Do Trap Bar Shrugs Work Better Than Barbell Shrugs?

May 12, 2023 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “do trap bar shrugs work better than barbell shrugs?”. Both shrugging variations will work the traps heavily and grow them when you use heavy weight.

Is the trap bar better? This article will explore this topic in greater detail and present some very useful insights. I hope you enjoy reading this article.

Do Trap Bar Shrugs Work Better Than Barbell Shrugs?

For a lot of people, the trap bar shrug will feel more natural and you will be able to achieve a slightly greater range of motion.

The trap bar shrug will feel more comfortable with heavy weight as the barbell won’t be riding up your crotch during reps! It is also better than the dumbbell shrug as there is greater loading potential.

Most commercial gyms don’t tend to have dumbbells heavier than 50kg, so the trap bar shrug will help you to make more progress once you have exhausted the dumbbells.

Barbells also have a lot of loading potential and also work well for building the traps. The barbell shrug is also a more specific assistance exercise to the deadlift. Both involve holding the barbell in front of you.

Personally, I believe that both the barbell shrug and trap bar shrug have their place. I actually prefer the trap bar shrug as it feels a lot more natural to me and allows for a greater contraction at the top.

Trap Bar Shrug Feels More Natural

Having tried both the barbell shrug and trap bar shrug, the latter feels more natural to me.

Both exercises will certainly fatigue the traps, I just feel that shrugging with your arms to the side is a more natural movement pattern than shrugging with your arms in front.

You are able to go through a slightly greater range of motion when shrugging up with the trap bar than the barbell shrug permits. The barbell shrug often feels uncomfortable as the bar is riding up your crotch during reps.

With the trap bar shrug you don’t experience this issue. You are able to focus more on the contraction at the top of each rep. I also think that the trap bar shrug is healthier for the shoulders.

Dumbbell Shrug vs Trap Bar Shrug

When it comes to working the traps, I believe that rack pulls with a barbell are superior to barbell shrugs. You can utilise very heavy weights with rack pulls and grow bigger traps than you would with standard barbell shrugs.

For this reason, when it comes to shrugging I prefer using dumbbells or the trap bar. Both variations of shrug are fantastic and will hypertrophy the traps well. The seated dumbbell shrug is my preferred variation.

It provides a unique challenge and is quite strict as well. When it comes to standing shrugs, I prefer using the trap bar. You can load the weight very heavy. This is where the trap bar shrug is better than the dumbbell shrug.

There is simply far greater loading potential on the trap bar than there is with dumbbell shrugs. Most gyms simply don’t have heavy enough dumbbells to facilitate progressive overload.

If you incorporate trap bar shrugs and seated dumbbell shrugs, you will certainly get the best of both worlds and be able to build very impressive traps. Add in deadlifts or rack pulls and you won’t be lacking when it comes to trap development.

Are Barbell Shrugs Necessary?

For a lot of people, barbell shrugs are unnecessary. If you are performing heavy deadlifts or rack pulls then there is no need to do any barbell shrugs.

Previously on this site we have taken an in-depth look into how to build bigger traps!

You will just be imposing extra stress on your upper back and traps for no reason. Heavy deadlifting is sufficient and will build up your upper back and traps.

The benefit of the trap bar is that it works the traps from a different angle to how they are worked at the top of a deadlift or during a barbell shrug. This is because you are holding the handles to your sides.

This makes the trap bar shrug a very useful assistance exercise. You will be able to hit the traps from a different angle and go through a greater range of motion as well on the shrugging movement.

I like to do trap bar farmers walks and then do a set of shrugs after I have finished my farmers walks. I find that this overloads the traps the best. You are already working the traps hard with the farmers walk.

When you have exhausted your back from the farmers walk, doing a set of shrugs with the trap bar will really help to induce further growth in the area.

barbell shrugs

Final Thoughts

Do trap bar shrugs work better than barbell shrugs? The fact is that both shrugging variations will work well. It is ultimately a personal preference which exercise you choose to do.

From my perspective, if you perform barbell deadlifts and rack pulls there is just no need to do barbell shrugs as well. The trap bar shrug is a more natural shrugging variation and allows for a slightly greater range of motion.

It also hits the traps from a different angle to how the traps are hit at the top of a deadlift or rack pull. Therefore, there is great utility in this exercise. 

If you have any comments about the trap bar shrug, please leave them below. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

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