Shrug One-Arm

Start Position
End Position

Starting position:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Facing the cable pulley, grasp the D-handle bar attachment with a closed, neutral grip (palm facing inward).
  3. Keep the elbow fully extended (with a slight bend in it) allowing the bar to D-handle to hang at your side.
  4. Stand with torso erect, keep a slight bend in the knees, and look straight ahead.

Upward movement/concentric phase:

  1. Shrug your shoulder, lifting the D-handle 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 shoulder to bring the bar back to starting position.
    2. Complete the set and repeat with the opposite arm.
Do not hold your breath. Exhale during the concentric/phase phase and inhale during the eccentric/lowering phase.


Exercise Data

  • Primary Muscles: Trapezius (upper 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: Cable crossover station and D-handle attachment
  • Lever: 1st class lever
  • Level: Beginner to advanced
  • FAQ'S & FACTS ABOUT Shrug One-Arm

    What Is A One-Arm Cable Shrug?

    A one-arm cable shrug is a resistance exercise, which targets the upper fibers of the trapezius muscle. This exercise is performed at a cable crossover station with a D-handle attachment.

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

    The purpose of the one-arm cable shrug is to strengthen and develop the upper fibers of the trapezius.

    Why Do A One-Arm Cable Shrug

    One-arm cable shrugs strengthen and develop the upper trapezius. Developing the upper fibers of the trapezius complements the aesthetics of the upper back as the upper fibers of the trapezius can be seen from the front, side and back of the body.

    Performing shrugs with a cable provides constant resistance throughout the entire range of motion. The unilateral fashion of this exercise allows the lifter to focus on each side of the upper trapezius individually.

    In addition to serving as an exercise that enhances the aesthetics of the upper back, one-arm cable shrugs also complement weightlifting and sport performance.

    Anatomy Of A One-Arm Cable 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 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 One-Arm Cable Shrug

    Cable shrug, behind-the-back cable shrug, barbell shrug, dumbbell shrug, hex bar shrug, Smith machine shrug, one-arm Smith machine shrug.

    How To Improve Your One-Arm Cable Shrugs

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

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

    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 One-Arm Cable Shrugs

    Using momentum to lift the D-handle (e.g. jerking the torso, elbow, or shoulder 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 elbow during the exercise minimizes the activation of the trapezius and places greater emphasis on the biceps muscle group. Keep arm 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 & Their Effects Regarding One-Arm Cable 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.