Shoulder shrugs are one of the best and most popular exercises for strengthening the shoulder muscles. This exercise can be done anywhere and is perfect for all fitness levels, as it can be modified as per the individual's strength. You can perform it as a bodyweight exercise or add weights to increase the challenge.
Shoulder shrugs are particularly beneficial for people with sitting jobs that lead to poor posture and slumped shoulders. Regular shoulder shrug workouts not only strengthen the shoulders but work equally on the muscles in the neck and upper back and eases pain and tension.
How to perform shoulder shrugs correctly?
Here’s how you can do shoulder shrugs with weights:
Step 1: Stand in a split stance position with your back straight. Hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands. Keep your hands neutral, and place your thumbs around the dumbbells, keeping the palms facing the body.
Step 2: Rest the dumbbells on your thighs, and make sure the elbows are completely extended. Keep your upper body rigid by engaging the core and abdominal muscles.
Step 3: Pull your shoulders down and back, and maintain the position throughout the exercise. Remember to keep your neck and head in line with the back.
Step 4: Start the upward shrug movement by moving the shoulders up without bending the elbow or rotating the shoulders. As you shrug, avoid arching your lower back, and make sure to keep your hands straight without bending.
Step 5: Move your shoulders down by lowering the dumbbells back to their starting position. As you do that, keep your elbows extended, and use a neutral grip position. Moreover, keep the torso, wrist and shoulders positioned correctly, and maintain your foot position.
Initially, aim for two sets of ten reps. Increase the reps as you develop shoulder strength. When you do so, aim for three sets of 15-20 reps, thrice a week.
If you're a beginner or doing this exercise to alleviate pain, begin without weights. Perform fewer reps and sets to learn the correct form and most importantly, to avoid pinched nerves or strains.
Shoulder shrugs: Muscles worked
This exercise particularly targets the trapezius muscles. The trapezius is a large muscle located in the upper back either side of the neck and attaches to the base of the skull. The main function of the trapezius is to control the movement of the shoulder blades, neck and upper back.
The secondary muscles that get targeted are the serratus anterior, biceps and rhomboids. Training these muscles encourages proper posture and also helps stabilize the neck and upper back. A strong trapezius also helps with everyday movements, including sitting, bending and lifting.
What are the benefits?
When done correctly, shoulder shrugs offer a variety of benefits, including:
- Improved posture
- Increased upper back stability
- Increased neck muscle stability
- Increased shoulder strength and stability
- Reduced tension in neck and shoulder muscles
- Reduced chronic shoulder, upper back and neck pain
Tips to remember
Although performing this shoulder exercise is easy, there are some precautions you must take to prevent pain and injuries, especially if you're a novice.
When doing this exercise, avoid rolling your shoulders, as that can put a strain on the muscles. That's particularly important if you're doing shrugs with dumbbells or any other free weight. Make sure that you slowly and carefully lift your shoulders before bringing them down.
Overall, shrugs are an incredible and effective exercise to improve shoulder strength and stability. However, if you’ve recently recovered from an injury or have chronic pain in the neck, upper back or shoulders, consult your doctor before doing this exercise. Do not perform shrugs if you feel constant pain and discomfort.