This is going to be a short question, because there's very little depth to it.

I've been bulking lately, and to have something to focus on, aesthetically, my shoulder region is getting some love. And with it; traps!

I've been doing more shrugs lately, but while doing them, I can't figure out what's best; to do rolling shrugs, or just straight up-and-down shrugs?

Do anyone have any good advice, one way or the other? Preferably backed up with some sort of study. Anecdotes are alright depending on the source.

3 Answers 3


EXRX has this to say:

It's only necessary to raise and lower the shoulders during shrugs. The lower and middle trapezius will be exercised during other basic exercises.

Better, I replace them with cleans. Which are just kick ass in general and then you don't have to be that guy doing shrugs in the mirror.

  • Cleans exercise your traps more than shrugs? Jun 8, 2015 at 13:02
  • 1
    I doubt "more", but it's also an explosive lift so even though the weight's lower it's still a great alternative.
    – Eric
    Jun 8, 2015 at 14:20
  • Won't overhead lifting be a better alternative (specifically for the traps) ? Jun 8, 2015 at 14:33
  • 1
    You both have good points. Any "rip weight off the floor" exercise is obviously going to involve traps, and in that sense, I do pretty much have it covered. But the rolling vs. not rolling part of shrugs has just never had a definitive answer for me. Until now, anyway. Thanks! :)
    – Alec
    Jun 8, 2015 at 15:29

If you look at the shape and function(s) of the traps, I think it’s apparent that rolling the shoulders does not provide any extra benefit, or, activation of the target muscles.

Gravity only works in one direction and you are not working anything by going back and forth.


When I began weight training traps, others suggested rolling the shoulders. I figured out early on that the cause of some trap strains was related to this extra movement. So, instead of relying solely on shrugs for trap development, I added upright rows, and smith machine shrugs to the front and rear. I find using a smith machine for shrugs forces a perfect vertical plane for the movement thus somewhat ensuring that the traps get the bulk of the work.

  • Good quote. It makes perfect sense! I guess instead of rolling, angles are more beneficial. Incline flies and rear delt raises should work better.
    – Alec
    Jun 8, 2015 at 15:32

The upper trapezius can not physically elevate the shoulder. Shoulder elevation is done by other smaller muscles.

The upper trapezius retracts the scapula, rotates the scapula and extend the neck.

But the two major roles of the upper trap is to move the weight away from the spine and place it on the shoulders, and also to keep the shoulder stabilized and firm during weighted movements like farmer carries, overhead pressing and hanging.

When the arms are blocked the entire trap muscle can pull the torso up to the shoulder blades instead of pushing the shoulders togheter, like in a push up for example.

So the answer is that you shouldn't waste precious time with shrugs as they only work small insignificant muscles that can worsen your posture.

A better trap Isolation movement would be simply holding heavy weight in your hands, or doing weighted scapular retractions.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.