presenter, Lisa M. Wolfe had her first fitness article published in 2001. She is the author of six fitness books and holds an Associate of Arts in exercise science from Oakland Community College. When not writing, Wolfe is hula-hooping, kayaking, walking or cycling.