Standing Dumbbell Shrugs

Image of how to do Dumbbell shrugs


Type: Strength

Main Muscle Worked: Traps (Shoulders)

Equipment: Dumbbells

Level: Beginner

What are Standing Dumbbell Shrugs?

Standing dumbbell Shoulder shrugs target your upper trapezius muscles, also known as the traps. Located on your upper back and across the back of your shoulders, big, strong traps can be useful in many contact sports such as rugby, boxing, hockey, football and wrestling as they provide essential support for your neck which is an important factor for injury prevention.

From an aesthetic point of view, well-developed upper traps also result in a powerful-looking physique, and many bodybuilders work hard to develop this muscle as they can potentially take a long time to develop. Of all the exercises you can perform for your upper traps, one of the most common and beneficial is the shrug.

If you need a dumbbell to perform this exercise one can be purchased here: Dumbbells

Muscles worked in the Standing dumbbell shrug

Dumbbell Shrugs muscles worked

primary: Trapizius, Upper Back and Rhomboids
secondary:  Forearms and Biceps

Benefits of Standing Dumbbell Shrugs

Stronger, More Stable Neck Muscles

This may not seem important to most, but for anyone who has played a contact sport; such as rugby, American football, hockey, or wrestling, neck strength is key for injury prevention. In addition to shrugs — neck flexion, extension, and lateral strengthening should happen which increases stability and strength for athletes who come under contact.

A Better Posture

Standing shoulder shrugs help to increase muscle mass and postural strength of the traps and upper back, which can assist in a better spinal and torso positions in pulling, squatting, and most everyday movements.

Fuller Extension in Olympic Lifts

Movement like shrugs, pulls, muscle snatches, no contact power cleans, etc, are all essential movements to create a more vertical finish in the Olympic lifts. Developing the trapezius muscles, and the vertical finish in the movement patterning can increase overall performance in the snatch and clean.

Improved Pulling Strength

The traps are a key muscle group of the upper body (in addition to the erectors, latissimus dorsi, biceps, and forearms) which are responsible for strong pulling and stable positions in movements like heavy carries, deadlifts, and the Olympic lifts.

How to do Standing Dumbbell Shrugs

Dumbbell Shrugs
  1. 1. Grab a pair of dumbbells and let them hang down in front of you so that it’s down at your side.
  2. 2. Without bending your elbows, shrug your shoulders straight up as high as you can as though you’re trying to touch your ears.
  3. 3. Squeeze for a second.
  4. 4. Lower straight back down under control to that original starting position.

Repeat for desired amount of reps.

If you need a dumbbell one can be purchased here: Dumbbells


1. Focus on lifting the weight with your traps and not your biceps.

2. Pausing at the top of the dumbbell shrug makes the exercise more challenging and you’ll get more out of it. Try and pause for a count of 1-3 at the top of each rep.

Mistakes commonly made in the standing dumbbell shrug

Bent Back

It is important that when performing the standing dumbbell shrug that you should keep your back straight and brace your abs throughout the exercise instead of performing with a rounded back and careless abs.


When performing the standing dumbbell shrug you should not move or sway, you should always keep a stationary and strong form. If you sway or find that you are moving back onto your heels in order to complete the exercise, then this could be an indicator that the weights you are using are most likely too heavy.

Too Heavy Weights

The standing dumbbell shrug is an exercise where you should never lift weights that would cause you to fail at the end of a set and prevent you from doing the last few reps, this can stress the joints and sometimes even lead to injury.

Safety when performing standing dumbbell shrugs

Do not do this exercise if you have pre-existing tightness in your neck, if you experience neck/shoulder pain during this exercise then slowly lower the weights and end the exercise. You should talk to your doctor or physical therapist to find out whether this exercise is appropriate for you.

Variations of Standing Dumbbell Shrugs

One armed Dumbbell Shrug

You can perform the dumbbell shrug with one arm at a time to fix any muscle imbalances and improve conditioning.

One Arm Shrug

  1. 1. Begin by grasping a single dumbbell in your right hand.
  2. 2. Let the dumbbell hang down at arm’s length at your side with palm facing your body. This is the starting position.
  3. 3. Begin exercise by shrugging your right shoulder up (imagine trying to touch your ear with your shoulder).
  4. 4. Squeeze for a brief moment at the top and then slowly lower all the way back down to the starting position.

Repeat for desired reps, then switch sides.

Seated Dumbbell Shrug

Most people who go to the gym do shoulder shrugs completely wrong. When they pull up on the weight, they use their legs to bounce, giving themselves an extra boost. To get your traps to grow, you have to stimulate the muscles, which means isolating the movement.

So, sit before you shrug to ensure you don’t use your legs to give yourself that extra boost and makes the exercise tougher which is what you want.

You can use a chair at home for this although if you want to use a bench one can be bought here which can be flat and in an incline or decline postion: Benches

Seated Dumbbell Shrugs

  1. 1. Set up for the seated dumbbell shrug by choosing a pair of dumbbells and sitting with your back straight on a flat bench.
  2. 2. Grab the dumbbells with a neutral grip (palms facing in), with your hands down at your sides.
  3. 3. Let your shoulders “sag” as far as possible. This is the starting position for the exercise.
  4. 4. Slowly shrug your shoulders up as far as possible.
  5. 5. Pause, and then slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.

Repeat for desired reps.

Write below in the comments your opinion on the standing dumbbell shrug, if it works for you and any questions you might have.

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