Barbell behind-the-back shrug

The barbell behind-the-back shrug is an exercise targeting the traps. Having the bar behind you helps keep your shoulders pulled up and back, rather than rounded forward. It is popular in strength and muscle-focused upper-body training, and is often trained on a shoulder day. With the assistance of straps, it can be loaded heavily, but it is still usually performed for moderate to high reps, such as 8-10 reps per set.


  1. Hits upper and mid traps more, but limits the weight used
  2. Works the shoulders and upper-back muscles secondarily
  3. Can increase difficulty by adding a pause at the top

Barbell behind-the-back shrug Images


Barbell behind-the-back shrug Instructions

Barbell behind-the-back shrug muscle diagram
  1. Stand up straight with your feet at shoulder width as you hold a barbell with both hands behind your back using a pronated grip (palms facing back). Tip: Your hands should be a little wider than shoulder width apart. You can use wrist wraps for this exercise for better grip. This will be your starting position.
  2. Raise your shoulders up as far as you can go as you breathe out and hold the contraction for a second. Tip: Refrain from trying to lift the barbell by using your biceps. The arms should remain stretched out at all times.
  3. Slowly return to the starting position as you breathe in.
  4. Repeat for the recommended amount of repetitions.

Variations: You can also rotate your shoulders as you go up, going in a semicircular motion from rear to front. However this version is not good for people with shoulder problems. In addition, this exercise can be performed with the barbell in front of your thighs, with dumbbells by the side, a smith machine or with a shrug machine.