Bent Over Barbell Shrugs:
Middle Back Exercise

If you're looking for a very challenging middle back exercise, try doing shrugs from the bent over row position.

You can do barbell shrugs from many different angles. When you do them standing straight up, you will emphasize the upper traps. If you lean forward slightly, you can increase the range of motion and challenge for the upper traps while starting to also recruit the middle trapezius.

And, if you lean forward to almost 90 degrees at the hips, you can really increase the muscle work in the middle back.

Lower Back Stability

Both a benefit and a challenge of doing shrugs from a bent over position is the stability of the lower back.

Practicing this exercise can help to increase lower back strength, and I am a fan of practicing exercises in the bent over position.

Many lower back injuries occur when people lift objects, so practicing this position and doing exercises that strengthen the lower back can help to decrease the likelihood of injuring the lower back when you're lifting other objects.

If your lower back is weak or injured this exercise might put too much pressure on the lower back. If you want to try it, use a much lower weight than you would use for regular shrugs.

Okay, here are the pictures and instructions for this middle back exercise.

Bent Over Barbell Shrugs for the Middle Back Muscles

Starting Position: With your hands about shoulder width apart, grab onto the barbell with an overhand grip.

Bend your knees very slightly, and then while keeping your lower back in a neutral position, hinge forwards from your hips to around 90 degrees.

Form: While holding your spine and hips in one position, shrug your shoulders up towards the ceiling attempting to pinch your shoulder blades together.

Hold for a brief second and then slowly return to the starting position.

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Personal Trainer Tips: Be really mindful of the position of your lower back. Make sure to keep your back in a neutral position. Do not let your back hunch forwards.

This exercise uses a small range of motion for the scapula. Make sure you keep your arms straight and and only move from the shoulder blades.

Work to pinch your shoulder blades together and hold them together for a brief second.

If this exercise is too challenging, try bent over shrugs from a slight angle (15-30 degrees).

Or you can do dumbbell shrugs while lying face down on an incline bench.


There are many different ways to work your middle back muscles, but remember that this is an advanced exercise.

Whenever, you start a new exercise build up your weights slowly, and always listen to your body.

Yours in Health,
Dr. Charles PT/PT

Return to the Main Trapezius Exercises page to Learn Another Middle Back Exercise

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