Shoulder Shrugs Strengthen the 
Trapezius Muscles
Shoulder Shrugs Strengthen the Trapezius Muscles

Strength: Partner Shoulder Shrugs

Dick Moss, Editor

Shoulder shrugs are a great exercise for developing the trapezius muscles, rhomboids and levator scapulae—the muscles that run from the back of the neck downwards and across to the shoulders.

Sport Uses
These muscles are important for sports that require reaching with the arms: football blocking, serving in tennis, volleyball spiking, horizontal bar exercises in gymnastics. They help to support the side of the neck—very important in wrestling and football. Even distance runners benefit, since strong trapezius muscles can help a runner keep the shoulders relaxed when they're fatigued—it's common to see tired runners shrugging their shoulders upward.

Performing Partner Shoulder 
Shrugs With Interlocking Hands
Performing Partner Shoulder Shrugs With Interlocking Hands

Shoulder shrugs can be performed with dumbbells, barbells or on machines (e.g. Universal). However, you may not have such equipment at your disposal, or not enough stations to accommodate your entire class. Here's a way your students can perform shoulder shrugs using just a partner, or a partner and a length of inexpensive wooden doweling.

How to Perform
Pair up your students. One partner lies on her back, arms raised towards the ceiling. The lifter straddle her partner with knees slightly bent and shoulders back. They interlock hands.

Keeping the arms straight, the lifter slowly shrugs her shoulders upward until they touch her ears, pauses momentarily, then slowly lowers her shoulders to the starting point.

Performing Partner Shoulder 
Shrugs Using Wooden Doweling
Performing Partner Shoulder Shrugs Using Wooden Doweling
No rotational movement is necessary.


  • If the lifters find their partner too heavy to lift, the partner can bend her legs to reduce her effective weight.
  • This exercise can be performed with the partners holding a length of wooden doweling with a hands-together grip. The lifters grasp the doweling with an overhand grip and lift.

1. Frederic Delavier & Michael Gundill, Strength Training Anatomy Workout II, Human Kinetics     2012.
2. James Peterson and Mary Beth Horodyski, How to Jump Higher, Masters Press, 1988.
3. Michael Yessis (PhD), Kinesiology of Exercise, Masters Press, 1992.

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© 2013, Physical Education,

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