Get a Stronger Upper Back and Shoulders with the Barbell Shrug Exercise: A Guide

Barbell Shrug Exercise
Barbell Shrug Exercise
Image Credit: Renshaw’s Personal Training (video below on post)

If you’re looking to strengthen your upper back and shoulder muscles, the barbell shrug is an exercise that can help you achieve that goal. It is a simple yet effective exercise that involves lifting a barbell with added weight, shrugging your shoulders, and lowering the bar back down.

However, there is more to this exercise than meets the eye. Let’s explore the benefits, muscle groups targeted, equipment needed, steps to perform the exercise, and mistakes to avoid.

Benefits of the Barbell Shrug

The benefits of the barbell shrug go beyond just building upper back and shoulder muscles. This exercise can improve posture, reduce the risk of neck and shoulder injuries, and even help to prevent back pain.

So by strengthening the trapezius muscles, you can maintain better neck stability and reduce the strain on your neck and shoulders. Strong shoulders are also important for many other upper-body exercises, such as bench presses and overhead presses.

What Body Parts are Impacted by the Barbell Shrug

The barbell shrug primarily targets the trapezius muscles but also works the upper back’s rhomboid and elevator scapulae muscles. The deltoid muscles on the tops of your shoulders also get engaged during the exercise.

You can develop a more defined and powerful upper back and shoulder area by working these muscles.

Equipment You Need to do the Barbell Shrug

To do the barbell shrug, you will need a barbell and weight plates. You can use a straight barbell or an Olympic barbell, depending on your preference.

It’s essential to choose the right weight that is appropriate for your strength level and that you have proper form when lifting. You will also need a weight bench or a lifting platform to stand on while doing the exercise.

Steps for Doing the Barbell Shrug

Here are some more detailed steps on how to perform the exercise with proper form:

Step 1: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointing forward.

Step 2: Hold the barbell with an overhand grip, with your hands placed slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

Step 3: Lift the barbell by straightening your legs, keeping your back straight, and lifting with your legs and hips.

Step 4: Once you’re standing upright with the barbell, shrug your shoulders upwards towards your ears as high as you can.

Step 5: Hold the position for a few seconds and lower your shoulders back.

Step 6: Lower the barbell back down to the starting position.

Here is a video for completing the tricep extension exercise.

Mistakes to Avoid while doing the Barbell Shrug

There are some common mistakes to avoid while doing this exercise to get the most out of it. Here are a few to watch out for:

Rounding your back: Keep your back straight throughout the exercise. Rounding your back can strain your spine unnecessarily and lead to injury.

Lifting with your arms: This is a leg and hip-dominant exercise. You should be using your legs and hips to lift the weight, not your arms. If you’re using your arms to lift the weight, you’re not getting the full benefit of the exercise.

Lifting too heavy: The barbell shrug is not an exercise where you should be lifting heavy weights. You want to focus on form and proper technique rather than how much weight you can lift.


The barbell shrug is a simple exercise that can provide numerous benefits when performed with proper form and technique. It is a great addition to any upper body workout routine and can help improve posture, reduce the risk of injury, and build strong and defined upper back and shoulder muscles.

So, grab a barbell, add some weight, and give the barbell shrug a try!

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  1. Pingback: The Barbell Shoulder Press: Get Your Shoulders In Shape - The Go To Website For Fitness Learning

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