What Muscles Do Shrugs Work And Why You Need To Do Them?

Do you do shrugs?

Do you know what do they bring to your body?

Shrugs are often put in the same category as all the other key, compound exercises (e.g. squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, etc.) crucial for building serious muscle mass. This happens for a valid reason, and if you are a gym-goer looking for some gains, then this exercise should certainly be a part of your workout routine.

Now there is still a little bit of mystery as to what are shrugs actually good for. At first glance, they look like a simple movement that doesn't do god-knows-what to the body. Well, this simple observation must be deepened, and today, we are offering you an article to do just that.

Let's clear up what are the muscles that shrugs work, which benefits do they bring, and why you should perform them too. For more safety, wear the appropriate Weight Lifting Belts before you start shrugging.


1. Bigger And Stronger Traps

If you ask your average 'gym bro' about some good exercises for the trapezius, shrugs are the answer that you are most likely to get. This is the case when the 'gym bro' is correct, and this exercise performed with good form will help you build large trap muscles and achieve a strong, masculine look.

2. Better Posture

In a lot of cases, weak traps are a cause of bad posture in men and women. Shoulder blades are moveable, and they tend to drop and go out to the sides if the back muscles are weak. By strengthening the trapezius, you will also help stabilize the shoulder blades which will keep the upper back straight. Another good thing is that the neck will also get more stability and will not lean forward.

3. Less Neck And Back Pain

Since the trapezius muscles are connected to shoulders and the neck, they tend to do a lot of work during the day and don’t get any real rest until you lie down. Because of all this workload, this muscle tends to get tight and hurt so strengthening it is one way to deal with the tension.

Muscles Worked

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1. Trapezius

As you have read in the previous lines, this is the muscle that does the majority of the work. Trapezius or traps are the large muscles stretching from the middle of the back up to the neck. The shrug will mostly stimulate the upper traps which have an important function in rotation of the scapula, and enable you to lift your arms up above the level of the shoulders.

2. Stabilizers

Stabilizers do just what their name suggests – stabilize. They are the muscles that help out bigger muscle groups perform any movement. In the case of shrugs, erector spinae, the muscles along your spine from the tailbone to the neck, get stimulated. Having strong spinal support is crucial for avoiding back injury and being able to do any compound exercises correctly.

3. Synergists

Synergists are the muscles that help out other muscles during their movements. They play a role similar to stabilizers. When it comes to shrugs the synergist muscle that gets employed is the levator scapulae, situated on the back side of the neck, whose main role is to lift up the scapula.

Shrug Variations

1. Barbell Shrug
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This is probably the most famous and most commonly utilized variation of the exercise. Here’s how it goes: place the barbell on the squat rack at about hip level, stand in front of the barbell with your feet hip-width apart and grab it with an overhand grip. Your hands should be a bit wider than shoulder-width. With your arms locked out, pull the shoulders up as high as you can and then slowly return them to the starting position.

2. Dumbell Shrugs
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In this variation, dumbbells are used instead of barbells, and apart from that, there is little difference in the movement of the exercise. Take two dumbbells and hold them at your sides or in front of your thighs similar to a barbell. With your hands fully extended, pull the shoulders up and bring them down slowly.

3. Trap Bar Shrugs
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The mechanism of the exercise is the same as with the barbell or dumbells variation, except that this version is performed with a trap bar. Find your best pull up bar here.


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Before you start including shrugs into your routine, make sure to consult with a professional regarding your posture. Bad posture, or more precisely, hunched back could cause the over-activation of muscles around the scapula instead of keeping the focus on the trapezius. This may result in injury, so be sure to address this issue first.

Whatever your goals in the gym are, be sure to educate yourself before heading into a heavy-weight, all-out workout program. The same rule applies to shrugs or any other exercise that is to be done regularly.

If executed properly, shrugs will bring you great benefits to back strength and health as well as body composition and appearance.