Incline Bench Dumbbell Shrugs:
Exercises for the Upper Back

There are many great exercises for the upper back and middle back. Standing shrugs and the seated row are common exercises, but on this page you'll learn a not so popular exercise for the trapezius and rhomboids.

Dumbbell shrugs on a bench are a great way to work the middle and upper back muscles.

The trapezius and rhomboids are 2 large muscles that stabilize the scapula (shoulder blade), and when these muscles are strong you will be less likely to get some shoulder injuries.

These muscles also help to support good posture.

One of the advantages of doing this exercise on a bench is that you can focus on the upper back without worrying about the lower back, because the bench will support your body weight.

Below are pictures of shrugs on a bench.

Upper Back and Middle Back Exercise

Starting Position: Adjust a bench so that is around a 45 degree angle. Place 2 dumbbells next to the bench and then lay face down on the bench.

Once you're in position, pick up the 2 dumbbells.

Form: While keeping your arms straight, exhale and shrug your shoulders up towards the ceiling. Hold for a brief second at the top and then slowly lower to the starting position.

best trapezius exercisesbest trapezius exercises

Personal Trainer Tips: This exercise has a small range of motion, so you really have to focus on pinching your shoulder blades together at the top of the motion.

Make sure that you pull back from your shoulder blades and not your elbows. Remember to keep your elbows straight throughout.

Move in a slow and controlled manner so that momentum does not take over.


This is a great upper back exercise, and it can really help to build up shoulder stability.

If you have not been working your upper back, start with a lighter weight and build up your strength.

If you want more of a core challenge and increased work for the lower back muscles, try this exercise from a standing position-- bent over dumbbell shrugs.

Yours in Health,
Dr. Charles PT/PT

Return to the Main Trapezius Page to Learn More of the Best Exercises for the Upper Back

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