This exercise can be used with the smith machine or with a free-weight barbell. You should have selected an amount of weight you are comfortable with and loaded it onto the bar. If your arms were laying flat at your sides, the bar should be positioned slightly lower than the ends of your fingertips and parallel to your hips. Make certain the weight and bar are centered and that your spotter (should you have one) is aware that you are about to begin the exercise.

Begin by placing your hands on the bar a little more than shoulder width apart. You will need to experiment a little to find the most comfortable grip but I recommend shoulder width for beginners. Stand up straight and keep your feet shoulder width apart. Bend at the knees slightly to pick up the weight. Never bend over at the waist even slightly to pick up the bar as you may injure your lower back. Let your shoulders descend as far as they can comfortably go with the weight in hand. Inhale before you begin the lift and exhale while you raise your shoulders up as high as possible. Try to keep your head down slightly during the lift and squeeze at the very apex of the required motion. Imagine trying to bring your shoulders to your ears to get a better idea of the motion if you have never seen anyone shrug before.

As you are able to increase the weight you should consider purchasing wraps to allow a more secure grip on the bar. This exercise can be done in front of and behind the body with a barbell or dumbbells.

Yet another option, should your grip consistently fail or you are uncomfortable with the previous methods, is to use the calf raise machine at your local gym. Stand with your arms straight down with the pads resting on your shoulder. Inhale and as your raise your shoulders exhale and squeeze at the top.

This is an excellent exercise to develop your trapezius muscles and, should you decide to perform squats, will give some additional padding under the bar.


  • My own personal experience and knowledge gained from weight lifting with a freind who is a certified personal trainer