Traps are a unique muscle group that runs from the top of the neck down the middle of the back and also flair out for the shoulders. Some people like to work them with shoulders while others prefer to work them with the back. Along with figuring out which day you should work them on, you need to determine what the best trap exercises to use when training are.
Because of their location there are really three different sections of the traps to consider. There are the upper, middle, and lower traps. When most people think traps they seem to just think upper because those most prominently show when worked hard, sticking up around the neck and shoulders. But the middle and lower traps are important as well because they support and strengthen the spine and shoulder motions.
So considering you really need to work traps from all angles and not just the top, what are some of the best trap exercises?
The Top 5 Trap Builders
- Deadlifts – I’ll bet you didn’t expect this one! Deadlifts are monster back builders and really hit the traps from bottom to the top when you lift that heavy barbell. They are a must for any program.
- Shrugs – This is the exercise most people think of to train traps. Dumbbells are a great choice because they allow more freedom for the shoulders to move compared to a barbell. This movement really hits the upper traps and is a prime mass builder.
- Face Pulls – This is an odd movement that targets the middle traps and is certainly one of the best trap exercises. You use a seated cable row station or an adjustable height pulley station, with a rope handle attachment. Then you do cable rows pulling towards your collarbone with your elbows high and wide. You should feel an intense contraction in the middle back and rear delts.
- Reverse Upright Rows – These are an underused movement and a bit old school. You load up a barbell and grab it behind your back with a shoulder-width grip. Then you perform upright rows pulling the bar as high as you can up your back. It hits the middle and upper traps in a unique way.
- Dumbbell Incline Rows – This is a hybrid motion that is somewhere between a face pull and a shrug. You lie face down on an incline bench set at 45 degrees. Holding a pair of dumbbells you then perform a front row bringing the dumbbells and your elbows straight up. While you do hit the deltoids a bit this movement also really stresses the middle and upper traps with an intense contraction.
When to Work Them
Considering that the traps get worked on both shoulder and back day, some people are stuck as to when to train them. Direct training on back day is the best bet as the muscle ends of getting more work on that day (with a good back program) compared to shoulder day. That way you aren’t as prone to overtrain the muscle. A case could also be made to add rear deltoids to back day as well and then train front and side deltoids with chest.
No matter what you do just make sure you train your traps! They are an important muscle for next support and overall strength. These are some of the best trap exercises and should definitely be incorporated into your routine for complete development.