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  1. #1
    Registered User jamezp's Avatar
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    Shrugs or Upright Rows for a Bigger Neck

    I have read through the neck and upright rows posts already but couldn't find an answer to this question:

    What exercise was most effective for you when building your neck muscles? Shrugs or Upright Rows?

    The reason I am asking is that my brother used to do a lot of upright rows a couple years back and ever since he's had a huge neck - big enough to visibly lift his shirts and t-shirts; he has never done any shrugs. I on the other hand have been doing a lot of shrugs over years and never done any upright rows; my neck muscles are tiny, even compared to others who have worked out for a similar amount of years.

    My trainer told me that shrugs are best for neck muscle building but as just described my personal experience tells me something different.

    Hence, I was wondering what your experiences are in the shrugs vs. upright rows discussion.
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  2. #2
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    I don't do either and haven't in years. Look around at the guys doing 500lbs deadlifts for sets of 10, thick necks, right? Doing rack pulls and deadlifts will build your traps and give you a thick neck. Of course, this is only my opinion and experience.
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  3. #3
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    I would say try upright rows, see what works for YOU (not your brother or anyone else for that matter). Only you can know what gets you better gains.

    I had a friend that said he didn't like his small neck. He was doing a split but shrugged everyday and his neck exploded. Most people wouldn't suggest working a muscle every day, but hey it worked for him. So just mess around with stuff.

    It could just be that your neck area is a genetic weak point. Almost everyone has one somewhere.

    Edit: Above poster makes good point. Most of the big compounds his your traps.
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    Neck muscles are different from the traps. I also saw best trap development from rack pulls/DL.
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  5. #5
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    If you mean traps then shrugs are good, but if you actually mean neck try front and back wrestling bridges.
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    If you HAVE to do upright rows, keep in mind the rotation on the shoulder occurring during this exercise can potentially lead to some problems (ex, shoulder impingement,tendinitis). I would personally stick more to the shrugs, just make sure not to "roll" you're shoulders while doing them.
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    Thanks guys for all these quick answers! And I actually meant the traps.

    I do most of the common compound exercises (deadlifts, squats, chin-ups, bench press, military press) but I have never done rack pulls before, so I will definitely implement that.

    @erebus: Gotcha. Sometimes I need inputs like these to be able to think "outside the box" and consequently adjust my workout routine.
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  8. #8
    Registered User jamezp's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by slq18 View Post
    If you HAVE to do upright rows, keep in mind the rotation on the shoulder occurring during this exercise can potentially lead to some problems (ex, shoulder impingement,tendinitis). I would personally stick more to the shrugs, just make sure not to "roll" you're shoulders while doing them.
    That's actually why I have never implemented the upright rows into my routine - my shoulder made weird noises and when pushing 'til failure I actually felt pain. But seeing my brother having such good results from it I was thinking about adding them now as well, but starting out slowly.

    Do you maybe know of a good instructional video so I don't do them wrong? If you type "how to upright rows" into youtube you get loads of results - and the first one is by expertvillage :P
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  9. #9
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    Originally Posted by jamezp View Post
    Thanks guys for all these quick answers! And I actually meant the traps.

    I do most of the common compound exercises (deadlifts, squats, chin-ups, bench press, military press) but I have never done rack pulls before, so I will definitely implement that.

    @erebus: Gotcha. Sometimes I need inputs like these to be able to think "outside the box" and consequently adjust my workout routine.
    Anytime the shoulders are elevated, the traps are being stimulated. Upright rows will hit the traps as long as you get the bar up near/above the clavicle, but your front/side delts and some biceps are working as well.

    Listen to these guys, deadlifting/rack pulls will really stimulate the trap area just by the exposure to lifting heavier weight. Keep a nice balance of all these, along with Db shrugs, but deads and rack pulls at the forefront.

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  10. #10
    Registered User jamezp's Avatar
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    Thanks a lot, Dave!
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  11. #11
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    Originally Posted by jamezp View Post
    Thanks a lot, Dave!
    Happy to help
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  12. #12
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    Originally Posted by jamezp View Post
    Do you maybe know of a good instructional video so I don't do them wrong? If you type "how to upright rows" into youtube you get loads of results - and the first one is by expertvillage :P
    the only advice i could give would be to perform the movement with a wider grip, you're shoulder is still going to rotate but not as much. I personally don't do them period.
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  13. #13
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    Originally Posted by slq18 View Post
    the only advice i could give would be to perform the movement with a wider grip, you're shoulder is still going to rotate but not as much. (...)
    I'll give it a try, thanks. I'll start out with less weight and see if I hear the cracking noises and feel the pain again. If not, I implement it to see how it works for me, otherwise I drop it as you said. I think the answers have been pretty clear that upright rows are not going to be the decisive exercise for building traps.
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  14. #14
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    Originally Posted by slq18 View Post
    If you HAVE to do upright rows, keep in mind the rotation on the shoulder occurring during this exercise can potentially lead to some problems (ex, shoulder impingement,tendinitis). I would personally stick more to the shrugs, just make sure not to "roll" you're shoulders while doing them.
    what he said.
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    close-grip upright rows work the traps.
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    5'9" - 240 lbs Lucharilla0311's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by animalbolic View Post
    I don't do either and haven't in years. Look around at the guys doing 500lbs deadlifts for sets of 10, thick necks, right? Doing rack pulls and deadlifts will build your traps and give you a thick neck. Of course, this is only my opinion and experience.
    Same here. Hopefully that provides some perspective on things.
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  17. #17
    Behold, my Title-Enator azmark's Avatar
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    Do both. I do drop sets with upright Cable rows(seems to be easier on my shoulders than with a barbell) and shrugs 4 sets.
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  18. #18
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    Thanks everyone, this is more good advice than I could have hoped for!
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  19. #19
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    Originally Posted by GeneralSerpant View Post
    close-grip upright rows work the traps.
    yes but that's where all the of the injury occurs during an upright row. The exercise should be avoided honestly but if it HAS to be done, like i said wider grip to lower the chance of injury. Regardless to the grip any elevation of the shoulders will work his upper traps having a wider grip will hopefully save him some pain later on.
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    Originally Posted by DJAuto View Post
    Neck muscles are different from the traps.
    Upper traps are neck muscles since they connect to the neck But yeah there are other ones too. Levator scapulae are also neck muscles right?
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    I've found upright rows flair my neck up so I'd say shrugs are better. u can vary with barbell an DB as well!
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    Originally Posted by Tyciol View Post
    Upper traps are neck muscles since they connect to the neck(...)
    That's why I confused the two terms, as well ^^

    Originally Posted by simodasink View Post
    I've found upright rows flair my neck up so I'd say shrugs are better (...)
    Thanks man for sharing that. Like I said in my opening post, I'm really wondering how others benefit from the two exercises.
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  23. #23
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    I'm suprised no one has mentioned FOOD!

    Your comparing your results vs your brother, I'm curious about his height/weight vs. yours

    Picking the perfect exercise is a non issue if you arent providing the raw materials (food) to grow
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    He is 1 inch taller than me. We both go to same university and live in the same household, so we eat mostly the same. The point is, we pretty much eat the same food and the same amount of food.

    Besides the fact that he is bigger than me, the biggest difference between him and me (in terms of neck/traps size) is that he did upright rows and I never did them. Which lead me to start this thread because I do feel pain when I do upright rows and I wanted to know if others had experienced as much progress as my brother by doing upright rows.
    Last edited by jamezp; 11-30-2011 at 10:53 AM.
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    The BACKMAN DJAuto's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Tyciol View Post
    Upper traps are neck muscles since they connect to the neck But yeah there are other ones too. Levator scapulae are also neck muscles right?
    People who lift generally make a distinction between trap and neck work.
    Bodybuilding is 60% training and 50% diet. Yes that adds up to 110%, because that's what you should be giving it. Change the inside, and the physique will follow.
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    Originally Posted by DJAuto View Post
    People who lift generally make a distinction between trap and neck work.
    In this picture from wikipedia they highlighted the neck muscles quite clearly:
    upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/1a/Sternocleidomastoideus.png/250px-Sternocleidomastoideus.png

    I have constantly been calling the traps neck muscles. That was so wrong!
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    I have no idea, so I do them both.
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    Hey it looks great to know all this..
    thanks for sharing a great information.......
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    Originally Posted by peeny View Post
    Hey it looks great to know all this..
    thanks for sharing a great information.......
    Yeah you're right, the community on this forum is amazing, so much valuable info is being shared.
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    Originally Posted by DJAuto View Post
    People who lift generally make a distinction between trap and neck work.
    What people call it aside, trap work's usually scap elevating (shrugs) with head/neck stable and I guess the neck work would be either when the neck is moving or when resistance is applied to the head itself during isometrics.

    Shrugs probably do build a lot of the neck muscles though, and not just the back either, since I imagine the flexor muscles would have to contract to stop the traps from simply pulling the head into extension.
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