Weightlifting & Shoulder Shrugs

Building strong muscles requires varying exercises.
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As you progress through your weightlifting program, you’ll soon find it necessary to add new exercises or alternate between sets and repetitions to continually challenge your muscles. Much like a long commute to work or a nagging co-worker, you muscles can become adapted or used to tension and exhaustion. The shoulder shrug exercise isolates the trapezius muscles and may be applied to your weightlifting program to promote hypertrophy and strength gains.

Exercise and Muscles Worked

    The shoulder shrug exercise isolates the upper trapezius muscle group, which is the muscle that runs on both sides of the spine from the base of your skull to the end of your clavicle. The function of this exercise is to shrug the shoulders up toward your ears while holding some form of resistance in your hands. While the upper portion of the trapezius muscle is the target muscle, six other muscles are involved to support and stabilize the movement. These muscles include the biceps, serratus anterior, flexors, transverse abdominis, oblique muscles and the front abs.

Equipment Options

    The shoulder shrug exercise may be incorporated into a program using dumbbells, barbells and machines such as the cable machine and the Smith machine. Although the mode in which the exercise is performed may vary, the muscles worked are the same no matter what lifting method is used.


    The goal of weightlifting is to continually promote muscle development in the form of mass, strength and power. While workout programs may be intense, the rest periods and frequency of workout sessions must promote muscle repair. While it is possible to fatigue the trapezius muscle group up to three times per week, you must rest a minimum of 24 to 48 hours between each training session. If you engage in weightlifting without proper recovery periods, your body may enter into an overtraining state, which results in a decrease in muscle power, strength and endurance as well as conditions such as chronic fatigue, sleeping disorders and disruptions to a woman’s menstrual cycle, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

Sets and Repetitions

    To prevent muscles from adapting to specific exercises, it is essential to vary not only the exercises used for a particular muscle group but also the number of sets and repetitions used. Although you may have your own weightlifting program, those searching for guidelines may follow the American Council on Exercise recommendation for sets and reps based on fitness goals, which suggests performing six to 12 repetitions within three to six sets for muscle growth, two to six sets of four to eight repetitions for muscular strength and 12 to 16 repetitions within two to three sets to promote the development of muscular endurance.

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