A nice, big set of traps helps solidify the middle part of your upper back as well as compliment your shoulders. Strong traps help support your neck and prevent injury in sports. But a lot of people have no clue how to properly work the traps. It is like they are a mystery because people think that they get enough extra work in other exercises.
But that is simply not true! That would be like saying you don’t work your calves because they get used in squats. You need to perform specific trap exercises if you want not only a balanced physique but a strong back and neck.
The Best Trap Exercises
A nice thing about traps is that they are a big muscle. That means you can work them heavy and hard to gain mass. Most of the trap exercises we will go over can be included in a normal back workout. How much should you do? At least two trap specific exercises are recommended until they are built up to the same level as the rest of your back and shoulders.
Laterals for the deltoids, shoulder presses, deadlifts, and some pulldown exercises will engage the traps. That is why most people include trap work on either shoulder or back day. The choice is yours as to what works better.
- Dumbbell Shrugs – I prefer dumbbell over barbells for this exercise because you can change the angles for each set. The position of the weight as well as you neck changes the angle put on the muscle. For example, when you look up during shrugs the upper part of the traps is engaged more while looking down stresses more of the middle. Moving the dumbbells to your sides will feel different compared to having them in the front. I like to vary the position I hold the weight in from session to session as well as looking up, straight ahead, or down. This will provide a more complete workout over multiple sessions.
- Upright Rows – If you use this exercise then incorporate it on shoulder day as the front and side delts get a workout. You can use dumbbells or a barbell and I recommend switching between the two. Pull the weight up slowly, no higher than the lower chest. Going higher does not activate the muscle any further and can cause shoulder damage in the joint.
- High Cable Rows – Sit at a cable row machine and attached a rope handle instead of a bar. Use a light weight and start with your arms at shoulder height. Then pull the weight towards your face while your elbows go out and back, squeezing your shoulder blades together. These are a killer and great for a high-rep finishing blast.
- Power Shrugs – You will need straps for these. This is definitely a ‘cheating’ exercise. Strap up to very heavy dumbbells. Bend your knees and lean forward then explode upward with your body like you would for a barbell jerk, but lead your elbows up. When the weight reaches chest height, stop pulling and try to either pause or resist the weight all the way down. This is a serious negative burner that will add size.
- Deadlifts – You cannot beat this exercise for overall back building and it is a great trap exercise. Holding that heavy barbell as you go down and up constantly changes the angle on the muscle and thus the way it has to work.
These are five of the best trap exercises I have used for mass. Give them a try and see how well they work. Fair warning, expect your neck to be a bit sore if you haven’t done a lot of direct trap work before, but that just means it worked!