Do Shoulder Shrugs & Upright Rows Work the Same Muscle?

Performing exercises that target the exact same range of muscles can waste your valuable gym time.
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Lifting weights to get into shape -- whether you're looking to gain muscle or lose fat -- can be hard work. But you shouldn't let it be more work than it has to be. One mistake some gym-goers make is performing too many overlapping exercises and working a few muscles over and over while neglecting others. With some exercises, such as shoulder shrugs and the upright row, there is minimal overlap and the exercises are distinct enough to warrant including both in your workout routine. Always exercise with proper supervision.

Shoulder Shrug Muscles

    The shoulder shrug is a simple exercise to perform, and as the name suggests, it does work your shoulder muscles -- namely, the trapezius, or upper shoulder. Additionally, the shoulder shrug works muscles of your back -- the levator scapulae and erector spinae. These muscles help provide the force when you perform a pulling motion, such as picking something off of the floor or rowing a boat.

Upright Row Muscles

    The upright row works many more muscles than the shoulder shrug. However, this exercise does work the levator scapulae and trapezius, making it somewhat duplicative of the shoulder shrug. The upright row does not work the erector spinae, so that is one difference between the exercises. Also, the upright row works your deltoids, biceps, triceps and rotator cuff muscles, so it provides a much more substantial workout than the shoulder shrug in terms of how many muscles it strengthens.

Function of the Levator Scapulae

    Both the shoulder shrug and upright row work your levator scapulae, a muscle located on the back side of your neck. This muscle is integral in movements of your spine and scapula, located in your upper back, below your shoulders. Rotation of your neck, and lifting and lowering of your arms are motions that use your levator scapulae; neck rotation involves the muscle acting on your spine, while the arm motions involve the muscle working on your scapula.

Function of the Trapezius

    The trapezius, or traps, stretch from the shoulders to the neck on either side of the body. As with the levator scapulae, the primary functions of these muscles are to act on your spine and your scapula. The traps cause elevation of the scapula -- the motion that occurs when you shrug your shoulders -- and also assist in rotating and flexing your neck from side to side.

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