How to Build Bigger Traps: Trap Training

Total trap training

The trapezius, more commonly known as the “traps”, makes up a large portion of your back. Thus, It is evidently one of the most important muscles in the body, controlling many motions of the scapula. It is also one of the most overlooked and undertrained muscles in the body, and I really don’t know why, After all, if you want to stand out and look bigger, and stronger, large traps stand out in ANY shirt you wear. That’s the beauty of the traps.

The trapezius is a large superficial muscle that extends longitudinally from the occipital bone to the lower thoracic vertebrae and laterally to the spine of the scapula (shoulder blade). Its functions are to move the scapulae and support the arm.

The trapezius is divided into 3 parts: Upper, middle, and lower. Each portion of muscle fiber has its own function. The upper fibers control and support the weight of the arm. The middle fibers control scapulae retraction. The lower fibres control scapulae depression, pushing shoulders down.

Many people assume that the traps simply control “shrugging” of the shoulders. So what you see in the gym is guys grabbing heavy dumbbells, or loading up a straight bar with heavy weight, and going to town with shrugs. There is nothing wrong with this, if you only wish to develop your upper traps, but to gain full development of this muscle, it should be targeted in a few different ways.

If I had a dollar for every time I saw someone only doing shrugs to train their traps, I would never have to work again in my life. But obviously, no one is handing me dimes for my observation, so I must press on. As stated above, if you throw in some shrugs at the end of a back workout and feel a good burn, excellent. But if you are curious how to gain the edge with your back and set you apart from the guy next to you, then read on.

Upper traps

Targeting the upper traps is done by the granddaddy of all trap exercises, the all-mighty shrug. It is a great exercise for building mountains next to your neck. And hell, almost anyone can build up to a very impressive weight on this exercise. It is an exercise that everyone has either done or at least witnessed at some point. (If you haven’t ever done it, then you really need to look at your routines and, I’m sure, lack of progress) Commonly most people do a vertical shrug or a shrug with some type of shoulder roll at the top. This roll can be done forward or in reverse. The roll is thought by many to activate more muscle fibress and develop the traps more. However, this is actually 100% false it does NOT activate more fibres, fact.

All of the exercises I recommend in this article will be done with just a simple shrug to the ears with a pause.

First off, let’s begin with the dumbbell shrug. This is one of my favorites!

Dumbbell shrug:

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and maintain good posture. Lower back slightly arched, shoulders pulled back slightly. Begin with a dumbbell in each hand. Shrug your shoulders up towards your ears and pause at the top for 2 seconds. Lower your shoulders and repeat.

Another cool thing about the dumbbell shrug is you can do it one hand at a time. So lets say we are hitting out 12 reps. We’d do 12 with our left hand before moving over to our right side. The reason for this? While it offers slight variation, its common knowledge especially when dieting that doing single arm and or leg movements gives a much greater calorie burn in the same amount of time. I.E. 12 reps turn into 24 etc.

Another thing to note is that simply rolling your shoulders forward or back doesn’t target the middle traps enough. To isolate these fibres, your arms should be straight out in front of you. This can be achieved by either a seated position, or laying prone on a flat or incline bench. A seated row machine does a good job at targeting these fibres if the scapula (shoulder blades) are pinched together at the end of the movement.

Middle trap exercise 1:
Seated Row – Close or Wide grip, Row to Chin or Chest

Begin in a seated position with your chosen grip in front of you. Let your shoulders round fully while keeping your lower back slightly arched. Begin to pull in with a controlled motion. When you have reached the end of your range, pull your shoulder blades together, holding for 1 second.

Middle traps exercise 2:
Incline bench row

Begin with a bench set at a 45 degree angle. Lay prone on the bench with your arms hanging straight down. It is easiest to lay the dumbbells down in front of you to begin the exercise. Pick up the dumbbells in each hand. Let your shoulders round. Begin pulling the dumbbells straight up. When your arms reach a 90 degree angle, pull your shoulder blades together. Hold this position for 1 second and return to the start.

These two exercises will adequately target the middle traps when added to a back routine.

Targeting the lower trapezius fibres is a little trickier. There are two main ways to target them, both requiring equipment found in most gyms.

Lower traps exercise 1:
Seated dip machine

If your gym has a seated dip machine, great. If not continue to the next exercise.
Sit in the machine like you would if you were going to do dips. Press the handles down in the same motion described on the machine. But at the bottom of the motion, lock your elbows. This will be the starting position for this exercise. The exercise will be simply pressing your shoulders down. Try to focus on pushing your palms straight down.

Lower Traps Exercise 2:
Dip bar:
This exercise will be the same as the above, just not on a seated dip machine. Use the same motion with elbows locked out. Except now, focus on lifting your body up just by depressing your shoulders.

Building your entire Trapezius will result in a much more developed and respected physique. If it is a serious problem for you, train it numerous times a week.3-4 times in a week it WILL NOT over train. In fact, the traps are one of the quickest muscles to recover. And also have the highest potential to grow fast. By following these tips, along with a decent diet, you should see gains in no time.

So start training those traps. After all, who cares what you look like with a shirt off if we can’t tell you to lift weights with one on!

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