5 mistakes when performing shrugs with dumbbells or a barbell

Trapezius exercises are very effective when performed correctly. In this article, we will discuss the 5 common mistakes when training them.
The “traps” as they are mainly known as, are a fairly large muscle group. You may think that in order to make them grow, you need to lift very large weights. Unfortunately, this philosophy will not lead to particularly large traps, on the contrary, most guys who train really hard with heavy weights tend to have small ones. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Here are some very common mistakes when training the trapezius muscles.

Train only the upper part of the traps

The anatomy. Look at the anatomical structure of the back. The trapezius muscle really has the shape of a trapezoid, at least if you consider the right and left together as a whole. Individually, they are triangular in shape and quite large in size. They allow us to lift and hold heavy objects. By the way, if you try to do deadlifts with a barbell and your traps are not developed enough, then you will dislocate your shoulder. In fact, the trapezius muscles consist of three parts, each of which has independent functions:

  • Upper – raises the shoulder and unbends the neck;
  • Medium – brings the shoulder blades together;
  • Lower – lowers the scapula down.

The fact is that most people imagine the trapezium as 2 small muscle strips located at the base of the neck and this is just the part that can be pinched. They are usually very large in rugby midfielders. But these so-called little muscle strips are just the tip of the iceberg. The main part of the muscle extends much further. The trapezius muscles also cover most of the back. If you cannot understand why you are doing shrugs set by set, week by week and you do not have large traps, then this is all due to the fact that you do not train its lower part.

Shrugs train only the upper part of the traps. At least if done the way most guys do.

To make the traps grow, you need to train the entire muscle group as a whole, focus on training also the lower part and the shrugs only don’t count. You can only feel the load on the lower trapezoid if you stand up straight and take your shoulders back. Now lower your shoulders, while the lower trapezius muscle pulls the shoulder down. One of the best exercises for training the bottom is lifting the barbells in front of you.
The lower trapezoid contracts to stabilize the shoulders and lower them down, making it possible to lift the weight overhead. There is also other ways to do this exercise.
Now let’s turn our attention to training the middle part. For this, exercises are performed to retract the shoulder blades.

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Do not train the muscles of the retractor blades

The retraction of the shoulder blades can be observed on the example of a cat’s paw. Cats can release and retract their claws using small muscle fibers on the soles of the feet. In order to release the claws, they strain them and when they relax, the claws are pulled back. The scapulars work on a very similar principle. The middle part of the trapezius muscle pulls them in. When we try to connect the shoulder blades, we strain the trapezium.

This is how the middle part trains. In addition, this is the largest part of the trapezoid. If shrugs or other exercises do not include this movement (retraction of the shoulder blades), then you should not expect especially good results. That is why shrugs alone are just not enough.

What exercises should you do?

You will most likely think that this can be achieved with a rowing machine. In principle, this is correct, but exercises should be performed with an emphasis on bringing the shoulder blades together. The easiest way to achieve this is to keep your shoulders straight. When performing shrugs, you need to focus on moving the load back (onto the back). In this case, the blades are retracted (closed).

Tip: To increase the size of the traps and be able to have more control over the sensations of the muscle, many users adopt the use of Dianabol or Winstrol for this purpose. One is for mass gain and development (Dianabol) and the other is for strength, hardening and definition of the muscle (Winstrol). With the use of these supplements you can increase the progress within this area within a short space of time.

Exercise with too much weight

“Either go hard or go home.” That’s a good tip, but arguably one of the best tips for muscle growth. If you gradually increase the weight with which you train, then the muscle volume will constantly increase. Research shows that of the 3 known ways to achieve muscle fiber hypertrophy (load progression, cellular fatigue and muscle damage), the load progression is most effective. But when it comes to trapeze training, this principle can get in the way if, due to too much weight, the execution technique and the amplitude of movement suffers. This means you need to reduce the weight of the projectile instead of doing incomplete repetitions with very large weights. It is much more effective to perform the exercise at full amplitude from bottom to top, as when training with lighter weights, you can fully focus on working out that muscle group and make progress faster. When the weight is too heavy, the athlete begins to sway and use other accessory muscles to perform the exercise.

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Perform shrugs only in the vertical plane

Again, the upper trapezium is a small part of the entire muscle. Shrugs train only the upper part when they are performed in a vertical plane. At least that’s how most athletes perform them. In any case, the movement occurs in the same plane, up and down. The shoulders are almost always directed (rounded) forward. This is why most guys see no benefit from performing shrugs other than strengthening the grip (increasing the strength of the hands). In addition, poor posture is formed. The retraction of the shoulder blades is one of the main functions of the trapezius muscles. This does not mean that dumbbell or barbell shrugs are bad exercise, but they need to be done correctly. The shoulders should be lifted up and back with maximum shoulder blade reduction.

Do not put your hands down completely

We discussed the retraction of the shoulder blades, but there is accordingly, the opposite process, which is stretching. As in the same analogy with a cat’s paw. The shoulder blades retract when we try to connect them and stretch when we relax and allow them to separate. When the shoulders move forward, they move apart and when they move back, they are connected. If the shoulders are down, the trapezius muscle is in the eccentric phase (most stretched and elongated). When the shoulder joints are at their lowest point of movement, they do not need to be rounded forward, but should be allowed to descend all the way down.
Studies have shown that the eccentric part of the exercise is as important for muscle growth as the muscle contraction itself.

You can read more about it here — What is muscle soreness for?
Exercise stretching is also known to be very effective in stimulating muscle hypertrophy. In short, it is best to do shrugs and other trapezius exercises with a slow, controlled drop in the eccentric phase and allow the muscle fibers to fully stretch. Consider the example of a shrug with dumbbells or a barbell.
First, we lift the weight up and back (as discussed above) and then, along the same trajectory, we lower it down. When the lowest point of the exercise is reached, the maximum stretching of the muscle fibers occurs (the limit of the eccentric phase). At the same time, the scapular bones are also maximally extended and diverged. Stop at this point for 1 second before the next repetition. Training in this mode will quickly lead to results.

It is best to pump the traps at the end of the workout on a back or shoulder day. 2-3 working sets for 10-15 reps is more than enough.

performing shrugs with dumbbells

Main conclusions

There are probably other errors that we have not named. However, we have listed the main nuances that do not allow you to pump up the trapezius muscles. Once again, remember that heavy weights are simply not needed for training. Too much weight hinders progress. It is necessary to achieve complete reduction and dilution of the shoulder blades and for this, you need to fully straighten your shoulders and perform the exercise in full amplitude. Heavy weight will prevent you from doing this so train smarter and not heavier when it comes to building the traps!

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