Dumbbell shrugs VS barbell shrugs: Which one is the best choice?

As a beginner lifter, you may want to get some muscles safely. For example, to build your upper trap, shrugs are an excellent choice for exercise. Dumbbell shrugs vs. barbell shrugs Which one is the best?

Of course, it confuses a beginner about which one will be better. Besides, a beginner bodybuilder must remember that he has to practice some exercises differently than the professional one.

But don’t worry. I will compare the shrugs and make it easier to understand which one is better for you. So, stick to the article.

Dumbbell shrugs vs barbell shrugs: Pros and Cons

Shoulder shrugs barbell vs. dumbbell; which one is better? Both shoulder shrugs are for trap exercise, but they work differently. Therefore, learning more details about them is essential to start exercising with them.

What is a dumbbell shrug?

A person who wants to start exercising to build traps can begin with a dumbbell shrug. But of course, using the equipment correctly is the most important thing. Sometimes, Dumbbell shrugs seem easier than barbell shoulder shrugs.

But barbell shrugs can take more weight. Shoulder shrug exercise is the best exercise to build the upper part of the body. It makes trapezius muscle. You may ask, are barbell or dumbbell shrugs better? They are very similar.

The main difference is that the dumbbell shrug is for a neutral grip. Your hand is facing the body. But the barbell shrug keeps your hand facing away from your body front.

Benefits of Dumbbell shrug

A dumbbell shrug has some benefits. First, you can use it freely on any side of your body by hand. It is the main advantage of this shrug.

You can exercise each of your sides unilaterally with dumbbells. So, develop your muscles by exercising each side of your traps.

Dumbbell shrugs are best for you if you want to increase heavy weight lifting capacity. This is because it allows you more motion range than a barbell. Besides, dumbbells are smaller and easier to handle.

Cons of Dumbbell shrug

Following the dumbbell shrug movement using your neutral grip will be good for shoulder strength. But it is not enough to build traps. When you take the dumbbell shrug with palms, the elbows drift inward.

In this way, you may face shoulder injury. Besides, you cannot increase the weight of the dumbbells. So, it is not the right choice if your goal is to build muscle.

What are barbell shrugs?

Barbell shrug is the best option among dumbbell shrugs vs. barbell shrugs. But to build trap muscles, barbell shrugs are the best. You may practice different barbell shrugs exercises, but which one is better, front shrugs vs. side shrugs?

Both of these exercises are good for trap muscles. But knowing the right way to exercise is most important. If you need to carry more loads, it is possible with your barbell shrug.

You can call your barbell shrug the trap bar shrug. Use your two hands to take the barbell shrug and raise it to the shoulders. Do it slowly and increase the strength of your shoulder and neck.

Benefits of barbell shrug

Barbell shrugs have some unique benefits which make them different and more useful than dumbbell shrugs. Are barbell shrugs good? To know more, let’s see the benefits.

For proper posture, barbell exercise is excellent. When you practice with barbell shrugs with a wide grip, it improves posture and shoulder blade mobility.

Your upper back muscles build properly if you exercise with barbell shrugs. In addition, it maintains your posture by building muscles in traps.

Back strength is gradually increased with barbell exercise. Bench press improvement is also possible when you have enough back strength.

You can try more weight if you want with the barbell shrug. It is not possible with a dumbbell shrug.

Cons of Barbell shrug

We find two cons mainly. Dumbbell shrug overcomes these two cons though it has some backward. A barbell shrug cannot provide you with more motion rage for trap muscles.

Besides, you can feel discomfort when you are new to exercise with a barbell shrug around your neck and sometimes in the back area.

The differences between dumbbell shrugs and barbell shrugs

To compare dumbbell shrugs vs. barbell shrugs, let’s see the main differences. You can also compare smith machine shrugs vs. dumbbell shrugs because smith machine shrugs are similar to barbell shrugs.

However, the main differences are in the equipment of both shrugs, exercises, the body muscles you target, motion range, and weight.

Let’s learn in detail.

Equipment of the shrugs

Barbell shrugs have barbells, and dumbbell shrugs come with two dumbbells. You can increase your load by adding weight to a barbell shrug because it has safety pins and a power case. But dumbbell shrugs do not have the equipment.


If you compare barbell shrug and dumbbell shrug, you find many similarities. But the types of exercises are not the same.

You must pull the dumbbell and shrug vertically to the shoulders with the arms by the side. But when you pull the barbell shrug, you have to pull it up to your shoulder with two arms horizontally to your shoulders.

Targeted muscle groups

Both of these shrugs are for trap muscles. Mainly, they work for supper traps. In the case of Barbell shrugs, they activate the rhomboids slightly. Besides, it activates the spinal area.

On the other hand, dumbbell shrugs work mainly for the forearm and also for grip strength. The smaller size is responsible for it.

Weight you used

Barbell shrugs allow you to exercise with a heavier weight if you compare them to dumbbells. For example, you can try 100-120 lbs weight with a dumbbell shrug. But a barbell can take more loads.

Dumbbell shrugs VS Barbell shrugs: Which one is to choose?

It depends on you. If you what more motion range and only upper target traps, dumbbell shrugs are better. But if you want to build trap muscles and increase general strength, you try barbell shrugs.


After comparing Dumbbell shrugs vs. barbell shrugs, we see that they have different advantages. Both are for upper and lower trap muscle and shoulder muscles making exercises. 

If you go to the gym for exercise and cannot make your decision, then you can try both of them. Then, after a few days, you can understand which one is better and more comfortable for you.

Besides, there are other alternatives to these shrugs, such as smith machine shrugs, trap bar shrugs, and behind-the-back shrugs. If you have additional questions, search for dumbbell shrugs vs. barbell shrugs Reddit to learn more.

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