Smith Machine Shrug: A Safe and Effective Way to Build Traps

The Smith Machine Shrug is one of the most popular resistance training devices out there. It offers users a wide variety of exercises that can be performed in a compact and space-saving manner.

Traps are an incredibly effective way to build muscle. They can help you improve your physique dramatically, and they’re a lot less taxing than weightlifting on your joints. What’s more, traps can be done with a Smith Machine! (1)

What Is Smith Machine Shrug?

The Smith machine shrug is a popular exercise for toning or bulking up the trapezius muscle, particularly the upper traps.

The Smith machine is a weightlifting machine that consists of a barbell attached to a set of rails. The barbell goes up and down the rails, allowing you to do a variety of exercises in a straight line.

The Smith machine is advantageous in that it provides stability and control during the exercise. It helps you to concentrate on trap muscle training without having to worry about balance or keeping the weight stable.

As part of shoulder or trap-focused training, it is typically performed for moderate to high reps, such as 8-12 reps per set or more. (2)


Better trap pump

Smith machine shrugs are more effective than barbell shrugs because they allow you to concentrate just on the working muscle. You are not required to stabilize the weight, and you are not required to squander vital energy by deadlifting a heavy barbell off the floor.

In other words, Smith machine shrugs are the purest form of a shrug—except for maybe the Hammer Strength shrug machine. But then we’re talking about small 1% differences. The point is that with machine shrugs, you can devote 100% of your effort to training your traps, which, when you think about it, is the whole point of an isolation exercise.

Bigger Traps

Because machines allow you to push your muscles with greater weight, performing shrugs on Smith machine stations rather than with a barbell is the quickest way to bigger traps.

Of course, weight isn’t everything. But, provided that your form and diet are in check, it’s usually the difference between stagnation and hypertrophy.

Stronger Neck

While shrugs are unlikely to give you the neck of a WWE wrestler (neck curls androids are required), they will help to strengthen your neck muscles and make them more resistant to fatigue.

Thicker forearms

If trap growth is your first priority, I usually recommend strapping up so your grip strength (or lack thereof) does not limit trap stimulation.

However, every now and again, I’ll throw a lightweight onto the bar and train with my Fat Gripz.

My traps still get a good pump, but my forearms catch fire! When I return to ordinary shrugs, the weight feels absurdly low because I’m accustomed to grasping considerably thicker bars. This, in turn, causes a new development surge in my traps since I can execute more reps without becoming fatigued.

Muscles worked

Muscles worked by Smith Machine Shrug

Target (Agonist)

  • Trapezius – Upper


  • Levator Scapulae
  • Trapezius – Middle

Dynamic Stabilizers

  • None


  • Erector Spinae

How to do

Smith Machine Shrug How to do Smith Machine Shrug


  1. Prepare for the Smith machine shrug by loading the weight you intend to use on the Smith machine.
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, facing the bar.
  3. With your hands about shoulder width apart, grab the bar with an overhand hold (palms facing down). Pick up the barbell and release the safety while bending only at the knees.
  4. Allow your shoulders to droop as far as possible while keeping the barbell close to your body. This is the exercise’s beginning position.
  5. Slowly raise your shoulders as far as they will go.
  6. After a brief pause, steadily lower the barbell back to its starting position.
  7. Repeat for the appropriate number of reps.


  • Lift the weight with your traps rather than your biceps.
  • Pausing at the top of the barbell shrug increases the difficulty of the exercise and allows you to get more out of it. At the top of each rep, try to pause for a count of 1-3.
  • When you shrug, there is no benefit to rolling your shoulders forward or back – that is a lie! Simply raise and lower the barbell straight up and down.

Frequent Mistakes To Avoid

It’s critical to be aware of the most typical blunders when using the Smith Machine for shrugging. Though the Smith Machine is an excellent tool for this exercise, it is crucial to remember that there are key mistakes to avoid in order to get the most out of it. Excessive weight or speed might result in injury or poor technique, preventing you from receiving the full advantages of the exercise.

  • Not keeping your core engaged: When executing Smith Machine Shrugs, it is critical to keep your core tight throughout the exercise. This will keep your back in normal alignment and limit the possibility of injury.
  • Allowing your shoulders to roll forward: In order to get the most out of the workout, make sure your shoulders stay back and down during the movement. The strain on your neck and back muscles can be increased by rolling your shoulders forward.
  • Using too much weight: It is critical to use a weight that is appropriate for your current strength level. Using too much weight might degrade your form and raise your risk of injury.

Smith Shrug Variations

Smith Machine Behind-The-Back Shrug

Smith Machine in the Back Shrugs is a variant of the standard shrugs in which the barbell is held behind your back.

In this variation, an additional emphasis is placed on the lower trapezius muscles.

As part of shoulder or trap-focused training, it is typically performed for moderate to high reps, such as 8-12 reps per set or more.

One Arm Smith Machine Shrug

You can address any strength or size imbalances between the left and right trapezius muscles with one-arm smith machine shrugs.

Focusing on one side at a time will ensure balanced development and improve overall symmetry.

Shrugs With Bands

Shrugs With Bands

Smith Machine Shrugs are a perfect compliment or alternative to Shrugs With Bands. It’s a more dynamic workout that requires the body to move over a wider range of motion. Shrugs With Bands encourages you to move the bands in a controlled manner rather than standing in place and pulling the weight up. This encourages the use of more stabilizing muscles while also improving balance and coordination. You can also use different sizes of bands to increase the difficulty of the exercise. All of these advantages combine to make Shrugs With Bands a perfect supplement or substitute for Smith Machine.

Dumbbell Shrug

Dumbbell Shrug

Dumbbell shrugs are an excellent supplement or alternative to the Smith Machine Shrug. The trapezius muscles, which are positioned at the back of the neck and shoulders, are predominantly targeted by this exercise. Dumbbell shrugs are performed by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and holding a dumbbell in each hand with your arms straight down by your sides. You then raise your shoulders as high as you can and hold them there for a few seconds before slowly lowering them back to the beginning position. Dumbbell shrugs, as opposed to the Smith Machine, offer more freedom of movement, allowing you to work the muscles more efficiently.

Cable Shrug

Cable Shrug

The Cable Shrug is a great alternative or complement to the Smith Machine Shrug. It provides a greater range of motion, allowing for a deeper contraction in the traps. The exercise also allows for better grip and hand position flexibility, allowing for a more diverse workout. It also has a wider range of motion and can be utilized to target certain muscle groups more efficiently. Because the weight is not fixed in one position as it is with the Smith Machine, the Cable Shrug is also excellent for building stability and balance.

Barbell Shrug

Instructions for barbell shrug

The Barbell Shrug is a good supplement or alternative to the Smith Machine Shrug for targeting the trapezius muscles. The barbell shrug has a wider range of motion than the Smith Machine Shrug and can accommodate higher weights. It also aids in healthy posture because you are required to keep your back straight during the workout. Furthermore, using a barbell instead of a Smith machine helps you to engage more stabilizing muscles during the exercise, which can result in more overall muscle gain.

Smith Machine Shrugs vs. Dumbbell Shrugs vs. Barbell Shrug

Smith Machine Shrug

The Smith machine shrug is a barbell shrug variation that makes use of a Smith machine. The Smith machine is a weight-training equipment with a track-mounted barbell. This means that the barbell can only go up and down in a straight line.

Because it is easier to maintain an appropriate form than the barbell shrug, the Smith machine shrug is a suitable alternative for novices. The barbell’s set path also helps to limit the danger of injury.

Dumbbell Shrug

The dumbbell shrug is a dumbbell-based version of the barbell shrug. Dumbbells allow for more movement than a barbell, which can aid in successfully targeting the trapezius muscles.

For more experienced lifters who want to isolate the trapezius muscles, the dumbbell shrug is a suitable option. It is also a fantastic alternative for persons who have shoulder issues because it reduces joint tension.

Barbell Shrug

The barbell shrug is the most common type of shrug exercise. It’s a complex exercise, which means it trains numerous muscular groups at once. The trapezius, deltoids, and rhomboids are all worked out by the barbell shrug.

The barbell shrug is an excellent choice for experienced lifters looking to increase upper back strength and hypertrophy. It is also an excellent choice for those who wish to test their balance and stability.

Which is the best?

The optimal style of shrug for you will be determined by your specific goals and needs. The Smith machine shrug is a fantastic alternative for beginners. The dumbbell shrug is an excellent way to target the trapezius muscles more efficiently. If you are a seasoned lifter looking to add strength and muscle, the barbell shrug is an excellent choice.


You can do shrugs with the Smith machine to build muscle and strength in your traps.

The constant tension placed on your muscles through a range of motion, allows progressive overload to take place, leading to strength and muscle gains.


is Smith’s machine good for shrugs?

Smith machine shrugs are one of the most effective and fantastic trap and shoulder workouts. The shrug improves the strength of the upper body’s stabilizer muscles. This assists you in standing tall and keeping your back straight.

what do Smith machine shrugs work?

The Smith machine is an upper-body workout that focuses on the trapezius muscles. As part of shoulder or trap-focused training, it is typically performed for moderate to high reps, such as 8-12 reps per set or more.

is a barbell shrug better than a Smith machine shrug?

A Smith machine is an excellent substitute for a barbell shrug. It would be a good regression because you don’t have to worry about balancing. You may also be able to load somewhat more weight on a Smith machine than on a barbell.

what is the difference between a shrug and a power shrug?

When compared to conventional shrugs, the power shrug involves less of the levator scapulae, a tiny muscle that assists the upper trapezius in elevating the scapula (shrugging the shoulders up). That muscle is more prone to inflammation, resulting in neck or head pain.


1. Dẫn, H., & Dụng, C. Đ. M. Đ. S. The 15 Best Smith Machine Exercises and How to Do Them.

2. Kelso, P. (2015). Kelso’s Shrug Book. Wheatmark, Inc..

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