How To Do Behind The Back Barbell Shrug

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how to do barbell shrugs

Anyone serious about training or body building knows of those trouble muscles that’re especially hard to target with most standard exercise routines. Chief among these in the upper body are the trapezius and levator scapulae – key muscle groups in your shoulders and upper back. While standard lifting routines provide some level of work for these groups, they tend to be insufficient in the long run, resulting in an imbalanced work out.

Fortunately, there are some exercises designed specifically to target these and some secondary groups, such as the back barbell shrug (also known as the rear barbell shrug). This low-impact exercise is excellent for working these groups of muscles, but must be performed correctly, and with notable caution.


  • Assume a starting position with a straight stance, your feet apart to about shoulder width to provide proper posture and a good center of gravity. Grip the barbell, palms facing backwards, just behind your thigs. Be sure your hands are list a little further apart than shoulder width.
  • Keeping your arms locked straight (not using your biceps), lift your shoulders upward in the direction of your ears. Hold this position for approximately one second, and lower the barbell back down. Repeat.
    This exercise is excellent for working the previously-mentioned muscle groups, as well as your rhomboids, deltoid and supraspinatus. However, like most exercises, there are a few cautionary tips you really should follow.

What muscles do barbell shrugs work?

By Anatomography – en:Anatomography (setting page of this image)., CC BY-SA 2.1 jp,


Behind The Back Barbell Shrug

Important Tips

  • Do not rotate your shoulders.
  • Try not to tilt your head, bend your elbows or lean your head forward – these can negate the effect of the exercise as well as potentially harm your neck muscles.
  • Do not overexert yourself or use excessive weight.
    This exercise, alongside the similar front barbell shrug, will work to tighten your shoulder and upper back muscles, as well as your upper chest, contributing to a balanced and complete upper body workout.

Again, always know your limits, and never overexert yourself, move in ways counterproductive to the exercise, or attempt more weight than you’re positive you can handle.

To learn more about intuitive exercises like this to target trouble groups, variations on this particular exercise and more about a balanced exercise routine, fill out our contact form or call us today. We’re here to help you achieve the body you dream of.

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