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Barbell Shrugs

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I often get asked, "What do you do for your traps?" It's usually by some guy who is standing in front of a bar loaded with way to much weight for him to handle properly. Of all the exercises I can think of, Barbell shrugs is the one that people tend to cheat themselves the most on.

I think the inherint problem is the fact that it's hard to tell where the finishing point of the exercise is. It also stems from the fact that people want to impress others around them by lifting heavy weights and it's always pounded into our heads, "Lift as heavy as possible. Always try to go heavier!"

With bench press, it's easy to tell if you've completed the movement. You take the bar down to your chest and then back up until your arms are fully extended. But what about shrugs? Haven't you seen the skinny guy (maybe it's you) who loads the bar down with four 45's on each side and then just simply wiggles the bar up and down with miniscule movement for a few seconds before he racks it? These are the guys who always ask how my traps got so big. When I'm working in with them, I'll sometimes even take off a plate and do really slow full range movements where I hold the top position for a split second before lowering the weight back. "Dude, I want traps like that!" Then, oblivious to the obvious, they load more weight on!

When shrugging, you do want to go as heavy as possible. You also want to try and increase your weights, just like with any other exercise. However, do not allow yourself to limit your range of motion. Shrugging is such a limited range of motion exercise anyway, that you need to get as much out of it as possible.

I take a slightly forward lean and round my shoulders at the bottom of the movement letting the bar hang as low as I can. Then on the way up, I don't use my arms, but rather just pinch my traps up as high as I can maintaining my body lean. Remember it is a very slight lean. I am just slightly ahead of vertical. At the top, I hold the weight for just a split second and squeeze my traps before lowering the weight back down. I usually do 4 sets of Barbell shrugs.

I always had the problem of weak traps until I learned to back off the weight and concentrate on the movement. If you've been wanting bigger traps, maybe it's time to evaluate your exercise performance.

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