Hybrid Cable-Dumbbell Shrugs

A big, thick set of traps shows that you're a serious trainer...even more so than big arms, which can hide under clothing, Massive traps are always on display.

So have normal shrugs let you down when it comes to building traps?

If so, I've got an exercise for YOU.

This is a Hybrid version of the standard dumbbell shrug. And by Hybrid I mean you'll be combining two forms of resistance into one movement to better match the strength curve and fiber alignment of the target muscles...the trapezius.

So to perform this exercise, you're essentially going to be doing a normal standing dumbbell shrug while attached to the two low pulleys, which are exerting outwards/diagonal force at the same time.

To see why this is so effective, let's take a quick look at the anatomy of the trap muscles.

Trapezius Anatomy
Anatomy Chart courtesy of FCIT

As you can see in the diagram, the fibers of the traps run in multiple directions in a fan-like pattern.

The upper traps, which is what we're targeting with the shrug exercise run diagonally upwards (though never completely vertical). When you're doing a standard straight up and down shrug movement, you're only involving the fibers in a vertical movement pattern. You're also working the levator scapula muscles, whose sole purpose is to elevate the shoulder blades straight up.

When you add in the lateral-resistance component of the two low pulleys, you can immediately see how that additional pull is more in line with the direction of the upper trapezius fibers (you'll see this clearly in the pics of the exercise in action below).

When you combine the heavy load of the dumbbells with the lateral pull of the cables, you get MASSIVE tension on more "meat" of the trapezius muscles.

And that means SERIOUS trapezius growth.



Here's how to do Hybrid Cable-Dumbbell Shrugs

First, you'll need a way to attach the low pulley to either your arms or your dumbbells. Fortunately, that's very easy to do.

My preferred method is to use two ankle harnesses attached to the low pulleys. Keep the set loose so you can slide your hands in and out fairly easily.

If you don't have ankle harnesses, you can also just loop the cable around the handle and clip it back onto itself. Keep that shifted towards the back of the dumbbell. It does make it a bit awkward, which is why I like the ankle harnesses, but it does give you an option.

Also, if you don't have low pulleys, you can do this with bands as well and get a similar effect.

This is my recommended source for training bands. (Note: Use Coupon Code "rbtfitstep" to get 10% off your purchase of a band package)

So first, get your dumbbells set in in the center of the pulleys. I'm using a couple of 105 lb dumbbells and 100 lbs on each of the weight stacks (side note, when you're using heavier dumbbells, you need to match it with heavier weight on the cables, otherwise the downward force of the dumbbell weight will overmatch the lateral force of the cables and you won't get the same effect).

Get your hands through the harnesses.

Build MONSTER Traps With Hybrid Cable-Dumbell Shrugs Setup1

Build MONSTER Traps With Hybrid Cable-Dumbell Shrugs - Setup2

Now get in the center and grab your dumbbells, getting into position for a regular shrug.

Build MONSTER Traps With Hybrid Cable-Dumbell Shrugs - Bottom

Next, with an powerful movement, shrug your shoulders as high as you can and hold briefly at the top for maximum contraction.

Build MONSTER Traps With Hybrid Cable-Dumbell Shrugs - Top

You will feel this up into your neck like you never have before with shrugs, I can promise you that. The direct lateral resistance on the traps targets fibers that generally don't get worked by regular shrugs due to the standard vertical line of pull.

When you add in the lateral resistance with the cables, you're also going to get continuous tension on those fibers, which is a further stimulator of growth.

So you're...

1. Hitting more fibers
2. Hitting them with a lateral line of pull, which is more in line with their direction of pull
3. Keep continuous tension on them.

This is a KILLER combination that will give you MONSTER trap growth.

Here's a more close-up view...

A post shared by Nick Nilsson (@nicknilsson1) on


More Hybrid Training

If you like this method, I've got many more Hybrid exercises just like this one in my book "Hybrid Training".

Hybrid Training

Combining multiple forms of resistance into one movement is one of THE most powerful concepts I've ever come across and used in my training, and when you give this shrug exercise a try, you'll see exactly why!

Learn more about Hybrid Training here...



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