Do you know what a shoulder shrug is? If you just responded by making the classic “I don’t know” gesture (palms up and shoulders lifted up toward your ears), then believe it or not you’ve already got part of the movement down!

In all seriousness, the shoulder shrug is a great movement to isolation the trapezius, a large muscle located on the back of your neck, shoulders, and upper back. You actually have 2 of these muscles sitting on the left and right side of your spine, like mirror images of each other. Each “trap” has an upper, middle, and lower portion. Together, these muscles help stabilize and move the shoulder blades as well as extend the neck.

Developing the strength of your trapezius muscles is important for maintaining the integrity of your shoulders and upper back. Plus, it can give you that sexy, strong, “yoked” profile that many of us are after. While many strength-training movements can help activate your traps, the shoulder shrug is probably your go-to move for specific isolation.

You May Also Like: Exercise to Boost Mental Health

Strengthening Your Inner Trap Queen (or King): How to Perform a Shoulder Shrug

Just because a shoulder shrug movement is simple doesn’t mean you shouldn’t worry whether you’re doing it correctly or not. Performing a shrug with improper form can lead to injury and pain in your neck or shoulders. Here’s how to do them right every time:

  1. Stand with your feet under your hips and your arms by your side, holding a dumbbell in each hand (palms facing in). Breathe in.
  2. Breathe out. As you do so, elevate your shoulders up toward your ears, and hold for a second at the top.
  3. Slowly lower your shoulders back to their starting position. Try 3 sets of 10 reps with a weight that’s heavy enough to make the last 2 to 3 reps super difficult.

Your arms should stay perfectly straight the entire time. Don’t use your biceps, legs, or back to “jerk” the dumbbells up. Don’t roll your shoulders forward or back–simply lift them straight up and down.
Lastly, don’t stick your head forward. This can put a ton of strain on your cervical spine. Instead, keep your chin tucked and your gaze forward.

Choosing the Right Trap Tools


Shoulder shrugs can be performed with a pair of dumbbells, a barbell, or a set of cables. Keep in mind that adjusting the tools you’re using may require some minor adjustments of your stance and grip. For an extra challenge to your trapezius muscles and core, try doing one shoulder at a time.
For you ladies out there, don’t be afraid that shoulder shrugs will make you look too “yoked.” You can still count on getting a gorgeous well-defined profile with the help of this simple yet challenging movement.

And for the guys? Go ahead: feel free to get as yoked as you want.