The shoulder shrug is probably something that most people do without putting too much thought into it. But as many bodybuilders know, shoulder shrugs can be combined with weightlifting to help develop and strengthen your trapezius muscles or “traps.” What’s more, as a nonverbal form of communication, raising and lowering your shoulders can send one of several messages—acquiescence, indifference, or a lack of certainty, among other things—depending on the context in which it’s used. Even though shrugging is a universal form of nonverbal communication, knowing when to shrug can mean the difference between communication success and communication failure.
Method One of Three:
Shrugging To Build Muscle
3Pick up the weights. Remember to lift with your knees. Keep your back straight, your feet shoulder-width apart, and your buttocks tight.
- The palms of your hands should face your thighs.
- If you’re using a barbell, it should be about 1 inch from your thighs.
4Raise your shoulders. Raise them as high as possible and breathe out as you do so. Keep your shoulders in this position for one second.
- As you perform this motion, the weights should move straight up, toward the ceiling. You can imagine that you’re trying to touch your ears with your shoulders.
- Keep your arms at your side and fully extended. Your goal is to only work your shoulder muscles.
- Do not roll your shoulders backwards! This can cause serious injury.
- Do not arch your back! This can also cause serious injury.
- Do not bend your wrists! This too can cause serious injury.
- Consider performing this exercise in the mirror to make sure that you’re using and maintaining the proper form.
7Put down the weights. Maintain the basic position and bend your knees. Place the weights gently on the floor.
- Dropping weights is poor gym etiquette.
Method Two of Three:
Shrugging To Send A Nonverbal Message
1Pay attention to verbal cues. The meaning of a shrug often depends in large part on the existing verbal conversation. Be aware of some of the more common meanings of the shrug.
- Shrugging in response a question like “Where is your sister?” suggests the answers “I don’t know” or “I don’t care.”
- Shrugging can suggest acquiescence or resignation. In response to questions about having to spend six weeks longer than expected in space, astronaut Shannon Lucid shrugged her shoulders and said, “You know, that’s life.” 
- Shrugging can suggest a lack of confidence in what one is saying. If you shrug while saying, “I think the recipe called for one tablespoon of sugar,” you’re indicating that you don’t really know how much sugar you’re supposed to use.
- Shrugging can also be an automatic response, much like flinching.
2Determine whether or not shrugging constitutes an appropriate response to the situation at hand. What message do you want to send with your shrug? Will the shrug replace a verbal message altogether, or merely supplement it?
- On the one hand, it may not be a good idea to shrug to someone in a position of authority, such as a teacher, boss, or parent.
- On the other hand, shrugging can also indicate remorse or submissiveness in the face of authority.
3Shrug. Shrugging is often accompanied by other gestures like upturned palms or a tilted head in order to emphasize the point. Different combinations will result in different messages.
- Consider adding a verbal component to reinforce your message. But beware: shrugging can cause words to have an opposite meaning. Shrugging while saying “I’m sure” actually says, “I’m not sure.”
Method Three of Three:
Using a “Shruggie” or “Smugshrug” in Text Messages and Online
1Get to know the “shruggie”: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Also known as the “smugshrug,” this emoticon-like bit of text-speak became an Internet sensation in 2010.
2Make shruggie a keyboard shortcut. Since it’s made up of Japanese katakana, shruggie can be difficult to type out on Western keyboards. Instead of trying to type it out every time you want to use it, you can add shruggie to your keyboard preferences.
- On a Mac, open “System Preferences.” Go to “Keyboard” and then to “Text.” There, you can copy and paste shruggie into the “With” column and create an easy-to-type shortcut in the “Replace” column.
- On an iPhone, go to “Settings,” then “General,” then “Keyboard,” then “Shortcuts.” Click the plus sign. Copy and paste shruggie into textfield and create your shortcut.
- Windows and Android users will need to download special text-replacement software. Windows users can use Auspex. Android users can try Textspansion.
3Use shruggie in your text messaging and online writing! Keep in mind the meaning of a shrug is context-specific. Use your best judgment.
- In addition to the different meanings for the shrug detailed in Method 1, shruggie acquired a few new meanings during its rise to online popularity, becoming a stand-in for nihilism and a sense of sublime terror.