Plenty of guys have problems building their traps. It can cause some alarm because nobody really wants to be accused of having a pencil-neck. On bodybuilding forums you see plenty of debate with people tossing out opinions left and right.
So who do you believe? What is the best traps workout? What should you do if you aren’t seeing any growth, feeling the burn, or even getting sore after a workout?
Back to the Drawing Board
First, let’s ignore everything you know about a traps workout and start from scratch. This can be a little hard but sometimes you just need to start over in your thought process. To start with, the trapezius muscle is fairly large, spanning from the neck down to mid-back and then out to the shoulder blades forming a triangle shape.
The upper traps raise the shoulders up. The middle traps draw the shoulder blades together. The lower traps pull the shoulder blades down. When most people talk about “working traps” what they usually mean is the upper traps. Of course you can’t ignore the middle and lower traps because the muscle is simply not going to grow only on one end.
Usually the lower traps work hard on back day and the middle traps get involved in the party too. That really leaves the upper traps to work in an isolated manner. People either work them with back or shoulders. It makes more sense to lump them with back because the rest of the muscle is being worked then. If you do them with shoulders then it might cause some overtraining which equals zero growth.
Excellent Traps Exercises
For your traps workout you should use at least two of the following four exercises. Some people swear up and down that barbell shrugs are the end-all-be-all exercise, but honestly they are overrated. The issue with the barbell is that people rush to go too heavy which does not help you work your traps.
- Wide Barbell Rows – These can also be done with a low cable. Grab a barbell with a light weight. Use a grip that is about 6 inches wider than shoulder width. Bend your knees slightly with a small forward lean and bend your head down. Slowly pull your elbows up until your upper arms are parallel to the ground. It is a small movement but very effective. Pause for a second and lower slowly.
- Dumbbell Shrugs – Dumbbell can be better than a barbell because of positioning and grip. Hold a medium weight with palms facing in. Slowly raise your shoulders up, trying to touch your ears. Keep your head bent forward and look down. Pause at the top then slowly lower.
- Reverse Barbell Shrugs – This is a favorite of Mr. Olympia Lee Haney. He would grab a barbell behind his back with a shoulder width grip. Then he would raise his elbows up and back which contracts the upper traps in a unique way.
- Farmers Walk – This is an old school traps workout. Grab the heaviest set of dumbbells that you can. Step back from the rack and just hold them as long as possible. You can walk around if you want or take steps forward and back. Basically the traps have to stabilize your shoulders so it ends up being a lot of constant tension.
The main point for most of these exercises is moderate weight, controlled movements, and great form. Muscles get built by activating fibers and keeping constant tension on the muscle. If you can’t pause for a second and hold the weight at the top of a shrug then the weight is too heavy and more than likely you are just doing pointless cheat reps. Also keep the rep range at 8 to 12 rather than 6. So for you next traps workout, try at least two of these traps exercises and do them the right way. I’ll bet you will feel the burn.