If there’s one muscle group that is often overlooked on a physique, the traps would be it. While building a strong chest is definitely going to give you a powerful look, and having round, capped shoulders will help create that V-taper that so many people long for, building the traps can help transform you from a fit guy to a big dude.
If you’re looking to appear bigger, thicker, and stronger, it’s time to hit those traps! Keep in mind that the traps are divided up into three main segments: the upper, the middle, and the lower traps. The upper traps will be primarily targeted when you shrug the shoulders upwards, while the middle traps will be hit more when you’re squeezing the shoulder blades together. Finally, the lower traps will be stimulated best when you bring the shoulder blades downward, so use this information to help you better choose which muscles any given exercise could potentially target.
Here are some of the best exercises to include in your weekly training split.
Barbell High Pull
The barbell high pull is an excellent move that will help build bigger traps, and will also hit your lateral delts. This is a perfect power building movement and when done properly, you can feel it in your upper shoulder, back, and neck region.
The key to hitting your traps as best as possible with this exercise is to make sure that you’re slightly bent over. If you’re too upright, your shoulders will be doing all the work. By slightly bending over (being sure to keep the core tight, of course), you’ll hit your traps to a larger degree.
While you may not think this is an exercise for your traps as there’s very little movement in the trap area, don’t be misled. This exercise is great for really maximizing the muscles in the upper back.
The traps, as well as the shoulders, are going to serve as excellent stabilizers when doing farmers walks, making this move excellent for building maximal muscle endurance. These muscles will be activated throughout the entire walk, so don’t short-change yourself by cutting the distance you walk.
If you really want to get those traps burning, do your farmers walk across the field (or wherever you happen to be walking) and then do 5-6 very slow shrugs once you finish. Without putting the weight down, walk back. That second walk back will be killer if you do this right. Be aware, if you choose to do it in this manner, expect to have to lighten the weight by 30-40% compared to a standard farmers walk where you simply rest at the end.
You won’t find an exercise that works your traps more than the deadlift. This is the king of all movements and is great for anyone who wants to build muscle – period.
Because you’re pulling from a bent over position, this helps you perfectly target those traps. To take a conventional deadlift one step further, try using a trap bar, placing a plate on either side, adding a few collars and then piling on your weight from there. Now use the plate as a handle. Because this widens your grip without it becoming uncomfortable, this will put more stress on the trap muscles.
In addition to deadlifts, also consider doing rack pulls to help work the mid-traps. For those who tend to suffer from lower back pain, making full deadlifts problematic if trained too frequently, rack pulls will allow you to hit the trap muscle without stressing the back too much.
Another advantage to the rack pull is that with the reduced range of motion, you can load the bar up more, which can help stimulate greater trap growth.
A seated cable row may not jump to mind as a trap exercise, as most think of it to be an exercise that stimulates the lats and rear delts, but when done right it can definitely activate the traps.
To bring out the best trap development, what you want to focus on is a very deep squeeze at the top of the contraction. The harder you squeeze your shoulder blades together, the more of a workout those traps are going to get.
These five exercises should be added to your training plan in order to help you get the most from your trap development. One thing that you’ll want to keep in mind as you go about these workout sessions is that the traps are made up of both slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers. For this reason, it’s going to be most beneficial for you to use both higher rep, lighter weight exercises, as well as lower rep, heavier weight sets.
As you do those lighter weight exercises, make sure you’re using the full range of motion. Many people make the mistake of shortening the range of motion, and with the traps already having a smaller range of motion, this is detrimental to progress.