How to Perform Barbell Shrugs the Right Way for Big Traps

With all exercises, there’s a right way and a wrong way. In fact, there can be a few different ‘right and wrong ways’ to perform an exercise. The same goes for the wrong way. I want to talk about a specific exercise: barbell shrugs for big traps.

I don’t want to sound like ‘that guy’ that’s pointing out everyone else’s faults in the gym. I typically keep my mouth shut. But it does give me the opportunity blog about it and provide some insight.

My intent isn’t to slam anyone. Rather, it’s to help you or anyone that may have questions on how to perform barbell shrugs, or any exercise in general.

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What Are Barbell Shrugs?

I’ll go over the preliminaries first. If you’re a seasoned lifter, you can skip to the next section below.

Barbell shrugs (some just call them shoulder shrugs) directly target your trapezius muscles. These muscles are better known as traps. I often use the pun ‘Do you feel trapt?‘ – yes, I know that’s a horrible pun! Anyway, they’re the muscles between your neck and your shoulders.

Traps are considered by many to be show-muscles. But part of bodybuilding and physique transformation, whether you do it professionally or recreationally, is having a balanced physique. So on that note, I think it’s important to work them directly. And a nice set of traps look pretty cool.

Barbell Shrugs: The Wrong Way

First, lets’ go over a few “don’ts” with barbell shrugs. Some of these many sound like common sense, but we don’t always realize we’re doing something incorrectly until we’re show.

  • Don’t do more weight than you can handle
  • Don’t jerk the weight up
  • Don’t let the weight just fall on the descent
  • Don’t do half-reps
  • Don’t round your back
  • Don’t slump your shoulders
  • Don’t bend your elbows to move the weight up

You want to start out with a lighter weight and work your way up. I see many people doing too much weight so they end up doing half-reps or poor form (or both). You’re not getting the full benefit of barbell shrugs or even worse, poor form can lead to injury.

Perform Barbell Shrugs the Right Way

Now let’s get to the good stuff. I want to go over some tips on how to perform barbell shrugs the right way. This will give you all the benefits of this exercise and will help you build big traps.

Barbell Shrugs up

  • Stay focused and keep your body tight
  • Force your traps to pull the weight rather than momentum
  • Control the weight on the descent
  • Keep a slight arch in your lower back
  • Keep your shoulders back and look straight ahead

Follow these simple rules for barbell shrugs and you’ll build big traps. Remember, it’s not about the amount of weight you’re using; it’s how you perform the exercise. I’m all about feeling the muscle during each rep and forcing that muscle to do the work.

Hopefully these tips help you in your quest for big traps. You can also integrate barbell shrugs with dumbbell shrugs, which can be equally effective. And I’ll probably talk about that in a future post.

Train with Passion,


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