If you really want a really jacked look, one of the most important muscles to develop is your traps. Having bulging traps will do wonders for your physique and overall look.
As the name implies, there is no better tool for trap development than the trap bar. Specifically, trap bar shrugs. In this guide, we will break down how to properly perform trap bar shrugs for muscle growth and the many benefits of this exercise.
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Muscles Worked During A Trap Bar Shrug
The primary movers during a trap bar shrug are going to be your trapezius muscles (traps). These are the muscles located on either side of your neck that run down your spine toward your mid back.
The trapezius muscles work primarily to control the movement of your shoulder blades and your upper back. Any strength you can by using hex bar shrugs will carry over in some capacity to your deadlifts, rows, and presses as well.
Hex Bar Shrug Benefits
Here are the reasons why hex bar shrugs are the best movement you can do for trap growth and development:
Bar Does Not Touch Your Body
One of the main problems with other shrug variations like barbell shrugs and dumbbell shrugs is that it is a constant struggle to keep the weight from rubbing against your body. I personally stay away from barbell shrugs for the specific reason that I do not want to deal with a heavy bar rubbing up against my midsection. With a trap bar this is not a problem as you can stand in the frame.
Can Use More Weight
The neutral grips and center of gravity of the trap bar put your body in the best position to lift the most weight. Unlike the barbell shrug where the weight is in front of you, with a trap bar you have the weight centered around your body to give you the best leverage. Given the established link between a weighted stretch and muscular growth, it stands to reason that trap bar shrugs are great for hypertrophy.
No Shoulder Issues
A common limiting factor with barbell shrugs is that many people find having their shoulders internally rotated with that much weight is just uncomfortable. In contrast, the neutral grip of the trap bar means your shoulders are in a natural, comfortable position.
How To Do Hex Bar Shrugs
Step By Step Hex Bar Shrug
Load the bar
Get into a deadlift position
Deadlift the bar up
Control the weight down
Sets and Reps
I think a mixed approach would work best for hex bar shrugs. During some sessions, I would use heavy weights for 5-8 reps and 3 sets to get the weighted stretch. I would then rotate this with lighter weights so I could do 10-15 reps for 4-5 sets so I can feel the burn and get more volume in.
Tips For Hex Bar Shrugs
Use these tips to make sure you are getting the most out of your movement:
Do not roll your shoulders forward during a shrug. Keep your shoulders and arms in line with your body.
Let your shoulders sink all the way down at the bottom of the rep so you get the maximum stretch on your traps
Always shrug the bar all the way up. If you cannot do this then lower the weight so you can do the movement properly.
Make sure you keep your core engaged, chest high, and knees slightly bending
Hex Bar Shrug Alternatives
If you do not have access to a trap bar but still want to emulate the movement pattern, you have a number of options.
Out of all the alternatives, this is the one that will allow you to get the most similar benefits. With dumbbells, you can control the grip you take and the path of the weight so you get a lot of versatility. You just have to be sure that you are working on either side of your body with the same effort so you do not develop imbalances.
The numerous grip options and constant tension of cable make it a great alternative. The only downside is that weight can quickly become a limiting factor.
Smith Machine Shrugs
The set bar path of the smith machine may make it an easier movement for beginners. I will always recommend free weight movement first but the smith machine can still get the job done for your traps.
Barbell shrugs are the classic shrug. They will not feel as natural as when done with the hex bar but you can still go very heavy and get a nice trap workout in. The only thing you have to worry about is your shoulder mobility and having the bar drag against your body.
What Is A Trap Bar?
A trap bar is a bar with neutral grips designed to have the lifter stand in it during lifts. It goes by many names including a deadlift bar, shrug bar, and hex bar. The bar was originally designed for the purpose of working the traps but was quickly found to have many other benefits and exercise applications.
If you want to work your traps, there is no better tool than the trap bar and trap bar shrugs. Performing shrugs on a consistent basis will no doubt lead to bigger traps and better performance across your other lifts.