Tip: Do the Power Shrug for Traps

Use controlled momentum to make barbell shrugs safer and more effective. Here's how.

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The power shrug is also called a low-pull from the hang, or "clean extension from the hang" in Olympic lifting terms. Whatever you call it, it's a very effective movement to build up your upper traps.

Compared to regular shrugs, the power shrug reduces the involvement of the levator scapulae, which is a small muscle that helps the upper trapezius elevate the scapula (shrug the shoulders up). That muscle is more prone to inflammation resulting in pain in the neck or head. The power shrug involves the levator scapulae less and the upper traps more. Even though you're handling more weight compared to strict shrugs, it's a safer movement.

The Power Shrug

  1. Use a slight lower back action with help from the calves to create momentum to start the weight up.
  2. Immediately shrug your shoulders up as hard as possible. If you can, hold the contracted (top) position for a second or two to increase the time under load.

You can use power shrugs as a stand-alone movement. Do 5-8 reps. Or do them at the end of a set of regular barbell shrugs: perform 6-8 heavy strict shrugs followed by 4-6 power shrugs once fatigue prevents you from doing the strict movement. As a bonus you'll actually get some core and calf work out of this exercise.

Christian Thibaudeau specializes in building bodies that perform as well as they look. He is one of the most sought-after coaches by the world's top athletes and bodybuilders. Check out the Christian Thibaudeau Coaching Forum.