Develop your traps for an eye-catching centerpiece for your shoulders and back.
By Eric Velazquez, NSCA-CPT / Editor-at-Large
Incline Bench Shrug
Set an adjustable bench to a 60-degree incline. “This shrug variation will shift emphasis to the upper traps as well as the upper portion of the middle traps. The fact that your chest is pressed on the bench will make it difficult to use momentum to drive the weight up.”
This variation allows you to also build depth and detail in your upper back. Focus on keeping the plane of travel completely vertical (perpendicular to the floor) to ensure proper muscle activation. You can also use various angles on the bench to slightly change the emphasis.
5 Traps of Training
Though a shrug involves such a small range of motion, there are a number of dangers that you expose yourself to if you perform them incorrectly. And many, many bodybuilders do.
1) The “Roll”
One common mistake that has persisted since before the Information Age is the shoulder roll during the shrug. As it turns out, holding heavy weights and rolling your shoulders forward or backward in small circles is one of the riskiest moves you can make in the gym.
“The upper traps are grown via elevation, not rotation,” says Escalante. “Rolling the shoulders will only predispose you to neck injuries such as herniated discs in the cervical spine.”
2) Line of Sight
Are you guilty of looking up or down when you shrug? Well, hopefully, you’ve escaped without any major neck damage. Deviating your gaze from neutral can have catastrophic consequences. (If you don’t think so, just ask MMI Group Editorial Director Bill Geiger.) “You should always look straight ahead,” says Escalante. “Looking up or down will create stress on your neck musculature and may cause a neck strain, or tear. Additionally, looking up or down when shrugging may place stress on the delicate cervical spine discs, which can lead to a cervical disc herniation.”
If you’re concerned with building a physique that’s heavily muscled and symmetrical, balance your shrug work with a healthy dose of fundamental back-and-shoulder exercises such as overhead presses, pull-ups, rows and raises.
3) The Weight
With such a small, isolated movement, technique becomes even more important — better to select weight loads that allow you to do this while still inducing hypertrophy than to use faulty, perhaps injurious form. “Don’t let your ego get in the way,” he says. “It’s not about the weight you’re lifting, it’s about how you lift it. Never sacrifice technique for weight — and that applies to other bodyparts as well.” Escalante recommends sticking to weight loads that bring about failure in the 6–15-rep range, with rest periods of 45–90 seconds. Use straps on only your heaviest loads to keep from dangerously overreaching.
Besides keeping your eyes straight ahead, there are other form fundamentals to note. “I often see people using their legs while trying to do standing dumbbell, barbell or machine shrugs,” says Escalante. “Some guys also bend their elbows during the exercise and end up cheating by calling other muscles into play such as the biceps.”
As Johnnie Jackson will tell you, endless sets of heavy shrugs will build great traps and little else. If you’re concerned with building a physique that’s heavily muscled and symmetrical, balance your shrug work with a healthy dose of fundamental back-and-shoulder exercises such as overhead presses, pull-ups, rows and raises. Not only will this keep your upper body musculature in balance but it’ll fortify you against injuries that can arise as a result of overtraining one particular muscle group.
Excerpted from: Johnnie’s Got Traps. How ’bout You? In the April 2012 issue of MuscleMag.