Shrugs are a staple in most athletes’ workouts. Why? Because you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t want bigger and more intimidating traps. Technically called the trapezius muscle, this large muscle travels along your mid and upper spine and attaches to your shoulder, covering a large portion of your mid and upper back. When you do Shrugs, you specifically target the upper traps, which are the portion that sits just above your collarbone and moves into your neck.
But is there a better way than performing old-school Barbell or Dumbbell Shrugs? I’ve been experimenting with Shrug variations and have found the following two exercises to be quite effective for developing a set of imposing traps.
Band-Resisted Trap Bar Shrugs
With any Shrug variation, we must remember the range of motion is very small so it’s often possible to lift massive amounts of weight. However, many people perform them in a forward hunched position with rolled shoulders, which only reinforces poor posture and shoulder mechanics.
I like using the Trap Bar over a barbell because your hands are to your sides, which allows for a better shoulder position—a barbell in front naturally wants to pull you forward. From this point, all you need to do is shrug your shoulders straight up and then slowly lower the weight.
If using the trap bar alone is too easy, attach light- to medium-weight resistance bands to the bar and stand on the center of the bands as shown in the video above. This adds accommodating resistance, challenging your traps through the full range of motion. And of course, you can add plates to the trap bar as you continue to get stronger.
Whenever doing Zercher Squats throw these in your program. Load the bar the same way when getting ready to perform Zercher Squats. The key here is to lock the bar in tight to your body and keep your core tight to prevent your shoulders from rolling forward. This is an excellent way to build your traps and upper-body musculature as a whole. It’s also an incredible exercise for building a strong core.
These two shoulder workouts will build your traps to protect the neck and help you function through life and your sport.