Today’s subject seems rather mundane… I mean shrugs, really? You grab the heaviest dumbbells you can find and perform short, jerky motions, right? Yes, that is pretty much how shrugs are done in every gym I have ever set foot in. It’s a pretty cool exercise, you get to move 5 plates on the barbell, make a lot of noise, enforce your tough athlete image and best of all, you really can’t mess it up… or that’s what people believe.

First of all, when people do shrugs, they tend to think only about the small area that’s actually visible toward the ears (unless you are Johnny Jackson, then that area is huge). But if you do your research and take a look at an image of your traps, you will notice that the traps are quite big and cover a large part of your back. So you must break the training down into upper and lower traps to get fully developed traps. Regular shrugs, shrugs with chest support on a bench and reverse shrugs at the cable pull down would be a good combination.

Secondly, the traps elevate and lower the shoulder blades, so rolling the shoulders back and forth is not a good idea. Get a feeling for moving your shoulder blades without engaging the arms.

Thirdly, when training your traps, the weight that you are lifting is secondary to being able to feel the muscles. Too many trainees perform shrugs like they are having some sort of an epileptic seizure in order to move a large amount of weight. Again, focus on the squeeze and the stretch.

What’s the pay off for well-developed traps? If you are a football player, wrestler or boxer, it will save you from spinal injuries. As a bodybuilder or regular weightlifter, traps are crucial for shoulder health.

So there you have it: the rundown of an exercise everyone thinks they know yet hardly does it right.

Until next time,
Maik Wiedenbach