To build huge traps, you'll want to train with movements like barbell shoulder shrugs to add slabs of muscle and exercises like dumbbell upright rows to isolate the traps for complete development.
Related: Traps Workout - The Ultimate Specialization Program
Keep rep ranges of 6-8 for shrugs to build strength, muscle size and power and 8-12 for upright rows to focus on muscle size.
Additional Trap ExercisesHigh rope pulls on the cable machine, inclined rows on a highly-inclined bench and overhead barbell shrugs are great exercises to add to your trap-building repertoire.
To perform barbell shrugs, load a bar with a weight you can handle for 6-8 reps. Stand upright with a palms-backward grip and arms locked. Shrug the weight upward until your shoulders touch your ears. Squeeze hard for one second then return. Repeat.
Upright rows can be done with a machine, bar or a pair of dumbbells. Pull the weight straight up in front of you until the weights are at shoulder height. No more. If you go too high with these you risk shoulder injury. Do 8-12 reps.
High rope pulls offer a unique angle for trap work. Stand in front of a cable machine with the rope attached to the mid-pulley. Pull the rope handles straight back to your neck,squeeze hard and return.
Inclined rows are done on a bench with a maximum incline. Lie face down while holding a pair of dumbbells. Row them up to neck level,squeeze hard and return.
Overhead barbell shrugs are a seldom-practiced exercise which are done by holding a barbell overhead, arms locked. Using your traps, shrug the weight upward, making sure to keep your arms locked.
HIT VariablesSome great additions to a set to increase the intensity level are static holds or burn reps. Static holds are just that-you hold the weight or machine arm motionless against resistance for a set period of time. It's a great idea to vary the time of static holds to prevent your body from becoming acclimated to them.
They can be done exclusively during a set or added during or at the end. If the weight is heavy enough, it will begin to descend at the end of the hold.
Burn reps are short, pulsing reps usually done at the end of a set to increase the "burn," or lactic acid buildup in a muscle. The bar or handle should only move about six inches. Reps cease when unable to complete an additional burn rep.
Its important to utilize high intensity variables properly to avoid injury and overtraining. I recommend finding an experienced trainer in your area that specializes in high intensity training to coach you in their proper execution.
Hold/Burn Rep Routine
- Dumbbell shrugs - 1x8+one 20-second hold at end in the stretch position
- High rope pulls - 1x12+burn reps at end until reaching complete failure
Hold/Burn Rep Routine 2
- Incline dumbbell rows on heavily inclined bench - 1x8+one 10-second static hold at top of ROM. Use a bench with a steep incline to focus efforts on the traps instead of the back.
- Overhead barbell shrugs - 1x10+burn reps to failure. Hold a pair of dumbbells straight overhead. Using your shoulders, lift the weight overhead in an upward shrug motion. Lower the weights-repeat. At the end of the set,do a series of short reps to failure.
- Barbell shrugs - 3x3-5 Use max weight on each set. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets to allow for full strength recovery.
- Barbell high pulls - 3x3-5 Place a barbell in a power rack. Set the bottom pins so the bar is at the mid-point of a deadlift. Lift to the top position and return.
David Groscup has over 40 years of training experience in HIT, or High Intensity Bodybuilding Training. He is certified as a High Intensity Trainer by the IART/Med-Ex Group and has trained many people successfully in this protocol.
He has authored ten books on the subject of high intensity training, which are available here. You can read his blog on High Intensity Training by clicking here.