Top exercise tips for building bigger traps –

Traps have been billed as the new abs…

While that be a slight exaggeration, developing your traps is essential. Not only for looking jacked, but for overall strength and functionality.

Along with your delts and upper chest, the traps have a high number of androgen receptors. These respond to hormonal changes – such as an increase in testosterone and growth hormone. This is probably why you associate developed traps with strength and power.

How do you go about building bigger traps?

For building a bigger upper back and traps, let’s start with the Barbell Shrug. It’s essentially the key lift for trap growth. The shrug is a fairly technical exercise however, so you need to ensure sure you’re performing it correctly.

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When performed with optimal technique, shrugs can add some serious size. Here is how to perform the standard version:

  • Hold a barbell with pronated (overhand) grip, hands shoulder width apart
  • Bring your shoulders up and towards your ear lobes
  • Keep your arms straight
  • Pause at the top position for one second, then lower for a two-count back to the start position

While the Barbell Shrug is a fantastic exercise, certain tweaks can help you get more out of the movement. Moving to the Smith Machine, for example.

Traps Barbell Shrugs

Target all areas

In addition to the upper traps, it’s worth remembering the trapezius muscle is also made up of two other portions:

  • Mid traps: in the upper back, these serve to pull your shoulder blades back
  • Lower traps: in the mid back, these work by pulling your shoulder blades down

The mid and lower traps are slightly trickier to target, but you can do so with a variety of exercises such as the YTW raise.

Here’s how to perform the YTW raise on a TRX attachment:

  • Grip both TRX handles, facing in towards the apparatus
  • With pronated (overhand) grip, raise your arms over and above your head in a Y shape. Keep your arms straight at this stage
  • Pause at the top and then slowly lower to the start
  • Maintaining the same pronated grip, adopt a bend in your elbows and then turn your forearms up towards your ears, forming a W
  • Pause at the top and then slowly lower to the start
  • Lastly, with your grip facing inwards (seen below), extend your arms out to the side to form a T shape. Keep your arms straight for this one

Excessive upper trap work can leave you in a sticky situation, whereby the mid and lower portions remain under-developed. In the long run, this can lead to shoulder impingement and injury risks.

Mistakes to avoid

Traps training is very easy to get wrong. You should be careful when shrugging to bring the barbell up and down, not around.

Performing this exercise with a rolling motion places a lot of stress on your neck and rotator cuff muscles, making you more susceptible to injury. What’s more, it doesn’t place sufficient stress on the trapezius muscle, so you won’t be making the most out of the lift.

Other key exercises

The traps are also activated with heavy compound lifts such as deadlifts, and with isolation exercises such as shoulder lateral raises. Be mindful of this when programming trap workouts into your gym programme.

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