Written by Jack Boardman
Build Your Traps
If you’re not already dedicating a training day to your traps, that could be what’s missing when it comes to your symmetrical upper physique.
Located on the top half of your back, the trapezius muscles, when pumped up, make a big impression, even when wearing a shirt. Whereas the chest and other larger muscles groups are favourites when it comes to building muscle mass and a bulking look, built-up traps can make all the difference to symmetry and well-rounded shoulders. And yet, many people neglect the traps, despite the obvious gains to be made and the relatively simple exercises involved.
Training Your Traps
You could consider traps as part of your back and shoulders workouts, with both pressing and pulling exercises working them. Chances are, you didn’t realise to what extent you were already exercising your traps, perhaps logging them in as a generalised ‘back workout’ or thinking you were just building your shoulders or triceps with overhead presses.
Your traps will also assist you in other areas, by building strength in them you will support your overall back muscles. A good reason to dedicate a whole session to it. Typically, your upper traps are developed by elevating your shoulders with shrugs and upright rows. The middle part can be worked by pulling together your shoulder blades – think reverse fly and cable work. The lower part of your traps are developed by drawing your shoulder blades downward. To do this you should avoid working your arms as best you can by keeping them straight and stiff. Again, cable work is your friend to achieve this.
Your upper and lower trapezius fibres are also used during overhead press exercises, which in turn assist the middle fibres.
When it comes to building strength, for beginners, four sets of eight-12 reps is a good place to begin as you’ll need to ease into muscular hypertrophy as you would with any muscle. If you’re not used to lifting an excessive weight, you could suffer an injury with a wayward shoulder shrug while holding heavy weight, so building a strong foundation with a moderate weight and good technique is essential.
For more advanced lifters, volume is achieved by lifting a higher percentage of your one rep max and lowering the number of reps. We suggest three-five sets of three-five reps, lowering the number of reps when you want to increase the amount you’re lifting.
Many people opt to work their traps at the end of a shoulder workout. On the one hand, as with any exercise, if you commit to it at the beginning of a workout session you’ll be at your best. So if you’re working on strength and increasing the amount you lift, then it’s a good idea to make it your first exercise. However, to induce muscle fatigue as a means for pumped-up traps, it is highly effective to work on some muscle-isolating exercises to finish your session.
What Exercises Work?
Incline Dumbbell Shrug
Dumbbell Jump Shrug
Barbell Behind-the-Back Shrug
Dumbbell Lateral Raise
Upright Cable Row
Standing Dumbbell Upright Row
Smith Machine Upright Row