Shoulder Strength with Nebraska Football

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Building up the muscles around your neck does more than make it hard to find a well-fitting button-down. According to Dave Kennedy, head football strength and conditioning coach for the University of Nebraska, producing massively strong traps also wards off dreaded stingers.

"Usually, a stinger results from taking a blow to the side of the head," Kennedy says. "The traps play an important role in neck stabilization and injury prevention. If your traps are strong, your neck won't be rocked as hard during a big hit, which prevents stretching a nerve—and any hint of a stinger."

To build up the Cornhuskers' traps, Kennedy has them perform Barbell Shrugs and Seated Dumbbell Shrugs twice a week in the off-season. Because this muscle group is so powerful, Kennedy preaches using as much weight as possible without losing form or range of motion. For athletes who have a history of stingers, he suggests using barbells because they allow you to load a heavier weight.

Sets/Reps for both lifts: 4x20
Rest Time: As soon as you are ready to handle the next load

Barbell Shrugs

• Stand with barbell at thigh level
• Grip barbell at hip width with palms facing thighs
• Shrug shoulders toward ears; hold for half count
• Lower shoulders to start position

Payoff: With the barbell, you can load a lot more weight.

Seated Dumbbell Shrugs

• Sit on bench
• Hold dumbbells with palms facing inward and arms fully extended
• Shrug shoulders toward ears; hold for half count
• Lower shoulders to start position

Payoff: Eliminates the excessive load on the lower back while providing strength in the traps for neck stabilization.

Kennedy's Keys

• Keep your back flat and head forward
• Load as much weight as possible without restricting range of motion
• Pause at the top to make sure you get a full load and aren't moving too quickly
• Never roll your shoulder joint at the top of the shrug; it's unnecessary movement
• When you're shrugging a heavy weight, use wrist straps

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock