Build Bigger Traps With These 8 Exercises
If you ever have seen someone with a huge set of traps and shoulders, their instant dominance, power, and masculinity shine.
When it comes to building them though, it can be a bit difficult.
“First, it’s important to target your trap muscles from a variety of movements that include loaded carries, shrugs, Olympic lifting variations, upper back exercises, and overhead movements,” says Joel Seedman, Ph.D., strength and performance specialist and owner of Advanced Human Performance in Atlanta, Georgia.
After that, you need to ensure you have proper posture, your spine is aligned, and you have great scapular positioning on all of your exercises to activate the target muscles effectively. Overload and mechanical tension, constant/continuous tension, metabolic stress, and stretch-induced micro trauma all are critical to include for maximal hypertrophy.
Basically, that means you need to properly train the muscles so the point of microtrauma with weighted exercises that induce a metabolic stress.
Okay, so it's not THAT hard to build traps because the following exercises utilize all of these components.
In order to get a bigger upper back, you should try to include a few of the following: Olympic lift variation, deadlift variation, shrug variation, overhead movement, row, and loaded carry. Ideally, training them twice per week with at least three days of rest in between.
You don't have to go crazy with the exercises — if you are incorporating compound movements into your lifts, you don't need more than six of these exercises in a session.
8 Exercises to Build Bigger Traps
1.) Dumbbell Farmer's Walk
This exercise is easy — grab two heavy dumbbells and walk with them.
Similar to trying to bring in the groceries in one trip, farmer's walks are potent mass builders. There's a reason the World's Strongest Men all have enormous traps.
Farmer's walks build massive traps, upper back, shoulders, and neck. Another benefit of this exercise is the strengthening of the muscles around your spine and core.
Make sure to keep a tall posture and avoid rounding your shoulders. This move is simple, taxing, and the growth is worth it.
Be safe with choosing weight, but choose a weight that challenges you — the heavier, the better.
2.) Barbell Farmer's Walk
If walking around with 150-pound dumbbells all day gets boring, you could try them with barbells.
Something I've never been able to master, this technique is good for those who don't have heavy dumbbells in the gym. That is, if dumbbells only go up to 50, grabbing a couple of barbells with 45s on them will give you 135 pounds in each hand.
It will take some time to get an even grip, the weights can dip pretty easily. The instability will cause you to need to walk slower, but that is the payoff for being able to load up as much weight as you can.
3.) Heavy Barbell Shrugs With Isometric Contraction
I'm sure you've done barbell shrugs, so load up a bar and listen up.
Maintain a tight, upright posture and perform a shrug. Instead of the quick "I don't know" motion you do, hold that contraction for at least three seconds.
Don't let your shoulders round and keep your head rigid but neutral. Terrible form is the killer here, so load the bar up but perform the exercise correctly. Focusing on the contraction at the top (even with less weight) will yield better results than just trying to whip the bar around.
4.) Hex Bar Deadlift
Hex bar deadlifts are great because as you deadlift — it's a little safer than a conventional deadlift and you will be able to lift heavier loads and create a lot more tension in your upper back and traps.
Overload your traps but perform a lot of volume with hex bar deadlifts. The variety of rep ranges will elicit more hypertrophy gains as you stress both the fast and slow twitch muscles.
5.) Heavy Barbell Squats
A posterior chain exercise in a list for building bigger traps?
Squats elicit a huge growth response. As you squat, your upper back and traps are tense and maximizes recruitment of those muscles — your upper back is forced to hold all of that weight in an isometric contraction.
6.) Snatch-Grip Deadlifts
I'm not a trap monster like some people I know, but I have a decent set of traps. I never really did shrugs or many of these exercises, but I deadlifted... heavy. While a 605 deadlift isn't a world record, I can tell you first-hand that deadlifts are a great upper back mass builder.
Snatch-grip deadlifts take it one step further. "Snatch-grip" is derived from the Olympic lift, but in simple terms, it is a wider grip. Finding the right grip width for you will take some trial and error — but the wider the more emphasis on your upper back. Avoid rounding your back and upper spine.
This will stimulate growth and strength throughout your entire body.
7.) Rows, Pull-Ups, Pull Downs
Any lat-dominant move also recruits your upper back and traps. Rows, pull ups, chin ups, pull downs, you name it. The lower and middle traps also play a huge role in any upper body pulling movement.
Along with shrugs and upper-trap exercises, you need to incorporate horizontal and vertical pulling motions to maintain a balanced back.
Adding an isometric pause on contraction will increase strength and muscle gains.
8.) Rack Pulls
Jump into the nearest power rack and set the safety catches to where the bar is just above knee-height.
Load up your bar and perform a deadlift — rack pulls are essentially practicing deadlifts from a higher starting point. The benefit here is you can put more weight on the bar due to a shortened range of motion. Since overload = growth, you'll have plenty here.
Go heavy or go home.