Shoulder shrugs are the best movement type for isolating stress on the trapezius muscles. This exercise can be done in several variations using either a barbell or dumbbells. Significant stress is also placed on the forearm flexor muscles and this weight can reduce your grip strength when you are lifting heavy. Always be careful to avoid dropping the weights if your grip begins to go.
Place the proper amount of weight on an Olympic barbell and take an overgrip with your hands approximately shoulder width apart. Stand erect with the bar and weight in your hands so that you are holding the bar just in front of your thighs. You should begin this exercise with your shoulders hanging down and slightly forward.
This exercise can also be performed using dumbbells. Take a heavy weight in each hand and hold each dumbbell at the side of your body or just slightly to the front. Each palm should be facing inward toward your body.
Pull your shoulders upward and backward as much as possible and hold that position for a second or two. Relax your traps to lower each shoulder back downward to the original starting position.
Tips From the Trainer
For a great variation to this exercise, try bringing each shoulder directly upward and towards your ears with each repetition. Hold this position for a moment and then rotate the shoulders backward to the rear as they lower and then forward until they return to the starting position. This can allow for a greater range of motion for the working muscles.
To stress the traps from a different angle, you can also try leaning forward slightly as this exercise is performed. With each repetition, pull you shoulders upward and to the rear. This motion provides a high quality stress on the muscles and can add some needed change to you shoulder workout.
Finally, try experimenting with different grip widths when doing the barbell shrugs. Each grip width will have a different effect on you trap muscles.
Dumbbell shrugs start
Dumbbell shrugs end
Full range of motion: bring shoulders forward
Then pull shoulders back
Barbell variation on smith machine