Karsten Shrugs: How To Do, Benefits,…

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Recent studies suggest there are extra results hiding in more traditional exercises. Find out how to do Karsten shrugs and the secrets behind them.

Karsten shrugs are a shrug variation where you use a cable machine and lifting straps and tilt your head sideways, bend over slightly, and rotate your shoulder inward during the movement.

These seemingly small details allow you to work your trapezius muscles in line with the muscle fibers and from a stretched position.

Since these things tend to be beneficial for training results, Karsten shrugs can help you get more muscle growth and strength progress faster.

Additionally, by working each side separately, Karsten shrugs make it easier to avoid muscle imbalances.

Two potential downsides to keep in mind are that Karsten shrugs require a cable machine or sturdy resistance band setup and that your workouts may last a bit longer because you have to work each side separately.

What are Karsten shrugs?

Karsten shrugs are a shrug exercise variation I invented after applying recent muscle growth studies to the somewhat unusual directions of the trapezius muscle fibers.

Since the differences in the effectiveness of the shrug exercise should go up a nice amount and because I did not find anyone else who discovered this movement I coined the term Karsten shrugs.

From a high-level view, Karsten shrugs involve using a cable machine, straps, tilting your head sideways, bending over slightly, and rotating your shoulder inward.

You can find the more in-depth how-to steps in the next section.

How to do Karsten shrugs

Once you have a cable machine and lifting straps, take the following steps to do a Karsten shrug:

  1. Set the cable pulley low to the ground and attach a single D-grip handle.
  2. Grab the handle with lifting straps or pads with your side toward the cable machine, take a few steps away from the pulley, tilt your upper body forward slightly, and let your arm follow the tension of the cable machine for now.
  3. Bend your neck sideways (away from the cable machine) and forward to a position where you feel your trapezius muscles stretch the most.
  4. Slowly shrug your shoulder on the side of the cable machine upward and backward and rotate your shoulder inward. All as far as comfortably possible.
  5. Lower your shoulder back to the position in step 3 in a controlled motion.
  6. Complete your set and repeat the same number of repetitions on the other side.

You can watch how to do Karsten shrugs in the video above or on my Youtube Channel Spartan Aesthetix.

Muscles worked with Karsten shrugs

The main muscles you work with Karsten shrugs are your trapezius muscles and more specifically, the upper parts.

Additionally, since you typically do Karsten shrugs with a lot of weight, this exercise works your forearm grip muscles a lot too.

To avoid these muscles fatiguing before you hit your optimal trapezius rep and set ranges you want to use weight lifting pads or straps.

Besides that, keep in mind that you still need a good full body workout plan with the right resistance, repetition, set, and training frequency to hit your muscle-building goals.

Benefits of Karsten shrugs

Even after watching the video above you may find it helpful to see all the benefits of Karsten shrugs listed below.

These benefits include both the more standard effects of regular shrugs to a larger extent and some of the more unique aspects of this variation.

  1. Can grow your upper trapezius muscles: Doing Karsten shrugs with the right set and rep ranges can grow and strengthen your trapezius muscles.
  2. Follows the direction of the trapezius muscle fibers: Working muscles in the direction of their muscle fibers tends to be more effective for results (1).
  3. Could prevent shoulder pain: Strengthening your trapezius muscles can help reduce your risk of shoulder pain.
  4. Works your trapezius in a stretched position: You typically get more muscle growth and strength progress by working your trapezius from a stretched position (2).
  5. More attractive look: Many people will agree that bigger upper traps tend to benefit your look.
  6. Helps avoid muscle imbalances: By working each side of your trapezius separately, it becomes easier to give them the same workout. This can help you avoid muscle imbalances.

If you have the equipment available, it can be worth adding Karsten shrugs to your routine or at least giving them a try.

Karsten shrug alternatives

Growing and strengthening your muscles is not always about finding one good movement and doing this again and again.

Switching it up with these Karsten shrugs can sometimes offer more training results and/or help you get over plateaus.

  • Modified smith machine shrugs (see video above)
  • Double-pulley cable shrugs
  • Resistance band shrugs
  • Dumbbell shrugs
  • Deadlifts

What your (home) gym looks like and what equipment is not occupied will play a big role in what Karsten shrug alternatives you prefer.

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Karsten has years of experience diving deep into the science behind building muscle and improving strength. He mainly shares the things he has learned going from skinny to his dream physique on his Youtube Channel Spartan Aesthetix but Karsten also helps Matt behind the scenes with his muscle-related expertise.