Truth is, I prefer having monster traps. They tower high in any shirt and don't require a 16 week cutting diet to reveal.
Traps stand out in a crowd. They make you look like a cobra, intimidating and not something (in this case someone) you want to mess with.
I'm known for my traps. When I post a training picture on social media it is usually met with comments like:
"Dem traps tho" or "trap gains" or "your traps ate your neck."
[caption id="attachment_18565" align="alignright" width="250"] Versa Gripps aren't just "another" pair of lifting straps. They are durable and easy to lock in.
Your traps are inherently strong. In fact, they are one of the strongest muscle groups in the human body.Now, back to the topic at hand.
I want you to think about the typical dumbbell shrug set. Even if it's performed with heavy weight, the time under tension just isn't there. 10 controlled reps might take a maximum of 15 seconds. That's simply not enough time under tension to properly inspire your traps to grow.
But what about the guys crushing power shrugs with even heavier weight? Well, they get an A+ for effort. Heavy, explosive sets are a quality trap builder, but they still provide an inferior time under tension. 10 explosive power shrug reps might take 10 seconds max.
Normally I am not concerned with time under tension. Why? Because a well-thought out program will naturally place most major and minor body parts under plenty of time under tension.
Ten sets of chest work is going to yield anywhere between 300 to 450 seconds of tension. That's plenty, in my book. On the other hand, 3-6 sets of shrugs might yield 40 to 90 seconds of time under tension. While this might produce some trap gains, but it's not enough.
What follows are 5 trap exercises that will challenge you. They will focus on building your contractile strength through progression of weight, and on overloading your traps with brutal time under tension.
Hit the gym and destroy!
5 Trap Exercises for Powerful Strength and Growth
3 + 3 Mind-Muscle Dumbbell Shrug and Static Hold ComboThis is a simple and effective method of targeting your traps that works well with conventional bodybuilding-style dumbbell shrugs.
Simply grab a heavy set of dumbbells and perform controlled reps, focusing on a full range of motion and a quality contraction. Now, here's the kicker. After each 3 reps hold the dumbbells at your side for a three second count.
One-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three.
Repeat this "three plus three" pattern until you reach a total of 15 reps. When you are able to perform 3 sets of 15 total reps, grab a heavier dumbbell.
Deadlifts With Power ShrugsDeadlifts are an amazing trap builder. They provide a quality time under tension, even greater than heavy power shrugs. With that said, it's time to kick things up a notch.
This is one of my favorite trap exercise variations. After each deadlift rep perform 3 power shrugs before returning the bar to the ground. This means that if your deadlift set calls for 5 total reps, you will also be adding 15 reps of power shrugs to the mix.
Understand that this trap-destroying tag team will be more challenging than a conventional deadlift set, so you may need to drop the weight by about 5%.
40 Rep Rest-Pause Power Barbell ShrugsThis protocol is brutal.
Load 225 pounds on the bar and proceed to knock out power shrug reps. Remember that power shrugs are explosive and powerful. These aren't your mother's mind-muscle connection shrugs.
When you can no longer perform reps it's time to rest, but only for a brief moment. Continue to hold the barbell. DO NOT set it down. When you feel slightly recovered, knock out a few more reps.
Continue this pattern of reps and rest until you reach a total of 40 or 50. Remember to use lifting straps or Versa Gripps during this exercise. When you are able to reach 40 reps (or more), add 5-10 pounds to the bar.
Run the Rack Dumbbell ShrugsThis is a perfect traps torturing method for those days when the gym is empty and you have the entire dumbbell rack at your disposal.
Start with 50 pound dumbbells and perform 8 reps. Rest about 15 seconds before moving on to the 55 pounders. This gives you plenty of time to release your straps, curse my name, and re-strap with the next dumbbell in the sequence.
Continue knocking out 8 rep sets until you reach the heaviest set of dumbbells in the gym. If you feel like quitting, or the pain gets to be too much, simply extend the rest between efforts by an additional 5 to 10 seconds. You can also drop the reps per set to 5 when the weight starts to get heavy.
This is a one set and done traps exercise. Once you've run the rack you won't need any additional trap work for the day.
Farmer's Walk HIIT With ShrugsThis is a top-notch way to combine HIIT cardio and trap training.
Grab a HEAVY pair of dumbbells, kettlebells or anything else heavy you can carry. Once again, you'll need straps for this trap exercise.
Start off by performing 10 slow and controlled reps. Now instead of setting the dumbbells down, kick it into high gear and perform a farmer's walk.
Try this combination 5 to 8 times with about 30-45 seconds of rest between efforts. It will get your heart racing and your traps growing.
Editor's note: Have you tried these trap exercise variations? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.