Barbell Shrugs

  • Alternative Names: Shoulder shrugs with a barbell, standing barbell shrugs, barbell racked shrugs
  • Type: Strength
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Equipment: Barbell
  • Muscles Targeted: Trapezius, shoulders, upper back
  • Mechanics: Isolation
  • Average Number of Sets: 6-7 with 8-12 reps each
  • Variations: Behind the back, overhead, one arm barbell shrugs
  • Alternative: Dumbbell shrug, upright barbell row

Barbell shrugs are one of the most effective shoulder-building exercises used by wrestlers and powerlifters to strengthen their trapezius muscle and increase stability in their shoulder blades. For maximizing the growth of shoulder and back muscles, barbell shrugs are commonly performed with other exercises like deadlifts, loaded carries, pull-ups, and pulldowns.

Dumbbell Vs. Barbell Shrugs


The barbell shrug is performed by holding the barbell with a wider-than-shoulder-width, pronated grip. On the other hand, the dumbbell variety involves grabbing a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip to your sides.

Weight Lifted

The barbell version allows you to lift heavier than the dumbbell shrug because you use both the hands to stabilize the weight. Lifting heavy, while maintaining good form on the movement, helps you to strengthen and build your traps more.


  • Improves your posture by keeping your upper back upright and shoulders tall.
  • Keeps your traps firm and supports your neck so that the head does not fall forward.
  • Lifting heavier weights improves grip strength.

How to do Barbell Shrugs

Position the safety hooks just below your waist level in a power rack. Load the bar with the desired weight (about 80-130 lbs) and place it on the rack. Stand upright with a shoulder-width stance and grab the bar in front of you with a wider-than-shoulder-width, pronated grip. Contract your traps to raise the shoulder as far as possible, while squeezing hard at the top and holding the position for one second. Lower the shoulders to return to the initial position.

Barbell Shrugs

Shoulder Shrugs with Barbell Tips

  • Look slightly up during the shrugging movement to increase the contraction of your traps.
  • Perform the exercise using wrist wraps for a better grip on the barbell.
  • Limit excessive bouncing or jerking of the weight.
  • Do not use momentum or use your biceps to lift the barbell.


  1. Behind the Back Barbell Shrug: Similar to the traditional barbell shrug except that you hold the weight behind your back.
  2. Overhead Barbell Shrug: Involves bringing the barbell overhead by pushing your traps up.
  3. One Arm Barbell Shrug: Performed by grabbing the barbell with one hand at arm’s length to your side.

Alternative Exercises

  • Dumbbell Shrug
  • Upright Barbell Row

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