How to Do Shoulder Shrugs Properly

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Proper form for a shoulder shrug exercise. (Image: LIVESTRONG.COM)

Shoulder shrugs target your upper trapezius muscles, also known as the traps. In colloquial gym language, well-developed upper traps are often called a yoke. Located on your upper back and across the back of your shoulders, big, strong traps can be useful in contact sports such as wrestling, football, hockey, boxing and rugby as they provide essential support for your neck -- an important factor for injury prevention. From an aesthetic point of view, well-developed upper traps result in a powerful-looking physique, and many bodybuilders work hard to develop this muscle. Of all the exercises you can perform for your upper traps, one of the most common is the shrug.

Step 1

With a dumbbell in each hand and your arms by your sides, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees slightly for balance and keep your arms straight. The dumbbells should be facing your thighs.

Step 2

Stand up straight in good posture. Lift your chest, inhale and, keeping your arms straight, shrug your shoulders straight up toward your ears as high as you can. Hold this uppermost position for one to two seconds. Do not roll your shoulders backward, which does nothing for your upper traps and may result in a shoulder injury.

Step 3

Exhale and lower your shoulders back down but do not fully relax. Inhale and perform another repetition. Perform six to 12 repetitions in total -- the last few repetitions should be challenging but still completed in good form.

Tip

Perform this exercise with a barbell instead of dumbbells for variation.

Warning

Do not use your legs or back to jerk the weight up as this can lead to injury.

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