I posit that my method of doing shrugs is better than yours.

Hear me out . . .

I have narrow clavicles. For years—decades, actually—I have struggled to keep my traps from growing out of control. Most people with narrow clavicles will struggle with the same thing. It’s much harder for someone with wide clavicles to fill out the trapezius muscles of the upper back. Over the years, I have found that the traditional approach to training traps is not very effective for the vast majority of people.

The traditional approach to training traps is to shrug in either a straight up and down motion or to “roll” the shoulders—the latter being even worse advice than the former. Back in the 80s, it was common to use a myriad of grips including doing shrugs with the barbell behind your body, á la Lee Haney. I don’t have Lee Haney’s genetics and I doubt anyone reading this does, either. To compensate for my poor ability to choose my parents better, I have to do things that are mechanically sound. My angle of pull when I train traps has to be different.

Not only do I change the angle for the shrug, but I also turn the movement into what I call more of a shrug-row. This means that the arms will end up slightly bent at the top of the “shrug” vs the arms being relatively straight. Yes, this also means that there is more involvement of the delts (primarily the rear delts and even rhomboids), and I’ve yet to meet anyone who can’t benefit from more rear delt work and upper back work.

The angle is best described as an up-and-back movement vs straight up and down. It is significantly more difficult to get this angle with free weights but it can be done if you were to lay your upper body into a high incline bench. I prefer a machine or cables as I find it easier to get in and out of the exercise. If you want to use a machine, the Hammer Strength shrug machine works well for this if you are facing away from the machine. You could also use a t-bar row machine, as well. I demonstrate the movement in the attached pictures using an iso-lateral pulley system. Stand away from the pulleys so that the angle allows for an up-and-back motion.

Give this movement a try and let me know how it feels. I think you will find it to be very effective, as well.

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