When Strength and Conditioning Coaches are designing training programs, their sole purpose is to prepare their athletes as much as possible for game day competition. This may include various upper body push/pull movements as well as anterior/posterior lower body exercises. That said, one of the more overlooked areas in our training programs is the training of the trapezius muscle, which upon further examination has an integral role to our athlete’s health and performance.

The trapezius muscle is crucial for a number of reasons, most prominently postural correction and stabilization of the shoulder girdle. The shoulder girdle allows the greatest range of motion of all the joints in the human body. It is responsible for the elevation, depression, retraction, protraction, as well as the internal and external rotation of the scapula. However, this range of motion comes as a double-edged sword if the trapezius is not addressed properly in training. The shoulder girdle may allow the greatest range of motion however it has potential to be the most unstable joint in the body, thus making it highly susceptible to injury. So to reduce the risk of injury in our shoulder girdle, it is our incentive to train the trapezius muscle.

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In addition, training our trapezius will increase mass in the muscle itself, increasing its ability to stabilize the shoulder girdle as well as the head and neck. This increase in muscle mass is vital towards reducing the likelihood of extensive head and neck trauma due to the fact that there will be more cross sectional area for external forces to be distributed through. This alone has major implications regarding the improvement of injury prevention/rehabilitation protocols for high impact, contact sports such as American football, ice hockey, and rugby. In addition, this exercise is particularly useful to include for programs that require extensive of use the shoulder elevators. Strengthening the trapezius muscle could lead to improved stabilization and performance of exercises as such the squat, loaded lunge, deadlifts, pressing exercises, as well as Olympic lifts. From an athletic performance perspective, shrugs also increase the trapezius’s ability to generate force thus leading to increase the athlete’s overall power output.

So what is the proven method to train our traps? One method that has proven to be effective and efficient is the loaded shoulder shrug exercise. We can perform shrugs through a number of modalities, which include barbells, dumbbells, or a Rogers Athletic 5-Way Neck Machine. And because the trapezius muscle has such a vital role and function in the human body, it is of the utmost importance that we coach and perform our shrugs correctly. Performing the shrug with less than optimal form while using heavier loads can easily injure joint and ligament structures. It can also further magnify any pre-existing muscle imbalances within our athletes.

Watch the video below to how Rick Court, Assistant Athletic Director and Strength and Conditioning Coach of Football for the University of Maryland shares how he utilizes and coaches shrugs with his athletes.

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