Shoulder and trap exercises are some of the most overlooked exercises among new gym-goers. But targeting these muscles is about more than just doing a routine that doesn’t leave any muscle out.
Exercises like the shoulder shrug can help straighten your spine during the day and allow you to work on good posture. That’s especially true if you spend most of the day sitting at a desk.
We know you’ve heard of shoulder shrugs before, but how much do you really know about this trap exercise? Keep reading to learn all there is to know about shoulder shrugs.
Table of Contents
- 3 Key Benefits of Shoulder Shrugs
- When Should You Avoid Shoulder Shrugs?
- Muscles Worked
- How to Perform Shoulder Shrugs
- How to Breathe While Doing Shoulder Shrugs
- Additional Tips for Beginners
3 Key Benefits of Shoulder Shrugs
We can’t deny it – shoulder shrugs aren’t so easy for beginners given the amount of focus you need to execute them perfectly. But if you train your back muscles regularly, you’ll be able to add weight to your shrugs and see mass in your traps pretty soon.
Simply put: Shoulder shrugs are beneficial in a few ways, especially in the long run.
- Most importantly, having strong shoulder and trapezius muscles will help you to add some serious mass to other nearby muscles.
- Many people recommend shoulder shrugs (without weights) to loosen up the tension that you hold in your upper body. So, shoulder shrugs can be a great way to relieve a little stress.
- Shoulder shrugs can promote better posture throughout the day. Great posture will make you appear more confident when you hit the gym and fix chronic slouching often caused by being hunched over a computer for hours on end.
When Should You Avoid Shoulder Shrugs?
As with any other exercise, there are times it wouldn’t make sense to do shoulder shrugs. For example, shoulder shrugs can be dangerous if you’ve ever had:
- Injuries to the shoulder joints or shoulder girdle
- Spinal injuries
- Injuries to the elbow joints
- Wrist injuries
- Injuries in the hip joints
- Knee injuries
- Ankle injuries
Don’t think that you can just put on a weightlifting belt and everything will be OK!
It’s best that you speak with your doctor before doing shoulder shrugs, or any exercise really, especially if you have pre-existing injuries.
This one should be a given – loading the barbell up heavy when you’re doing shoulder shrugs can add some serious mass to your traps.
So, why do they call it a shoulder shrug if most of the muscles it targets aren’t in the shoulder?
Well, it all comes down to the execution process, not the actual muscles that get worked.
Give us another minute to explain what we mean, and then we’ll get to how to do it!
To be honest, it wouldn’t be accurate to say that the shoulder shrug works the traps since so many other muscles are involved in it. In this list, you’ll see all of the muscles that will be targeted when you do the shoulder shrug exercise.
- Erector Spinae
- Wrist Flexors
Many of these muscles, like the glutes and quads (or the lower body muscles), are indirectly hit. You merely depend on them to keep good posture during shrugs.
How to Perform Shoulder Shrugs
Shoulder shrugs can be performed in a few different ways.
Assuming you’re a beginner in the world of fitness, we recommend starting out with no extra weight.
Most importantly, learn how to perfect the form first before you start loading up the barbell.
Here’s how the shoulder shrug is done:
- Plant your feet firmly on the floor shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.
- With your shoulders back (good posture), raise your shoulders as high as you can toward your ears.
- Hold the position for a second and squeeze the muscles.
- Slowly lower the weights back down to your sides.
The most important thing to remember is to keep your back as straight as possible. Swinging your body or rounding your shoulders forward can put your shoulder joints and spine at risk.
You’ll also look like you have no idea what you’re doing!
How to Breathe While Doing Shoulder Shrugs
The final piece of the puzzle is how to breathe when you do the shoulder shrug. Believe it or not, the breathing aspect is the most important part of doing this exercise with great form.
Here’s what you need to know.
Take a deep breath before your first shrug, and, as you’re bringing the weight up, begin to exhale and push all of your energy into the rep.
As you reach the top and begin lowering the weight, that’s when you’ll inhale.
Keep with this pattern – breathe out when you do the rep and breathe in as you lower it.
Additional Tips for Beginners
Now that you know the basics and how to perform the exercise, look at these fundamental tips that will make you a pro.
1. Maintain a Light Grip When Performing Shoulder Shrugs With Dumbbells
Simple shoulder shrugs are one thing, but once you add weight to the barbell, you need to consider a few other things.
For example, it’s common for beginners to hold the dumbbells as if their life depends on it.
Don’t make this mistake!
Instead, hold them well enough not to drop them, but without any additional grip. You want your arms to be relaxed so that you don’t put tension on the lower arm.
All you need are your shoulders!
2. Do Not Lift Above The Point of Peak Load
Overdoing it presents no benefits here.
Once you lift above the point of peak load, your muscles lose efficiency and look for new supporting muscles to take over. In other words, you’ll involve other muscles in the exercise or risk getting injured along the way.
So raise your shoulders as high as they can go naturally, but don’t try to force them any higher.
3. Do Not Push Your Arms Up When Lowering
All you need to do is relax the muscles that lift the weight – gravity will do the rest.
4. Never Start the Exercise Without Warming Up Well
Shoulder shrugs are, in fact, an exercise for the end of your workout. In most cases, you’ll exert whatever energy you have leftover on this exercise to drain whatever’s left in the tank.
However, if you are doing it at home, make sure to warm up well in advance. You can do that by doing a short dynamic warm-up or getting in a few light warm-up sets.
5. Do Not Turn Your Shoulders
Rotations in your shoulders do NOT benefit the trapezius muscles. On the contrary, it wears out the joints, which puts you at serious risk for long-term injury.
Focus on using great form before you try to go for heavier dumbbells.
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