Dumbbell Shrugs - Trapezoid Exercise

Dumbbell Shrugs - Trapezoid Exercise

In this lesson you will learn how to do dumbbell shrugs. The dumbbell shrug is an exercise for the traps (trapezoid muscles), which are located at the sides and the back of your neck. Most bodybuilders don't do this exercise very often, because free weight exercises (e.g. the barbell deadlift) partially also train the neck muscles. However, the traps are important for boxers and of course for bodybuilders who lack neck muscle development. You can do dumbbell shrugs standing on both feet like shown here, or sitting on a bench. For more info read the description below. Shrugs can also be done with a barbell, elastic bands or other equipment. Find more back exercises at weight training and bodybuilding.


  • Stand upright and hold two dumbbells at your sides. The legs are closed, so that the thighs don't block the weights from moving. Bend your knees slightly and look straight forward (preferable into a mirror). You can also do this exercise sitting on a bench. Either way you have to keep your upper back straight. Don't hollow your back, don't lean forward. The arms are extended and the palms face your legs.
  • Shrug your shoulders up and exhale at the same time. Keep your arms vertical and don't move your knees or your back. Only move your shoulders. At the highest point, the traps (trapezoid muscles) are fully contracted. I recommend you only move your shoulders up and down vertically. Some people like to circle the shoulders, but circling the shoulders does not train the traps from a different angle. That's just bad for the shoulders and in addition you would automatically move your back -> Bad for spinal disks.
  • Then lower your shoulders again and inhale slowly. Move your shoulders in a vertical line and keep the dumbbells close to your legs. Do 20 to 50 repetitions and 2 or 3 sets per workout. The average bodybuilder does 25 shrugs with 30 to 40 lbs dumbbells. However, of course you can also use more weight or do dumbbell shrugs with 10 lbs weights. The more weight, the less repetitions. Stretch your trapezoids, your shoulders and your forearms between sets.


  • Keep your knees, your head and your back still during the entire exercise.
  • Don't circle your shoulders when you do dumbbell shrugs.
  • Move slowly and concentrated.
  • The dumbbell shrug is designed for moderate to heavy weights.
  • Stop immediately if you feel discomfort in your shoulders or your back.