Exercise / Shoulders

How to perform Shrugs

There is much debate about the technique behind performing shrugs correctly. It really is quite a simply ROM (Range Of Motion). Think about how you would shrug your shoulders normally. You would simply lift your shoulders upwards for a short distance, then let them back down again.

This is the principle behind shrugs as an exercise. Your start position will be holding a pair of dumbbells, with an overhand grip, arms hanging down next to your side. From this position, you would simply lift your shoulders upwards and then lower your arms back down again. You want to target scapular elevation for this exercise. Don’t complicate the range of motion.

What Not To Do!

  • Roll your shoulders
  • Lean forwards

For a very simple movement, people tend to over complicate it thinking they are adding benefit to their workout. Read our article on why rolling your shoulders during shrugs is bad, for a clearer understanding of the exercise.

CAUTION: Do not roll your shoulders at the top of the lift

Exercise Tips

  • Keep your range of motion short
  • Squeeze your traps at the top of the lift
  • Remember to breathe during the lift
  • Focus on the muscle you are working
  • The more it burns the better


  1. With Elbows Bent: For this variation, bend your elbows slightly outwards and lift up. Keep your hands parallel with each other. This adds a little extra tension on the traps as you are lifting from your lateral head inwards.
  2. Longer Squeeze: This is the same technique as normal shrugs, except you will be squeezing at the top for longer. So if your normal rep range for shrugs is 1 up – 1 hold – 1 down, then this would be 1 up – 4 hold – 1 down. This is otherwise known as the “rep tempo”.