Shrug Behind Smith

Start Position
End Position

Starting position:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Turn your back to the bar and grasp the bar behind you with a closed, pronated grip (palms facing away from you).
  3. Lift and rotate the bar to unlatch is from the hook.
  4. Grip width should be wider than shoulder width to the sides of your outer thighs.
  5. Keep the elbows fully extended (with a slight bend in them) allowing the bar to hang below.
  6. Stand with torso erect, keep a slight bend in the knees, and look straight ahead.

Upward movement/concentric phase:

  1. Shrug your shoulders, lifting the bar as high as possible while keeping your arms extended.
  2. Maintain the torso straight up and keep looking straight ahead.

Downward movement/eccentric phase:

    1. In a controlled fashion, slowly lower shoulders to bring the bar back to starting position.
    2. Rotate the bar to re-latch the bar when the set is complete.
Do not hold your breath. Exhale during the concentric/phase phase and inhale during the eccentric/lowering phase.


Exercise Data

  • Primary Muscles: Trapezius (upper and middle fibers)
  • Synergists: Levator scapulae
  • Stabilizers: Deltoid, rhomboids, rotator cuff muscles, triceps brachii, biceps brachii, wrist flexors
  • Type: Strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance
  • Mechanics: Scapular elevation
  • Equipment: Smith Machine
  • Lever: 1st class lever
  • Level: Intermediate to advanced
  • FAQ'S & FACTS ABOUT Shrug Behind Smith

    What Is A Behind-the-Back Smith Machine Shrug?

    A behind-the-back Smith machine shrug is a resistance exercise, which targets the middle and upper fibers of the trapezius muscle. It is a variation of the traditional barbell shrug with the bar lifted behind the body instead of in front of. This exercise is performed at a Smith machine.

    The concentric portion of the lift is scapular elevation. The eccentric portion is scapular depression as the bar is lowered.

    The purpose of the behind-the-back Smith machine shrug is to strengthen and develop the upper and middle fibers of the trapezius.

    Why Do A Behind-the-Back Smith Machine Shrug?

    Behind-the-back Smith machine shrugs strengthen and develop the upper and middle trapezius. Developing the upper and middle fibers of the trapezius complements the aesthetics of the upper and middle back as the trapezius is a superficial muscle that can be seen from the front, side and back of the body.

    The bar positioned behind the back entails a degree of scapular retraction to stabilize the shoulder girdle as the scapula elevate. This activates the middle fibers of the trapezius in addition to the upper fibers, which are responsible for elevating the scapula.

    The Smith machine range of motion is limited to the provided tracking. This may allow the lifter to increase the load with a relatively increased amount of ease.

    In addition to serving as an exercise that enhances the aesthetics of the upper and middle back, behind-the-back Smith machine shrugs also complement weightlifting and sport performance.

    Anatomy Of A Behind-the-Back Smith Machine Shrug

    A flat and triangular muscle, the trapezius is the most superficial muscle of the posterior thorax. The superior (upper) fibers run downward to the scapula. The middle fibers run horizontally to the scapula. Its origin is located at the occipital bone, ligamentum nuchae, and spines of C7 and all thoracic vertebrae. Its insertion is located along the acromion and spine of the scapula and lateral region of the clavicle. The middle fibers retract the scapula slightly to accommodate to the bar positioned behind the body. The upper fibers elevate the scapula as in shrugging the shoulders. As a superficial muscle, developing the upper trapezius contributes to the overall aesthetics of the upper back.

    The levator scapulae is located underneath the trapezius at the back and side of the neck. Its origin is located at the transverse process of C1-C4 and inserts into the medial border of the scapula. The levator scapulae assists the upper fibers of the trapezius with scapular elevation.

    The deltoid, rhomboids, triceps brachii and biceps brachii stabilize the shoulder girdle as the arms are fully extended holding the bar. The rotator cuff muscles, particularly the supraspinatus, help to hold the humerus in place as the scapula elevates and depresses throughout the shrugging motion. The wrist flexors maintain the wrists rigid and stabilized throughout the exercise.

    Variations Of A Behind-the-Back Smith Machine Shrug

    Smith machine shrug, one-arm Smith machine shrug, barbell shrug, dumbbell shrug, hex bar shrug, cable shrug.

    How To Improve Your Behind-the-Back Smith Machine Shrugs

    Strategically varying your shrug exercises (e.g. barbell shrug, dumbbell shrug, cable shrug) can optimize the muscle fiber recruitment of the upper trapezius. Over time, this will enhance the strength and hypertrophy of the trapezius muscle.

    Performing behind-the-back shrugs with dumbbells may allow the lifter to execute this movement with more ease as the gluteal muscle group may get in the way when performing the exercise with a bar or barbell.

    Focus on the concentric portion of the contraction, concentrating on squeezing as the shoulders shrug (imagine wanting to touch your ears with your shoulders).

    Emphasis on eccentric contractions, prolonging the eccentric portion of the contraction, may also be incorporated in a training program focused on increasing strength. This should be implemented accordingly and with adequate muscle recovery as eccentric contractions cause substantial damage to muscle tissue.

    It is important to note that your repetition and set volume will depend on your goals (e.g. strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance). It is also important to allow adequate recovery days in between back and shoulder training days to allow muscles to repair.

    Common Mistakes When Doing Behind-the-Back Smith Machine Shrugs

    Using momentum to lift the bar (e.g. jerking the torso, elbows, or shoulders for assistance) minimizes the potential of force production of the involved muscles and can increase the risk for injury. It is important that both the eccentric and concentric phases of the exercise are controlled.

    Bending the elbows during the exercise minimizes the activation of the trapezius and places greater emphasis on the biceps muscle group. Keep arms fully extending with just a slight bend in the elbow to ensure maximal activation of the trapezius.

    Tucking the chin into the chest during this exercise can increase the risk of neck injury. It is important to keep the neck in a neutral position, looking straight ahead, to ensure proper and safe technique.

    Injuries Or Ailments And Their Effects When Doing Behind-the-Back Smith Machine Shrugs

    If the lifter has a compromised range of motion with the shoulder joint and/or performs this exercise incorrectly, this exercise can increase the risk of injury and/or exacerbate a previous injury.

    If proper technique and recovery are not adhered to rotator cuff injuries and/or lower back injuries may occur.