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Lester (@lesterhokw) and I have been discussing the use of the (shoulder) shrug when weightlifting. Again, today’s lesson isn’t what you should or shouldn’t do; but rather, to understand the intention when applying this technique.

Understanding The Shrug.

It is one of the common cues which have been a taboo topic when discussing weightlifting technique.

However, it’s a common action especially when performing a pull and more importantly during your lifts whether you stand by it or not. Some argue that the shrug is an indication of the end of the second pull while some say it happens as a result of initiating a turnover under the bar.

For most beginners, it’s not so much deciding what the purpose of the shrug is, but actually making sure you perform it correctly.

The common mistake or association that many who begin weightlifting have with the shrug is that it is equivalent to pulling on the bar. Thus, the common mistake of pulling from the wrist is misunderstood as shrugging because the bar still has that tugging effect and travels a little more (as though the pull is being finished).


Another common association is to keep the elbows up as part of the shrug. When the elbows are raised up in that manner, the deltoid is actively involved and this limits the range at which the arms can travel passively for the turnover phase.

So what needs to happen for a good finish? Proper shrugging is in fact the elevation of the shoulder blades so that the arms can remain loose and the body doesn’t get slowed down in the turnover where it needs to move immediately in a downward direction. That way, the traps which are actually attached to your shoulder blades can do the work to finish the pull off.

It’s that little difference in timing between actually using your traps and mistakenly using the shoulders or arms that will give you a smoother transition under the bar and subsequently a higher chance of a good lift.

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