The ultimate guide to building bigger traps

The ultimate guide to building bigger traps: Everything you need to know

5 min read


02 Jun 2023

Your trapezoid muscles (traps) often get overlooked when planning our weekly workouts, yet they form a considerable portion of our upper back area. There are three parts to this section of muscles, the superior, middle traps and inferior trapezius and putting some work into trap development will significantly boost the appearance of your physique.

You have to work on your traps if you want that perfectly symmetrical upper torso. Many people make the mistake of dedicating a few sets to this area now and again, but if you want to build attention-grabbing, show-stopping traps, you’ll need to put a lot more work in.

You should dedicate one workout each week to this area and concentrate on the upper, middle and lower sections. Cutting corners won’t get you the physique you’re looking for, but spending quality time dedicated to this area will get you looking like never before. So let’s look at the exercises you must incorporate into your workout schedule to get that next-level physique.

1. Shrugs

If you want to develop the upper trap section, you’ll need to perform shrugs, and there are no shortcuts here. So many gym-goers think they can take a shortcut by going right in with a heavy weight and trying to master it. One thing is for sure; it’s a great way to get injured. You need to concentrate on the squeeze if you want maximum benefit from performing shrugs.

Whether you’re performing the exercise with dumbbells or a trap bar, you need to really feel the stretch and perform it comfortably to gain the benefit. A smooth rep each time, feeling the burn for a few seconds, is perfect. There are many different kinds of a shrug; rap bar shrug, cable shrug and dumbbell shrug, and all should be incorporated at some point into your routine.

Reps: 15 to 20

Sets: 4

2. Trap Bar Deadlift

Trap Bar Deadlift

No trap workout would be complete without including a deadlift, and the trap bar deadlift is the most important of all, as it properly strengthens your back muscles. This is another exercise to approach carefully to ensure you don’t overdo it. If you damage your back, you could be on the sidelines for a while, so don’t let your ego get the better of you.

Start with a weight you are comfortable with and get used to performing it correctly before moving on to heavier weights. Grab the barbell and ensure your chest and back are as straight as possible to perform the deadlift for maximum benefit. Push away at the floor, thrusting your hips forward when pushing the bar past your knees. Keep it as smooth as possible.

Reps: 8 to 10

Sets: 4

3. Cable Reverse Fly

The chances are this is already an integral part of your workout, so we strongly advise you to continue. The best way to perform the exercise to get your traps working is to stand upright, separating your arms in a smooth reverse motion. You should remain upright, but your arms should be slightly bent. It’s all about the arm/elbow movement.

Reps: 15

Sets: 4

Recommended sets and reps: 2-4 sets of 10-20 reps.

4. Rack Pulls

Woman doing rack pulls

Rack pulls are one of the most popular gym exercises, and if you’re looking to strengthen and develop your upper traps, this is a must-perform exercise. Again, the exercise must be performed smoothly, with no jerking motions, and we don’t want to hear the bar rattling against the supports. Stay in control of the pulls at all times, and feel the burn in your muscles if you’re going to make progress. Make progression to heavier weights only when you feel comfortably ready.

Reps: 4

Sets: 8

5. Overhead Barbell Carry

Never underestimate the power of overhead pressing. It can seriously increase the strength of the trapezius muscle, so it should form a staple of your routine. To perform the exercise correctly, you should use a weight you can comfortably lift and actively engage your upper back and shoulder stability once the weight is in the overhead position.

Once you feel comfortable and have mastered the correct form, you can gradually progress to heavier weights and build up your strength.

Reps: 5

Sets: 6

6. The Trap Raise

This is a popular exercise for strengthening the lower part of the trapezius muscle as it isolates the lower traps. You mustn’t overdo it at first, so choose a dumbbell you can comfortably raise.

Rest your forearm and head on the bench and sit upright, letting your arm hang straight down. When you raise the weight, it should be upwards and slightly outwards. The motion should be controlled, with your arm locked and with a 1-second raise and 4-second lowering of the weight.

Reps: 10

Sets: 5

7. The Farmers Walk

The Farmers Walk
This is another essential exercise if you want to build bigger traps, as it uses motion to help to build strength in the right places. Hold a weight in each hand and slowly stride forward, ensuring your posture is upright as your core and back are engaged. With lighter weights, you should cover around 50 meters and about 20 meters with heavier weights.

Reps: 10

Sets: 5

8. Dumbbell Row

This is an excellent exercise for strengthening your trapezius muscles. From an upright standing position with a dumbbell in each hand, bend forward so your torso is almost parallel to the floor. Drive your elbows backward in the rowing motion so that your shoulders retract. After pulling the dumbbells towards you, slightly lower them back to the starting position. Each action should be smooth, controlled and without jerky movements. Don’t allow gravity to get the better of you. Ensure you control the exercise and the motion and keep the rest of your body rigid while you perform each rep.

Reps: 10

Sets: 4

9. Chin Ups

Chin-ups are undoubtedly one of the best ways to develop stronger traps, and it’s an exercise that you feel is doing exactly what you want it to with each rep you perform. To gain the most benefit from a chin-up, you should let your shoulders relax entirely to move up to your ears. Use your lower trap and lat muscles to pull your shoulders down and lift your chest. If you’re new to this exercise, you may struggle at first, but persevere, and you’ll have another powerful exercise in your armor.

Reps: 15

Sets: 4

10. The Face Pull

The Face Pull

These are great for strengthening the posterior deltoids of the shoulder and are one of the few exercises that target that specific area. It’s a simple exercise which requires you to pull the weight on a cable pulley machine toward your head. Your body should be roughly at a 25-degree angle, and your arms should be fully extended before you start. Keep your core strong to provide stability when performing this exercise. Again start with a comfortable weight and move on up as you feel stronger.

Reps: 5

Sets: 4

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