No, the shrug exercise does not make the neck bigger.
The shrugs do hit muscles near your neck like the upper trapezius and the levator scapulae, but the won’t really help thicken and make your neck look more muscular.
Don’t get me wrong—including some trap work through shrugs or heavy deadlifts or doing heavy farmer carries, makes for a formidible look in your upper body that you can see in shirts.
But if you really want to thicken up the neck, especially from the front and side view, by making your neck look wider and very athletic, you will want to do some direct neck training. This will mainly hit the sternocleidomastoid muscles.
The good news is that the neck muscles respond really well to traditional hypertrophy training and you should be able to add inches to your neck in a relatively short amount of time.
The three best exercises for building up your neck muscles are:
- Neck Curl. This is when you curl your chin towards your chest. You can lay down on a bench and use the weight of your own head to start. Focus on control and going slowly. After some time, you may need to hold a light weight plate on your head to continue to challenge your neck.
- Neck Extensions. This is when you extend the back of your head and move it closer to your upper back. You can lay down on a bench on your stomach and pull your head back. Over time, you may need a plate on top of your head to get enough stimulus.
- Neck Side Raises. A neck side raise is when you bring your ear closer to one side of your shoulder. You will need to repeat this on the opposite side. You can lay on your side on a bench and bring your head up to your shoulders. Flip and do the other side. Like the other exercises, eventually, you may need a weight plate to make the exercise challenging enough.