Barbell Shrug

Develop A Big Back

This is the method to getting all the gains you've been missing if you're someone who just exercises your "show muscles," such as your chest, arms, abs, and frontal shoulders. A big back is necessary for a thick, dense, and well-balanced upper body.

Let's examine how to develop broad, thick wings on your back and traps that fill out a tank top. This simple back and shoulder workout is all you need to get superhero jacked, along with a growth-focused approach to nutrition and supplementation.



It's simple to write off rack pulls as a poor man's deadlift, but this barbell exercise is more complex than it first appears. By reducing the range of motion, it enables you to lift greater weights. This can lead to stronger back muscles as well as better technique and power in the top part of your deadlift.


What muscles do rack pulls work?

The entire posterior chain, or behind of your body, will be worked. If you set up properly, your glutes, lower back, upper back, and to a lesser extent your calves and hamstrings, will receive a lot of work from this hefty lift.


Rack Pull Benefits:

Increasing your deadlift: Rack pulls can help you increase your deadlift. If you spend a block of time building strength with rack pulls then you can go back and evaluate whether your deadlift has improved.  If you're weak throughout the upper half of the lift then it should allow you to lift heavier.


Development of the posterior chain: Many people perform a lot of bench pressing and squatting, but most programs lack sufficient posterior chain training. In both sport and daily life, we rely on these muscles to help us move forward, therefore we shouldn't skip working them. The posterior chain can bear a significant amount of weight during the rack pull, which helps develop substantial strength and muscle mass in the upper back.

Gaining strength: Just a select few exercises, like the deadlift, allow you to lift as much weight as the rack pull. As a result, by gradually taxing your glutes and back muscles, this exercise is fantastic for increasing strength.

Because you can lift a little bit more weight with a rack pull than a deadlift and because it has a wider range of motion, your glutes will likely get a little more work from it. As the glutes are large, strong muscles that respond effectively to a heavy load, you'll activate them more if you can lift a little bit more weight.

Rack Pull

How To Do The Rack Pull

An inch or two above knee height, position a barbell on a set of spotter arms or a pair of hooks in a power rack. You should always begin with a modest bend in your knees. Having the bar practically right beneath your shoulders is a useful cue. Your back should be straight if you can achieve that.


Picture yourself "crushing oranges between your armpits" to guarantee proper technique. This will keep your arms tightly tucked into your sides.


Inhale deeply, engage your core, and then drive your hips forward and straighten your knees to lift the bar. Keep the bar near your legs as you straighten up. To get back to the starting location, manage the descent.


When to add rack pulls?

It might be challenging to include rack pulls into your current program given the large range of muscles they activate. After all, which day does a push/pull/legs split fit into when your back and leg muscles are being worked simultaneously?


For me, it can fit into leg day or back day. You might also try to fit it into a day that you would describe as a "hinge day," which would include exercises like the deadlift and Romanian deadlift.

Resistance Band Rack Pull

Attaching resistance bands to the feet of the rack and both ends of the bar is an easy technique to make your rack pulls more difficult. This will increase the exercise's overall resistance and gradually add more resistance to the move's peak, which is when the band tension is the highest. This is a clever method to increase the exercise's potency in terms of improving the top half of your deadlifts if you're already using rack pulls for that purpose. Rack pulls are a great way to get your back into gorilla mode.


Trap Bar Deadlift

This alternative to the classic deadlift lessens the strain on your back while you lift, making it an excellent choice for beginners. You'll develop all the strength necessary to master full deadlifts and properly strengthen your back between rack pulls and the trap bar deadlift. The hexagonal or diamond-shaped trap bar is made so that you may complete the lift while standing inside it and holding the handles at your sides rather than stooping to pick up a regular barbell from the floor in front of you.


Grab the handles while standing in the middle of the bar. Look up in front of you while raising your body and bringing your hips back. Maintaining a flat back, stand up by straightening your hips and knees. Returning the bar to the beginning carefully.




For most bodybuilders and physique athletes, shrugs are an excellent exercise to increase the size of their upper trapezius, especially if hypertrophy of the upper traps is their goal. Developing a big upper back/trap area will fill out your clothing better and give you a more athletic, muscular appearance.

Barbell Shrugs

Barbell shrugs are versatile because they can be incorporated into various exercises, whether you’re in a standing position, lying face-down, or face-up.

You could be doing back exercises, shoulder exercises, glute workouts, or working on your upper arms working biceps and triceps, a few perfectly performed shrugs can be worked into the workout plan – at the top of the movement, or as you return to the starting position.

Barbell shrugs are not essential for beginners or newcomers to the weight room because doing carries and deadlifts could get their traps growing sufficiently.

However, when intermediate and advanced lifters are ready to advance to new levels, shrugs are typically their preferred choice of exercise to work into their lifting routines.


Because the primary goal for general fitness trainers is not massive shoulders, personal trainers do not typically include shrugs when they design workout routines. Their reason for not favoring shrugs is the possibility of causing upper trap dominance. However, shrugs done properly can improve a person’s posture, and a few reps each day could also relieve stressed shoulders.


This is a reminder to avoid injury and muscle strain by ensuring you use the proper form for the shoulder shrug. The shrug should be a vertical motion moving the shoulder up and down.

Avoid circling the shoulder or moving it forward or backward during this exercise.

The shoulder movement should have your shoulder blades moving upward toward the ears, and definitely not scapular retractions, which are those exercises that require you to pull the shoulder blades together toward the spine.

It is important to have at least a basic understanding of the mechanics of the shrug exercise you intend to perform, whether it is part of your weight training or flexibility exercise Exercises require particular starting positions of the body in order for optimal exercise in targeted muscle groups.

You can't just lift a barbell or a pair of dumbbells and rotate your shoulders, and call it a shrug exercise.

Progressive resistance torque, weights via gravity, needs to be applied in any strength training exercise by situating the load against a force so that the intended movement or target muscles are challenged throughout a targeted range of motion, typically throughout the full range.


Band Pull Apart

Not only are pull aparts an excellent move for upper back posterior development, they are also great for injury prevention. The rotator cuffs, rear delts, traps, and rhomboids are all hit on the pull apart when done correctly. This provides a more stable environment for your shoulder in other ranges of motion. It also protects against winging scapula, or your scapula moving out of its correct alignment, which we will cover more in depth in a separate article.

Start with a resistance band that you can control for 2-3 sets of 10–20 repetitions when performing band pull-aparts. Choose a resistance level that enables you to keep up a solid form throughout all sets and repetitions.


  1. Hold a band with an underhand grip, somewhat wider than shoulder width apart and at shoulder height. Long arms with a slight bend in the elbows are ideal.
  2. Stand with your knees slightly bent and your feet hip-width apart. Your shoulders should be above your hips and your posture tall. Keep your neck and head in a neutral position. Throughout the movement, your chin should remain tucked, as if you were carrying an egg.
  3. To create a secure position, distribute your weight evenly and grab the ground with your feet.
  4. To work your lats and upper back, turn your shoulders outward. Your shoulder blades ought to be a little extended. Pretend your hips, shoulders, and core are in a straight line. Start each repeat from this location.
  5. Squeeze your upper back and posterior deltoids to start the backward movement and start to pull the band apart. Your arms should start to travel backward as you retract your shoulder.
  6. Squeeze your upper back muscles and posterior deltoids when your upper arms are parallel to your back. At the bottom of the movement, pause.
  7. Let your arms swing back to the beginning position and your shoulder blades protract while keeping your alignment.
  8. With extended arms and a slight bend in your elbows, your shoulder blades should end in a protracted position.

Attempt one of these three variations once you have mastered band pull-aparts:


  1. Resistance band pull-aparts with the hips bent: To do this variant, bend your hips first. Your hamstrings are worked by bent-over band pull-apart exercises.
  2. Perform overhead band pull-aparts by holding the resistance band above your head and lowering your arms to either side of your body while maintaining a straight posture.
  3. 3D band pull-aparts: Compared to a regular band pull-apart, this variation requires a different range of motion. By standing on one edge of the resistance band and holding the other with your hands, you may do 3D band pull-aparts. Before extending your arms out to the sides and dragging the band laterally, lift your arms in front of your body in a front raise action pattern.


Bottom Line

Adding these moves into any periodization, along with proper nutrition, supplementation,  and rest, is a surefire way to develop very respectable back muscles. The rack pull, along with the trap bar deadlift and barbell shrugs, are an excellent way to back on quality muscle mass on your upper back and trap area. Using the pull apart is not only a great support move to develop those muscles, but an excellent way to bulletproof your shoulders and protect you from injuries.

James Freeman


Meet James Freeman, a California native whose passion for fitness emerged during challenging times, reshaping his life. With over two decades of coaching experience, he's not just a coach; he's a real-life example, shedding over 100 pounds in a journey to a healthier lifestyle. Beyond his coaching career, James is passionate about inspiring at-risk youth and promoting wellness in schools. In his downtime, he enjoys swimming and cycling, connecting with nature. Join him on his Instagram and LinkedIn profiles for insights into his empowering fitness journey.