Even if you rarely feel the need to adopt bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno's "crab pose" to show off mountainous shoulders, shoulder shrugs are still a great choice for building up strong shoulder muscles. Shoulder shrugs are easy to perform and fantastic for isolating the upper trapezius area of your shoulders. As with any weight-lifting exercise, execute shoulder shrug exercises properly; this will get you the strong shoulders you crave.
What's the Trapezius?
The trapezius muscle, or "traps" to bodybuilders and weight lifters who are on a nickname basis with their muscles, run from the top of the back of your neck down the back of your shoulders. The shoulders are made up of multiple muscle groups, which are targeted by different exercises. The most effective exercise for isolating and strengthening the trapezius muscle is the shoulder shrug. Choose among several variations on the shoulder shrug based on personal preference and available equipment to get strong shoulders.
The Basic Shoulder Shrug
Different shoulder shrug exercises are categorized by the equipment used. If you use dumbbells, you will have a slightly different workout experience than with barbells. Holding your free weight of choice in slightly differing positions can also have different effects. The basic shoulder shrug typically employs the barbell. Letting the barbell rest on the front of your body while you hold it with two hands, shrug your shoulders up and down. This is an extremely isolated exercise, so be careful not to move your back, arms or abs, or you will be cheating your shoulders.
Shoulder Shrug Variations
For some, the barbell rubbing up and down the legs can be a little annoying. Using dumbbells instead alleviates this. Or, you can continue to use a barbell, but hold it in one hand and do one shoulder at a time, so the barbell isn't pushing against the front of your body. Eschew all free weights entirely and use a calf raise machine for shoulder shrugs without free weights. Prepare the machine by making sure the shoulder pads are sitting on top of your shoulders, and then raise your shoulders to lift the machine's weight.
Maximize Your Shoulder Shrug
Little adjustments help you get the most out of your shrug to strengthen your shoulders. Press your shoulders down before shrugging them up to increase your range of motion. At the top of the movement, hold your pose for up to six seconds. If you have the time, do shoulder shrug workouts twice a day. You will progress much faster. Just remember to give your muscles a few days off after working them, so they can build up strength during recovery.
Meredith Berg received her B.F.A. in directing from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Now living in Los Angeles, she works as a film and television writer, comic-book editor and director of plays and films. In addition, she loves tackling paleo recipes, workout routines and DIY projects.