I laugh at articles about people accidentally overdeveloping their traps to the extent they look funny. If their traps are that big I am sure it didn’t happen by accident and some people like building big traps more than biceps.
However, I doubt that as a natty it is possible to overdevelop one particular muscle group. For most of us the excitement of seeing one body part become overdeveloped would bring hope that other muscles would soon follow.
I think shrugs get a bad rap. Part of the reason is people don’t go heavy enough. In order to do that you need to use straps or over-underhand grip.
Heavy shrugs are excellent way to not only build the traps but do far more than that. The effects of heavy shrugs are similar to a deadlift lockout. In fact, for each set you essentially perform a single deadlift lockout. Furthermore, if you are required to take a step back from the rack and another to return it you did a farmer’s walk with a really heavy weight.
Most powerlifters shrug more than their 1 rep max in the deadlift for 15-20 reps. Shrugging less than your max deadlift is not considered heavy. The weight you would use for the deadlift lockout is around the same weight you would use for the shrug. In fact, your shrug should not reach its limit until it is equal to your 1 rep max in the deadlift lockout.
Now if you have the guts to lift this heavy then the benefits of the shrug go far beyond building big traps. Heavy short range movements like this don’t burn out your central nervous system compared to exercises such as deadlifts. Plus, the traps can be trained heavy on a regular basis as the muscle fibre type is similar to the calves.
Having big traps will also be an advantage in other exercise involving this muscle such as the power clean, shoulder press, lateral raises, etc. If you gain 100 lbs in your shrug then you should be able to use more weight in other exercises involving the traps – forcing other muscles to indirectly grow.
Another reason shrugs will build more than just the traps is similar to what happens with other heavy movements such as the deadlift. The deadlift is used primarily to target the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings but secondary stress is placed on the quads, abs, lats, traps, delts, biceps, forearm flexors, and etc.
If you are performing a cheating shrug the muscles involved can be endless depending on your technique. Secondary muscles involved are muscles of the upper back, delts, biceps, forearm flexors and if you cheat this could also include the quads, hamstrings, lower back, calves, and abs.
By performing heavy shrugs you can make noticeable gains in a short period of time and then switch focus to a different part of the back. Some people claim you can even overdevelop the traps by accident. Put this myth to the test. If it happens you might end up with monster traps but you will have developed many other parts of your body in doing so.