There’s one rule of thumb when doing shoulder shrugs with or without the use of dumbbells or other forms of resistance: don’t roll your shoulders! Rolling your shoulders is a big “no-no” while performing shoulder shrug exercises and can limit the effectiveness of the exercise while increasing the possibility of injury. Instead, focus on proper form and technique to increase your strength, bulk and definition in your trapezius muscles with shoulder shrugs.
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Shoulder shrugs focus on building up the trapezius muscles, and can be performed using dumbbells or a barbell. When using dumbbells, start by planting your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your body. Simply raise your shoulders straight up toward the ceiling slowly and with control, pause at the top of the movement, then lower your shoulders back to the start position.
Rolling Your Shoulders
According to ExRx.net, there is no point in rolling your shoulders while performing shoulder shrugs. Rolling your shoulders creates a horizontal motion that is perpendicular to gravity rather than the up-and-down motion created by shrugging the shoulders that uses gravity as resistance to better work the muscle.
Avoiding rolling your shoulders is rule number one when performing shoulder shrugs, but there are other issues of technique that should be followed to avoid injury. The focus of the shoulder shrug movement is the upper trapezius. The middle and lower traps should not be engaged during this exercise by pulling the shoulder blades together because doing so decreases the focus on the upper traps and minimizes the overall effectiveness of the movement.
If your dumbbells are exceptionally heavy, consider performing the shoulder shrug with wrist straps until you adapt to the weight. This will allow you to get a better grip on the barbells and avoid inadvertently hurting yourself by straining your forearms. For exceptionally heavy weight, it may also be helpful to wear a weight belt for more support and to protect your lower back. If you do strain your shoulders or forearms, stop the exercise and rest the muscles. If pain persists, contact your doctor.