How to Do Power Shrug Properly

The power shrug is a great exercise to build your upper back muscles, shoulders and neck. It can also help relieve tension in these areas.

It is a great exercise to add to your routine if you have a job or lifestyle that has you stooping, like a desk job.

Shrug exercises are versatile enough to be done anywhere and can be changed depending on your strength. Power shrugs are done with barbells.

To do this exercise:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grab a barbell with an overhand grip on the handle and place it against your mid-thigh.
  • Pull your upper arms back into your shoulder as far as you can. It should feel like a shrug where you’re rounding your shoulders backwards.
  • Keep your back neutral and posture rigid. Your arms should remain straight. Tighten your abs and glutes.
  • When you lower your shoulders, this completes one rep.
  • Aim for 10 reps in three sets.


The main muscle targeted by the power shrug is the trapezius muscle.


The trapezius, commonly known as the traps, is a large muscle found on the upper back.

It is shaped like a trapezoid and runs from the bottom of your skull to the lowest end of your ribs. Sideways they run from the spine to the shoulder blades.

The traps are made up of the upper, middle and lower traps.

The upper traps originate from the top of the spine and the back of your head. They run downward and sideways into your collarbone.

They help lift your shoulder blade, move your neck and prevent it from twisting.

The middle traps originate below the neck. They extend sideways towards the shoulder blade. They help with scapular retraction and keep your shoulders stable when pushing or pulling items horizontally, such as doors.

The lower traps originate from the T4-T12 vertebrae and meet near the scapular. They help with lowering the shoulder blades.




Strengthening your traps and the tendons and ligaments in your upper back area helps reduce the risk of neck pain.

Shoulder shrugs have been shown to successfully manage chronic neck pain.

If you have work-related neck pain, adding power shrugs to your routine can help minimize the risk.


Strengthening your traps helps keep your shoulders and shoulder blades stable during other workouts such as deadlifts.

High-impact sports can also cause huge blows to the body. Strong traps keep your shoulders and neck safe from impact.

Strong traps also protect the spine which can help reduce the weakening effects of ageing on the spine.


Many sports require a lot of hand motions such as pushing, pulling, throwing, bending or shooting.

When you have strengthened traps these movements will be faster, stronger and more dynamic. This helps boost your performance as an athlete.


Big strong straps can be aesthetically appealing. They can create a tapering effect to a man’s back that is fun and easy to tailor outfits for and creates a balanced broad-shouldered look.


1.      DEADLIFT

The deadlift is a great power shrug alternative that works the traps as well as the lower body muscles.

They are great for stimulating the traps.

To do this exercise:

  • Stand with a barbell about a foot away from your feet. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
  • Expand your chest and hinge your hips and lean forward.
  • Grasp the handle of the barbell with an overhand grip.
  • Dig into your heels and push your hips up to get into a standing position.
  • Hold the bar at your hips or slightly below. Keep your back straight, and your legs and knees extended.
  • Hinge your hips, pushing them back to lower the bar and get back to the starting position.
  • Do up to five sets of six reps.


To do this exercise:

  • Place dumbbells beside your feet.
  • Hinge your hips and bend your knees to collect the dumbbells. Deadlift them by lengthening your hips and knees. Ensure your spine remains neutral.
  • Hold the dumbbells at your side and keep your back straight.
  • Focus on one spot ahead of you and walk forward at a steady pace.
  • Set a goal for how many steps you want to take. When completed, bend your knees to place the dumbbells on the ground.
  • Tighten your core through all the movements.
  • Rest for about 60s then repeat as desired.


To do this exercise:

  • Stand upright with the barbell resting just ahead of the tips of your toes.
  • Hinge your waist to bend over and grip the barbell.
  • Keep your hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Engage your core and keep your back straight. Exhale then lift until your shoulders are slightly above your hips.
  • Pull the barbell towards your chest until it almost makes contact. Your elbows should rise higher than your torso. Inhale when you lower the bar to the lowest point of the row.
  • Lower the bar to the starting position.
  • Ensure your back remains straight.


Avoid spending excessive amounts of time on building your traps. Overdeveloped traps can lead to neck pain, back pain, poor posture and limited mobility.

Over-active traps also make you fail to develop other muscles while exercising. They take over other lifting exercises and can reduce the effectiveness of your workouts.

If you are shrugging the barbell while standing between safety pins, the barbell shouldn’t bounce over them. This should only happen when you start the exercise and when you end it.

Avoid flexing your triceps when doing shrugs. Keep your arms extended to ensure the traps get the workout.

Keep your shoulder blades retracted. Only shrug upwards and downwards.

Don’t extend your back when shrugging. Keep your spine neutral, tighten your core and bring your ribcage down.

While the effectiveness of the power shrug is noticed more with heavier weights, work up to very heavier weights. Try to stay within a healthy limit until you build your strength.

Add wrist straps and coat your fingers with chalk if you’re struggling with grip.

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