Barbell shrug

Exercise details

  • Target muscle: Upper Trapezius
  • Synergists: Middle Trapezius, Levator Scapulae
  • Mechanics: Isolation
  • Force: Pull

Starting position

  1. Stand holding a barbell using a shoulder-width pronated grip (palms facing your body).


  1. Exhale as you elevate your shoulders as high as possible.
  2. Hold for a count of two and squeeze your trapezius.
  3. Inhale as you lower the barbell back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat.

Comments and tips

  • Keep your back straight and torso still; only your shoulders should move.
  • Keep your elbows slightly bent.
  • Do not roll your shoulders, as this increases the risk of injury.
  • If necessary, use wrist straps for a better grip, or use a mixed grip (one hand pronated or facing you, the other hand supinated or facing forward).
  • The barbell shrug targets your upper trapezius, while your middle trapezius acts as a synergist. A strong trapezius will assist you in the development of other major muscle groups, as it is involved in many key exercises.


The shrug can also be performed with the barbell behind your back (behind-the-back barbell shrug), with the barbell held over your head (overhead barbell shrug), with a trap bar (trap bar shrug), with dumbbells (dumbbell shrug), with a Smith machine (Smith machine shrug), and with a cable machine (cable shrug).

Barbell shrug video



    • Hi, Malcolm. Sounds like you’re not lifting heavy enough weights. Your traps respond to very heavy weights. Hit your traps with very heavy shrugs and farmer’s walks. Try different variations of the shrug, such as the gripless, overhead, and prone incline shrugs. Since these heavy exercises will burn out your grip, use them at the end of your workout. You can also combine shrugs with other exercises, such as the barbell deadlift, in which you do a shrug at the top of each lift. The face pull, rear delt row, bent-over rear lateral raise, and general horizontal pulling exercises will also help to build your traps.

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