Shrugs are best performed on shoulder day because they primarily work the upper portion of the trapezius muscle. This muscle is used during shoulder workouts, meaning your upper traps will be warm and ready for shrugs during a shoulder workout. Very few back workouts target the upper traps. This means that pairing shrugs with back exercises can result in muscle pulls and injury.
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Are Your Traps a Back or Shoulder Muscle?
Although the trapezius muscle runs from the back and sides of your neck down to your mid-back, it’s perhaps best described as a shoulder muscle. This is due to the fact that the traps mostly function to move your shoulder blades. Your upper traps move the shoulder blade upwards, while your middle traps and lower traps move your shoulder blades together and downward, respectively.
- Despite their position on your back and neck, the traps are largely responsible for moving your shoulder blades.
- Your traps are the muscles that move your shoulder blades up, down, and together.
- Because they are linked to shoulder joint movement, traps may be considered a shoulder muscle.
Because the traps are responsible for so much shoulder blade movement, it’s a great idea to pair shrugs with shoulder workouts. You may even begin to start considering your traps a shoulder muscle.
Why Should You Do Shrugs on Shoulder Day?
Doing shrugs as part of a shoulder workout is the best way to prevent injury. Because your traps are warmed up from moving your shoulders during exercises such as overhead press, lateral raises, reverse flyes, and front raises, they’ll be ready for shrugs. Although you should still perform warm-up sets of shrugs, the muscles will be primed and ready to go if you combine traps with shoulders.
- Your upper traps will be warmed up by other shoulder exercises, preparing them for shrugs.
- You have a lower injury risk to your traps by doing shrugs on shoulder day vs. back day.
In comparison to shoulder day, the upper traps (which are the primary focus of shrugs), are hardly used during back workouts. Instead, the middle and lower traps are activated during back-specific exercises. This means your upper traps will be cold. Doing shrugs as part of a back workout is more likely to result in a muscle pull or injury. It’s safer and more effective to fully work your upper traps on shoulder day.
Alternative: Pair Shrugs With Deadlifts
There is another option for fitting shrugs into your schedule—pair them with deadlifts or trap bar deadlifts. Although deadlifts are generally considered a leg exercise, they’re actually a compound movement that works several muscle groups. One of the muscles deadlifts activate are the upper traps. As you hold the bar during deadlifts, your traps are put under some serious strain. This means that once you complete your deadlifts, your traps will be warmed up and ready for shrugs.
- Deadlifts activate the traps, warming them up for a dedicated upper trap workout.
- Incorporate shrugs into your workout after you’ve done deadlifts that day.
- Adding shrugs to your leg day might make leg day more fun.
If you can’t fit shrugs into a shoulder day routine, consider adding a few sets of shrugs into a lower body workout. As long as you’ve performed deadlifts that day, your body will be prepared for shrugs. Plus, including an upper body exercise among your lower body lifts might make it easier to find the motivation to hit the gym for leg day.
Should You Pair Shrugs With Shoulders or Back Exercises?
Shrugs are best classified as a shoulder exercise because:
- The upper traps—which are used during shrugs—are warmed up by shoulder exercises.
- The traps are mostly responsible for moving your shoulder blades.
- Back exercises do not warm up the upper traps well.
- Your upper trap muscles will be warmer and less prone to injury if you do shrugs on shoulder day instead of back day.
If you’re choosing between adding shrugs to a back day or shoulder day routine, opt for shoulder day. You’ll get the best results exhausting your upper traps. They can then recover during back day, giving you the ability to work them again during your next shoulder workout.