Smith Machine Shrug


Smith Machine Shrug Exercise Guide

Smith machine shrug is an effective trapezius exercise for adding mass to the trapezius muscles which lie laterally to the neck on either sides of the shoulders. In this post you will find out how to perform this great trapezius exercise safely and effectively in order to achieve maximal gains.

The versatile Smith machine allows you to do shrugs. As in the other exercises described for this machine, the main advantage is that you can concentrate on lifting (shrugging) the weight rather than balance (this machine locks the bar in a fixed pathway), and you can do a set to failure (or an incomplete last set due to muscle exhaustion) without risk. Also,using the Smith machine may allow you to load up more weight. You can hold the bar either in front of your body or behind. The difference between the positions is minimal.

Smith machine shrugs are great for those with lower-back problems. Unlike a standard barbell, which has to be taken from the floor, the Smith machine allows you to start and finish the exercise at waist level.

Smith Machine Shrug Exercise Instructions

STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Set a bar of a Smith machine at around knee level on the safety hooks. Grasp the bar with a shoulder-width overhand grip and stand up with it. Begin with your arms extended toward the floor, your knees slightly bent, and the bar just in front of your thighs.

Smith machine shrug

Smith machine shrug exercise

MOVEMENT (ACTION): Keeping the rest of your body stationary, shrug your shoulders straight up as high as possible without rotating your shoulders backwards at the top of the movement. Hold the contraction for a count, then lower the bar back to the start position.

Additional Tips & Tricks

  • Elevate (shrug) the shoulders toward ears as high as possible (contract your traps so that your shoulders begin to ascend toward your ears).
  • When the weight has been raised as high as it can go, hold the contraction for a two-count, and then lower the weight slowly, in four seconds, back to the starting position.
  • The shrug is a simple up-and-down movement; don’t roll your shoulders — it doesn’t provide any added muscular stimulus and actually increases the chances of injury.
  • Be careful not to bend your elbows as you lift the weights. Your arms do no more than hold the weights so keep them straight at possible as you try to touch your traps to your ears.
  • A wider grip will work the traps closer to the shoulders (the part of the upper trapezius muscle that is the farthest back) and a shorter grip will work the traps closer to the neck. In other words, a narrow grip gives you a better stretch but reduces the range of the contraction. A wide grip gives you a better contraction but reduces the range of the stretch.

Smith Machine Shrug Variation

  • Smith machine behind the back shrug (Smith machine rear shrug). As with the barbell shrug, perform Smith machine shrug with the bar behind you. If your backside gets in the way as you lift the bar, simply move your feet forward – because the bar is supported by the guide rods of the machine, you can do this easily.

Muscles Involved in Smith Machine Shrugs

As with barbell and dumbell shrugs, Smith machine shrugs work the deltoid and trapezius muscles. More specifically, it strengthens your trapezius, levator scapulae (beneath the trapezius), and rhomboid muscles.

  • Main muscles: trapezius (upper), levator scapulae
  • Secondary muscles: rhomboids, trapezius (middle), deltoid, supraspinatus
  • Antagonists: pectoralis minor, trapezius (lower), pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi

Replacement Exercises – Substitutes

The following eight trapezius exercises are ones we feel every physique-conscious guy should practice.

Closing Thoughts

The Smith machine shrug is a great way to target the trapezius muscle. It is a safer alternative to barbell shrugs, especially if you are doing heavier weights. Furthermore, by using a Smith machine to perform the shrugs you can keep the bar from swinging and you do not have to worry about picking it up off the floor like you would with a barbell shrug. This means you avoid a potential for injury.

Don’t be afraid to do trap work for fear of looking like a Neanderthal. In fact you stand a better chance of not looking like one if you work your traps. Increasing the strength of the upper back, scapulae, and neck muscles keeps tight posture and may reduce some of the “hunching over” (kyphosis) that sometimes occurs later in life. Working the traps can help maintain function and independence down the road.


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