Shoulder Shrugs: 3 Proven Benefits And How To Shoulder Shrug

Shoulder shrugs are a popular exercise which stimulate your traps as well as your shoulders and upper arms. The great thing about shoulder shrugs is that they can quickly create more size, strength, and produce better posture, pulling your shoulders back during the scapular retraction, resulting in a well-defined physique.

What Are Shoulder Shrugs

Shoulder shrugs are a resistance training exercise, used for strength and building lean muscle mass. Traditionally performed using dumbbells, or a barbell, shoulder shrugs stimulate your upper back, lats and font, medial, and rear delts. Another effective variation is to use the smith machine, which can provide a heavier assisted load to further stimulate muscle protein synthesis. 

Shoulder Shrugs Muscles Worked

Shoulder shrugs are an amazing exercise, simply for the fact that they work all three muscles of the shoulder. As you roll the weight from the front to the back of the shoulder, you actively target and stimulate the anterior deltoid, lateral deltoids, and posterior deltoids. 

3 Proven Benefits Of Shoulder Shrugs

Whether you’re utilizing  kettlebells, or dumbbells, the shoulder shrug is an isolated movement stimulating the upper traps, however it also benefits the shoulders and neck.

RELATED ARTICLE 5 Best Trap Exercises To Build Bigger Traps

1. Building Strength And Muscle

Like most resistance training exercises, the shoulder shrug will help you build more strength. The upward pulling motion of the shrug contracts the traps, which relax again once the weight is lowered. The shrug fully activates the upper traps, as well as the shoulders which can build a full and strong physique.

With more strength, you’ll also build more muscle mass, which can help develop more power and athletic performance.

2. Better Posture

The main muscles stimulated during a shoulder shrug is the trapezius, which is located on each side of the shoulder and neck. The traps control the movement of your shoulder blades as well your upper back and neck. Strengthening these muscles can help produce better posture, which can pull your neck up and retract your scapula.

3. Reducing Pain

One of the greatest benefits of shoulder shrugs, and lifting weights in general, is reducing chronic pain. A systematic review published in 2017, investigated different exercises for neck pain and found that exercises that targeted the neck and shoulders were significantly effective at reducing neck pain [R].

A study published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, evaluated the effect of implementing strength training at the workplace on non-specific neck and shoulder pain amongst 537 industrial workers. The study found that participants with work related neck pain significantly reduced their pain with resistance training exercises including shoulder shrugs [R].

How To Shoulder Shrug

Watch this video and read our tips to learn how to do shoulder shrugs properly.

  • Start from a standing position, with your feet positioned shoulder width apart.
  • Relax your neck and allow your head to fall forward to feel where the neck stretches and connects to your traps, so that the traps feel loaded.
  • Grabbing a pair of dumbbells, barbell, or kettlebells, leave both arms at your sides, palms facing in
  • Keep your knees slightly bent, hips straight, and back tall
  • With your core tight and chest up, contract your traps and bring your shoulders as high as you can near your ears.
  • Pause for a moment and lower your shoulders back down

Shoulder Shrug Benefits: Takeaway

Should shrugs can provide a great addition to your training program. Studies suggest shoulder shrugs can benefit your health and fitness by increasing strength, building more muscle mass, improving posture, and reducing pain. With a standard set added to your training split, you'll create a stronger well defined physique. 

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Louw, Shereen et al. “Effectiveness of exercise in office workers with neck pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” The South African journal of physiotherapy vol. 73,1 392. 28 Nov. 2017, doi:10.4102/sajp.v73i1.392 

Zebis, M.K., Andersen, L.L., Pedersen, M.T. et al. Implementation of neck/shoulder exercises for pain relief among industrial workers: A randomized controlled trial. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 12, 205 (2011).


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