Cable Shrug: Complete Exercise Guide

If you want to build a big trap and search for the cable shrug exercise, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about 

  • How to perform the cable shrug correctly.
  • You will learn its benefits,
  • How to avoid common mistakes and
  • Its variations
  • You will also learn some of the best alternatives to it.

What Is Cable Shrug

Cable shrugs, or cable shoulder shrugs, are isolation exercises targeting your trapezius muscles specifically the upper trap.

It is one of the best variations of the shoulder shrug and one of the best upper trap cable exercises.

If you do cable shrug to strengthen and balance the muscles in your traps, your overall performance will improve, and you can lift even more weight.

Cable Shrug
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Muscles Worked During Cable Shrug

  • The main muscles worked during the cable shrug are the upper traps.
  • The secondary muscle (synergist Muscles) worked during is a middle trap.
  • Likewise, shrugs train the levator scapulae, a muscle you can feel if you put your hand on the side of your neck.
  • The stabilizer muscles worked during shrug are core and erector spinae.

How To Do Shrug With Cable

  1. Grab a cable bar attachment that is attached to a low pulley.
  2. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart or slightly wider if you wish.
  3. Your hands should be facing down.
  4. Stand close to the pulley and extend your arms in front of you while holding the bar.
  5. Stand up straight with your arms fully extended and the weight slightly off the stack.
  6. Keep your back straight and your core engaged.
  7. Exhale and raise your shoulders, and lift the bar as high as you possibly can.
  8. Hold the contraction at the top for a second.
  9. Then, inhale and slowly lower your shoulders back to the starting position.
  10. Repeat for the desired number of reps, typically in the range of 8-12, for muscle building.
Cable Shrug

How Many Sets and Reps Should I Do?

Aim for 3–4 sets of 8–10 repetitions to start. You can increase the number of reps as you build up your shoulder strength.

Over time, try working up to do 4–5 sets of 20 repetitions, 2–3 times a week.

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Foam and Tips For Doing Cable Shrug

  • Try not to move anything but your shoulders.
  • Inhale when you lower the weight and exhale when you lift.
  • Avoid rolling your shoulders forward or backward, which can lead to strain.
  • Adding a pause at the top of the movement can help to enhance the mind-muscle connection.
  • Limit momentum and excessive jerking or bouncing of the weight.
  • Resist the urge to sink your neck into your shoulders by keeping your chin up.
  • Keep your movements controlled, especially during the lowering phase.
  • Always select a weight that gives you full body control throughout the movement.
  • Incorporate proper warm-ups, rest, and nutrition to see continual progress and build body strength.
  • Prevent from rolling your shoulders, as this is an incorrect form which can result in injury.

Cable Shrug Exercises Benefits

  • Cable shrugs are one of the most effective ways to increase hypertrophy in the upper back, mainly the traps.
  • Cable workouts work the trap in a way that makes them excellent for upper-body stability and conditioning.
  • You will improve your position and protect yourself from injury by doing upright rows and shrugs.
  • Traps are difficult to build, and only a few exercises primarily target your traps. A cable trap shrug is one of the exercises that can help you build bigger traps.
  • It helps to strengthen upper body stabilizer muscle groups.
  • Strengthen your traps and neck muscles, which will increase the activation of your shoulder muscles.

Best Variations Of Cable Shrugs

The cable shrugs can be done in different ways to suit your fitness level.

If you’re new to doing cable shoulder shrugs, you may want to make the exercise easier by doing a few things differently.

  • One way to solve this problem is to do one-arm cable shrugs.
  • Another is to use a lighter weight.

If you are looking for a more advanced variation to stimulate different muscle fibers in the trap, then try

  • A cable shrug behind the back.
  • A cable side shrug.
  • You could make it more challenging by using heavier weights

1. One Arm Cable Shrug

The single-arm side shrug is also a good exercise to include in your training, as it allows you to focus on one side and forces the core muscle to engage.

This helps to develop stability. Some people may even feel a better trap contraction with this variation. 

2. Behind The Back Cable Shrugs

Behind the back, cable shrugs are variations that are performed by holding the bar behind your thighs. It helps to strengthen the upper and middle trap muscles.

For complete trap development, include both the front and reverse versions in your training regimen.

Having the bar behind you helps keep your shoulders pulled up and back rather than rounded forward.

Behind The Back Cable Shrug

How To Do Behind The Back Cable Shrug

  1. Stand up straight while holding a bar with an overhand grip (palms facing back) behind your thighs.
  2. Your hands and your feet should be positioned shoulder-width apart.
  3. Lift your shoulders up toward your ears as high as possible while keeping your arms straight.
  4. The contraction should be held at the top for a second.
  5. Slowly lower the bar to its starting position.

3. Side Cable Shrug

If you plan to use cables, you need to add the cable side shrug to your workout routine. There are several reasons for this.

  • It allows you to use heavier weights overall, as you have one whole weight stack for each arm.
  • Your arms are naturally away from your body, which is perfect for getting a bigger muscle contraction.
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Best Alternate Of Cable Shrug

Before we discuss the best cable shrug alternatives, we must remember that a good alternative to the shrug will be able to satisfy the following criteria:

  • Activate the trap muscle groups, which are trained in the cable shoulder shrug.
  • Isolate the muscle groups during execution
  • Train the trap muscle through a wider range of motion.

1. Cable Upright Row

The upright row is a movement that targets many of the large muscles in the upper back and shoulders, which is key for many movements (see below) in strength, power, and fitness sports.

The cable exercise targets all the upper, middle, and lower trap muscles.

Cable upright rows are an exercise that nearly everyone can do using various grip widths.

2. Face Pull

Face pull is a cable machine exercise that primarily targets the rear deltoid and, to a lesser degree, also targets the biceps, triceps, and traps.

Use a cable pulley machine to pull the weight straight toward your forehead.

This exercise prevents muscular imbalance and builds overall shoulder strength.


Are Cable Shrugs Good?

Yes, the cable shrug is a good exercise for training the trapezius muscles. The primary muscle group activated during cable shrugs are your upper trapezius muscles.

It is a great way to strengthen your upper back muscles, build traps, and improve posture.


The cable side shrug is a great exercise that will build trap muscle

If you want to maximize your trap workout, we think you should also use free weights and even machines with many of the same benefits.

Here are many other exercises to train the upper trap.

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