Dumbbell Shrug: Muscle Worked, Benefits, Variations

If you want to build massive traps, then you are in the right place. Here, you will learn how to build massive traps with the dumbbell shrug exercise.

If you neglect your traps and fail to strengthen them alongside the other muscles in your back, it can lead to poor posture, decreased performance, and even injury down the line.

The dumbbell shrug is a great exercise for building shoulder strength, improving posture, and relieving neck and shoulder pain.

In this article, we will discuss the following:

  • What is dumbbell shoulder shrug
  • Benefits of shrug exercise
  • How to do shrug exercises with dumbbells
  • Variations to keep your workout interesting,
  • Tips for incorporating them into your routine.

What Is Dumbbell Shoulder Shrug

Dumbbell shrugs, also known as dumbbell shoulder shrugs, are an isolation exercise that targets the upper trapezius muscle. It is located at the top of your back and responsible for shoulder elevation and neck support.

In this exercise, you lift a pair of dumbbells using your shoulders and make a shrugging motion while keeping your arms straight.

It is a simple yet effective exercise that strengthens the shoulders, upper back, and neck muscles.

Dumbbell shoulder shrugs are suitable for both beginners and pros because they can be performed with a variety of weights.

Dumbbell Shrug Benefits

Here are some of the benefits of dumbbell shrug exercises.

1. Increase Strength And Mass

Dumbbell shoulder shrugs are an excellent exercise for building strength and mass in the upper trapezius, deltoids, rhomboids, and other muscles in the shoulder and upper back region.

2. Reduces neck and shoulder pain

Weak upper back muscles can contribute to neck and shoulder pain. Shoulder shrugs can help reduce pain and discomfort by strengthening these muscles.

Stability & conditioning: It activates all major areas of the shoulders, making it excellent for upper body stability and conditioning.

3. Builds Traps

Traps are tricky to build. There are only a handful of exercises that mainly target your traps. It is one of the best that targets your upper traps.

4. Improves posture

Strengthening the upper back muscles can help improve your posture by pulling your shoulders back and opening up your chest.

It helps build strength in your upper body stabilizer muscle groups, helping you stand up tall and keep your back straight.

5. Enhances athletic performance

Strong shoulders and upper back muscles are essential for many athletic activities, such as throwing, lifting, and swinging.

6. Improved range of motion

Dumbbell shoulder shrugs can help improve the range of motion in your shoulders by increasing flexibility in the upper back muscles.

Muscles worked During Dumbbell shoulder shrug

Dumbbell shoulder shrugs primarily target the upper trapezius muscle.

Muscles worked During Dumbbell shoulder shrug

However, this exercise also works several other muscles in the shoulder and upper back region, including:

  1. Levator scapulae
  2. Rhomboids
  3. Middle Trapezius
  4. Rear Deltoids
  5. Rotator cuff muscles

How To Do Dumbbell Shrug

The dumbbell shrug is a variation and one of the best exercises to build bigger and stronger trapezius muscles.

This exercise can be done with a medium to heavy dumbbell to increase the trap thickness, which will greatly help you in doing back poses.

Being a stubborn muscle group for many, traps can be trained with a fairly high frequency during the week.

Dumbbell Shrugs
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms extended by your sides.
  2. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your core engaged.
  3. Inhale and lift your shoulders towards your ears, making a shrugging motion.
  4. Hold the contraction for a second or two, then exhale and lower your shoulders back down to the starting position.
  5. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions, typically 8-15 reps for 2-3 sets.

Dumbbell Shrug Form and Tips

  • Keep your arms straight throughout the exercise.
  • Avoid rolling your shoulders forward or backward.
  • Focus on lifting your shoulders straight up towards your ears.
  • Don’t hold your breath while performing the exercise.
  • Engage your core and keep your back straight throughout the exercise.
  • Try not to move anything but your shoulders.
  • Inhale when you lower the weight and exhale when you lift.
  • 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. You’ll go higher with each rep.
  • Always select a weight that allows you to have full control of your body throughout the movement.
  • In order to see continual progress and build body strength, incorporate proper warm-ups, rest, and nutrition into your exercise program.

Dumbbell Shrug Variations

Once you’ve practiced the standard dumbbell shrug, consider trying these variations:

1. Incline Dumbbell Shrug

The Incline dumbbell shrug is a variation of trap dumbbell shrug exercises that strengthens the upper part of the trapezius and neck region and also helps to improve posture.

This shrug variation will shift emphasis to the upper traps as well as the upper portion of the middle traps.

Because your chest is pressed against the bench, it will be difficult to use momentum to drive the weight up.

Incline Dumbbell Shrug

How To Do Incline Dumbbell Shrug

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells and straddle an adjustable-incline bench with your feet flat on the floor, or position them on the bench frame to support your body.
  2. Hold the dumbbells with a neutral grip at your sides and lie chest-down on an incline bench.
  3. Slowly shrug your shoulders up toward your ears.
  4. At the top, pause for a moment and contract hard through your traps and rhomboids.
  5. Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position.

2. Seated Dumbbell Shrugs

If you want to focus on your trap muscles and not your core, try this variation of the dumbbell shrug exercise while sitting.

The seated position allows for better isolation of the upper trapezius muscles, leading to greater strength gains in this area.

Seated Dumbbell shrugs

How To Do Seated Dumbbell Shrug

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells and set down on the bench with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Hold the dumbbells with a neutral grip at your sides.
  3. Keeping your body upright, shrug your shoulders as high as you can, shrug your shoulders up toward your ears.
  4. At the top, pause for a moment and slowly lower the weights back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions.

3. Behind-the-back dumbbell shrugs

Place the dumbbells behind your back during the exercise to target your upper traps, middle traps, and rear delts slightly more than a standard dumbbell shrug.

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

Behind-the-back dumbbell shrugs

How To Do Behind-the-back Dumbbell Shrug

  1. Stand up straight with your feet at shoulder width.
  2. Hold a dumbbell with both hands behind your back using a pronated grip (palms facing back)
  3. Raise your shoulders as high as you can, as if trying to touch them to your ears.
  4. Hold momentarily and then breathe in as you relax your shoulders back down.
  5. Repeat for the recommended number of repetitions.

4. Single Arm Dumbbell Shrugs

For a unilateral variation, practice the single-arm dumbbell shrug by lifting one arm at a time.

Performing one-arm dumbbell shrugs allows for greater isolation of the trapezius muscles on one side of the body at a time.

As the arm is free to move independently and not restricted by the other arm or a barbell, it allows for a greater range of motion than other variations.

Single Arm Dumbbell Shrugs

How To Do Single-arm Dumbbell Shrug

  • Hold a dumbbell in one hand with your feet at shoulder width.
  • Let the dumbbell hang down at arm’s length at your side with palm facing your body (neutral grip).
  • Raise your shoulder as high as you can, (imagine trying to touch your ear with your shoulder).
  • Squeeze for a brief moment at the top, and then slowly lower all the way back down to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired reps, then switch sides.

How To Incorporate Dumbbell Shrug Exercises Into Your Workout Routine

Here are some tips for adding this exercise to your workouts:

1. Add Optimum No Of Sets And Reps:

A good starting point is to perform 3–4 sets of 8–12 reps.

However, you can adjust the number of sets and reps according to your fitness level and goals.

2. During Workout Splits

You can perform shrug exercises as part of an upper body or during Push Pull Leg workout Split.

3. During your shoulder and Upper body workout

Dumbbell shrugs can be included in your shoulder workout routine alongside other exercises such as overhead press, lateral raise, and front raise.

4. Frequency

You can do trap exercises once or twice a week.

However, it is important to allow your muscles to recover between workouts in order to maximize results.

I. During Shoulder Workout

1Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press3-48-12
2Standing Dumbbell Lateral Raise3-410-15
3Dumbbell Shrug310-12
4Front Plate Raise312-15
5Upright Row310-12

II. During Pull Workout Split

2Bent Over Barbell Rows3-48-10
3Dumbbell Shrug310-12
4Bicep Curls (with dumbbells or barbell)312-15
5Hammer Curls310-12
6Dumbbell Shrug312-15

III. During Upper Body Workout

1Bench Press (with barbell or dumbbells)3-48-10
2Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press3-48-12
3Dumbbell Shrug3-410-12
4Lat Pulldowns (with machine or bar)3-410-12
5Cable Tricep Pushdowns312-15
6Bicep Curls (with dumbbells or barbell)312-15

Dumbbell shrug alternative

If you’re looking for an alternative to dumbbell shrugs, here are some options:

1. Barbell Shrugs

Instead of using dumbbells, you can use a barbell to perform shrugs. This exercise is similar to the dumbbell shrug but allows you to use heavier weights.

2. Cable Shrugs

Using a cable machine, you can perform cable shrugs by standing facing the machine and grabbing the handles with an overhand grip. You can adjust the weight to provide the resistance you need.

3. Farmer’s Walk

This is a full-body exercise that can work your traps as well as your grip strength. Simply grab a heavy pair of dumbbells or kettlebells and walk a certain distance while holding them.

4. Face Pulls

This exercise targets your upper back, traps, and rear deltoids. To do it, attach a rope to a cable machine and stand facing it.

Pull the rope towards your face, making sure to keep your elbows high.

5. Upright Rows

The upright row focuses more on the upper portion of the trapezius muscle. Use a barbell or cable machine and pull the weight up towards your chin while keeping your elbows high.


What do dumbbell shrug work?

The dumbbell shrugs work the upper trapezius muscles in the upper back and shoulders. However, they also engage other muscles such as the rhomboids, levator scapulae, and deltoids to a lesser degree.

Dumbbell shrugs can help to improve shoulder and upper back strength, posture, and athletic performance.

Can you do dumbbell shrugs sitting?

Yes, If you want to focus on your shoulder and back muscles and not core stabilization, try this seated dumbbell shrug.

Are dumbbell shrugs effective?

Yes, dumbbell shrug is a simple but very effective exercise. With proper form, dumbbell shrugs can build your upper back and shoulder muscles.

How Many Sets and Reps Should I Do For Dumbbell Shrugs?

Aim for 3 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 3 sets of 20 repetitions, 2–3 times a week.


Dumbbell shoulder shrugs can be added to your workout routine to boost the strength of your neck, or upper back muscles, or improve your posture.

Choose a weight that allows you to maintain good technique throughout all sets and repetitions.

It is easy to do and requires no more scientific details. If done consistently, the results will speak by themselves.

Thanks for reading!


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