- Neck: Trapezius muscle
Barbell Shrugs: Basics and alternatives
Involved main muscle groups:
Barbell shrugs are a popular exercise for isolating neck muscles. The move is pretty simple: Just hold a barbell in front of your body with your arms extended and lift the weight by raising your shoulders with your neck.
There are many ways to do this exercise, like dumbbell shrugs, which are common in gyms and offer a more natural movement. You can also try prone incline dumbbell shrugs, or do the exercise using a cable pulley or a resistance band.
An alternative compound exercise that works both the neck and shoulders is the upright row.
Barbell shrugs are relatively easy to perform, but there are different recommendations on how to do them. Some trainers suggest pulling your shoulder blades together as you raise your shoulders, while others recommend just lifting your shoulders up, and some say to move your shoulders toward your ears as you pull them up.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. However, lifting your shoulders up towards your ears creates a slight tightening of the shoulder blades, without overdoing it. So, we’ll describe this variant below.
You can also vary the grip width to focus on different neck muscles. Generally, a shoulder-width grip is recommended, but you can experiment to find what feels best for your body.
Take the barbell from the rack or pick it up from the floor with an overhand grip (back of hand facing forward), shoulder-width apart. Ensure your back isn’t arched and lift the weight using your legs.
With the barbell in your hands, let your arms hang extended in front of your body. This is the starting position.
Lift your shoulders up towards your ears. Hold this position for a few seconds.
Lower the barbell back to the starting position in a controlled manner.
The lifting movement should be done using only your shoulders and neck. Sometimes people lift heavy weights by slightly bending their knees and forcefully extending to move the weight up more easily. This is only recommended if you specifically want to focus on a controlled downward movement.
Like any other exercise, barbell shrugs should be done smoothly and in a controlled manner, without using momentum.