T Nation

Pain-Free Alternatives to Shrugs?

Hey all,

I have a herniated disc at L5-S1 that I’m trying to rehab. I’m want to avoid as much compressive force on my spine as possible, and was wondering if anyone knew of good alternatives to heavy barbell and dumbell shrugs to work the traps?

Thanks for your feedback…

you could lower the weight by a lot a shrug each rep high and hold for a sec and do high rep.

Lay face down on a high incline bench and do your shrugs like that. Adjust the weight as necessary.

[quote]BONEZ217 wrote:
Lay face down on a high incline bench and do your shrugs like that. Adjust the weight as necessary. [/quote]

x2

Up right standing dumbbell rows. Focus on moving your elbows straight back and up.

[quote]MEYMZ wrote:
BONEZ217 wrote:
Lay face down on a high incline bench and do your shrugs like that. Adjust the weight as necessary.

x2[/quote]

x3…can’t really think of anything else

Face pulls work the lower traps. Shoulder work like overhead presses and lateral raises will work the traps as well to an extent. Could also try scarecrows.

An injured back is an extremely volatile thing–I know from experience. Make sure to be smart about it and don’t let your ego cause a reinjury.

Thanks for the feedback, guys. Hey, Fezzik, how’d you hurt your back? How bad?

Seated dumbbell cleans maybe?

It is a football injury from a few years ago. I was in an awkward position and got hit from the side pretty hard. Two of my lumbar vertebrae touched and all of the discs in the lumbar region were herniated. It ended my career actually.

I second face pulls!!

Come on people. Facepulls, cleans, lateral raises??? Really. We’re talking about building the traps. The traps need to be stimulated with as much weight as possible. Big weight for high reps with a deep stretch and strong contraction. Nothing comes close to the isolation that shrugging allows.

[quote]Fezzik wrote:
It is a football injury from a few years ago. I was in an awkward position and got hit from the side pretty hard. Two of my lumbar vertebrae touched and all of the discs in the lumbar region were herniated. It ended my career actually.[/quote]

Damn! And you’re still able to lift heavy? Do you squat, DL? I’ve always wondered why you don’t hear about back injuries in football that often…it always seems to be all about knees, shoulders, and concussions. You’d think serious back injuries would be common with all the hard hits.

[quote]BONEZ217 wrote:
Come on people. Facepulls, cleans, lateral raises??? Really. We’re talking about building the traps. The traps need to be stimulated with as much weight as possible. Big weight for high reps with a deep stretch and strong contraction. Nothing comes close to the isolation that shrugging allows. [/quote]

I read the original post as the OP wanting to do shrugs but they are painful for him. When you have an injury it’s nice to have a few options to try and work around your injury. Getting the back healthy takes priority over traps every day.

But for a healthy back, I never had bigger gains in my upper back than when I was doing a lot of cleans. Though, I have never tried seated cleans.

[quote]FricFrac wrote:
Fezzik wrote:
It is a football injury from a few years ago. I was in an awkward position and got hit from the side pretty hard. Two of my lumbar vertebrae touched and all of the discs in the lumbar region were herniated. It ended my career actually.

Damn! And you’re still able to lift heavy? Do you squat, DL? I’ve always wondered why you don’t hear about back injuries in football that often…it always seems to be all about knees, shoulders, and concussions. You’d think serious back injuries would be common with all the hard hits.
[/quote]

I still have to take things easy on leg days. I mostly do front squats, but I have done some back squats as well. I don’t think I will ever do heavy DL’s again which sucks because they used to be my favorite exercise. I would try out trap bar deads because at this point I think they would be okay, but my gym doesn’t have one here. The difficult thing is finding the line between tightness and pain when I do stuff; it’s really fine.

[quote]Fezzik wrote:
FricFrac wrote:
Fezzik wrote:
It is a football injury from a few years ago. I was in an awkward position and got hit from the side pretty hard. Two of my lumbar vertebrae touched and all of the discs in the lumbar region were herniated. It ended my career actually.

Damn! And you’re still able to lift heavy? Do you squat, DL? I’ve always wondered why you don’t hear about back injuries in football that often…it always seems to be all about knees, shoulders, and concussions. You’d think serious back injuries would be common with all the hard hits.

I still have to take things easy on leg days. I mostly do front squats, but I have done some back squats as well. I don’t think I will ever do heavy DL’s again which sucks because they used to be my favorite exercise. I would try out trap bar deads because at this point I think they would be okay, but my gym doesn’t have one here. The difficult thing is finding the line between tightness and pain when I do stuff; it’s really fine.[/quote]

I’ve heard from a number of people here who’ve come back from disc herniations and put up new PRs. Others just freak out and tell you to never again lift anything heavier than a pencil. I’m not sure what to believe anymore. For now, I’m just trying to aggressively rehabilitate the back by doing a lot of Cressey’s Mobility stuff and heavy Yoga (which my GF swears by, having had back issues herself), with the hope of eventually getting back to heavy lifting. I may switch to Sumo in order to reduce shear stress on the lower back. What do you think?

[quote]Fezzik wrote:
BONEZ217 wrote:
Come on people. Facepulls, cleans, lateral raises??? Really. We’re talking about building the traps. The traps need to be stimulated with as much weight as possible. Big weight for high reps with a deep stretch and strong contraction. Nothing comes close to the isolation that shrugging allows.

I read the original post as the OP wanting to do shrugs but they are painful for him. When you have an injury it’s nice to have a few options to try and work around your injury. Getting the back healthy takes priority over traps every day.

But for a healthy back, I never had bigger gains in my upper back than when I was doing a lot of cleans. Though, I have never tried seated cleans.[/quote]

Standing shrugs are completely different than shrugs while laying on a bench when it comes to spinal compression. Lateral raises are dogshit compared to them. Facepulls are going to hit the posterior delts and rhomboids much more than the traps. And no one with a back is going to be cleaning enough weight to stimulate the traps. Sometimes too much variety stifles progress.

[quote]FricFrac wrote:
Fezzik wrote:
FricFrac wrote:
Fezzik wrote:
It is a football injury from a few years ago. I was in an awkward position and got hit from the side pretty hard. Two of my lumbar vertebrae touched and all of the discs in the lumbar region were herniated. It ended my career actually.

Damn! And you’re still able to lift heavy? Do you squat, DL? I’ve always wondered why you don’t hear about back injuries in football that often…it always seems to be all about knees, shoulders, and concussions. You’d think serious back injuries would be common with all the hard hits.

I still have to take things easy on leg days. I mostly do front squats, but I have done some back squats as well. I don’t think I will ever do heavy DL’s again which sucks because they used to be my favorite exercise. I would try out trap bar deads because at this point I think they would be okay, but my gym doesn’t have one here. The difficult thing is finding the line between tightness and pain when I do stuff; it’s really fine.

I’ve heard from a number of people here who’ve come back from disc herniations and put up new PRs. Others just freak out and tell you to never again lift anything heavier than a pencil. I’m not sure what to believe anymore. For now, I’m just trying to aggressively rehabilitate the back by doing a lot of Cressey’s Mobility stuff and heavy Yoga (which my GF swears by, having had back issues herself), with the hope of eventually getting back to heavy lifting. I may switch to Sumo in order to reduce shear stress on the lower back. What do you think?
[/quote]

Yeah that’s a really good idea. Any exercise where you can keep your back more vertical will help. When I have done back squats, wide stance squats were a lot more comfortable, but that might be because I have long legs.
A person’s response to a back injury is really individual. Even with MRIs and xrays, doctors apparently aren’t able to predict pain or recovery times. I think part of the problem is because “herniated disc” or “degenerated disc” can mean pretty much anything. It makes it really hard to compare injuries.

I like Cressey’s stuff a lot more than the standard rehab exercises which seemed useless for any kind of athlete. They might help some people I guess, but no joke, one exercise was just seated bouncing up and down on a balance ball.

[quote]BONEZ217 wrote:
Standing shrugs are completely different than shrugs while laying on a bench when it comes to spinal compression. Lateral raises are dogshit compared to them. Facepulls are going to hit the posterior delts and rhomboids much more than the traps. And no one with a back is going to be cleaning enough weight to stimulate the traps. Sometimes too much variety stifles progress. [/quote]

Direct compressive stresses can be a problem when a barbell is directly loaded onto the spine, but for dumbbell exercises–at least in my experience–shear stress is more of a problem. So picking up heavy dumbbells would be more of a problem than just holding them, and getting into the starting position for shrugs on an incline can be especially awkward for someone with a bad back; unless maybe you were getting handed the weights. Either way, I’m not saying it’s not good, just that if it doesn’t work, there are other options.

Lateral raises can help maintain while focusing on a more important issue like a bad back. Facepulls are pretty good at targeting the traps actually. That’s what they are supposed to target, but you are right, they work the rhomboids and rotators as well. I mentioned cleans as a sidenote for someone with a healthy back, exactly like I already said. So you were agreeing with me for that one. Anyway I wasn’t recommending doing all of that stuff, but simply finding what works.

Sometimes dogmatism stifles progress