For a symmetrical shaped upper body, having bigger traps is undoubtedly important. Many guys do work out their deltoid muscles, paying attention to these important muscles right at the end of a workout.
But to build great trapezius muscles, that almost give you that feeling of shirt stretching, you have to focus on isolation exercises.
Most people do not notice if you have good trap muscles unless they are extraordinary. But the flipside is, most people do notice when you do not have good traps.
Another reason to train traps seriously is while benching and performing row movements; the correct form can ensure when you have strong trapezius muscles.
Often, people say that they only feel that their biceps are worked when performing traps or rhomboid specific rowing movements. The cause may be the relatively stronger biceps that overpower the movement. Doing shrugs helps take care of these flaws.
The right shoulder blade positioning is important in any exercise. For instance, in bench presses, there are times when you miss the lifts because of uneven shrugging up of one shoulder or both of them.
The trapezius muscle is bigger than the abdominal sheath. It starts from the neck, extends till the side and rear deltoids and has a connection to the spine down the mid-back region.
The upper trapezius muscle is involved in raising the scapulae or raising the shoulders up. Look heads up and you will feel a slight pressure in the upper traps.
Mainly in overhead shoulder presses, they play the role of secondary muscles.
Inside lateral raises, when the elbows go higher than the shoulder, upper traps are worked out decently. The middle and lower trap regions come into play when you are training rear deltoids and back.
There are a variety of exercises that target the upper, middle and lower parts of this muscle.
Traps Exercise #1: Barbell shrugs
To build strong and big traps, you definitely cannot ignore barbell shrugs. As long as the form in which you perform the repetitions is correct, doing shrugs with heavy weights is a great traps builder.
- With your feet spaced out shoulder width apart, hold the loaded barbell with your arms in the front. The palms should face your thighs and arms should be wider than shoulder width. This is the initial position of the exercise.
- Raise the traps up as high as you can while exhaling. Squeeze your traps muscles to feel the burn in them for a second. Lower the barbell again and shoot off from that position, performing 12-15 reps.
Do not lift the barbell with your arms. Make sure only the trap movement is consistent throughout the working set. Also, do not move your elbows too much. Some people try to bring the shoulders as high as the ear level, simply because it is impossible, but this ensures that you reap the maximum out of shrugs. This exercise can be performed with the dumbbells, or with a smith machine too. Cable bar shrugs is another variation, and the best part is you can incorporate drop sets easily in this variation.
Tip: Try doing the slow negative reps in barbell shrugs. It will take the muscle stimulation to a whole new higher level.
You can also perform barbell behind the back shrug variation.
Traps Exercise #2: Bent over lateral raises
- Stand or sit on a bench, with your knees slightly bent, and hold a suitable weight dumbbell in each hand. If you are performing standing bent over lateral raises, make sure that your upper body and the torso are almost perpendicular to each other.
- The palms of your hands should be facing your body.
- Extend your arms laterally on both the sides consecutively, inhaling deeply as you lift the weights with your elbows up. Ideally, the elbows should be at the shoulder height level for an efficient workout.
- Exhale and bring the dumbbells back to the initial position. Do 8-12 repetitions.
This exercise is very good to stimulate the rear deltoid head. For people with lower back injury issues, it is suggested that the exercise is done while sitting on a bench.
Traps Exercise #3: Face pulls
- You will be using a cable and a pulley for this exercise. Attach the cable to a suitable height so that correct angle will be executed throughout the set.
- Keeping the arms parallel to the floor, grab the rope with both arms and pull the weight towards your body. For an intense burn in your trapezius muscle, do not rest and pause during the contraction phase of the exercise. Make sure that the repetitions are constant and steady.
- Exhale and bring the cable back to its original position. Do four sets of 8-12 reps each.
Tip: If you have a gym partner, tell him to put his finger on the targeted traps muscle and while performing reps, try to squeeze the finger for an effective trap workout.
Pay attention that you do not swing your head in the front direction to meet the rope. Also, keep the elbow in line with the wrist position.
Lowering the elbows means you would be deploying the lats muscles more. You can also do this exercise on a lat pulldown machine, using an overhand or underhand grip.
Traps Exercise #4: Bent over cable-pulley shoulder flyes
- Choose an appropriate weight and fix the handle of the pulley at the lowermost point.
- Bend down, the way you bend at the knees when doing bent over lateral raises. Make sure that your torso in almost parallel to the ground. Rest your left hand on the left thighs.
- Bend the right elbow slightly and hold the handle with your right hand. It is the starting position of the exercise.
- Raise the right arm gradually, such that the elbows reach shoulder height level. Inhale as you perform this part of the repetition.
- Breathe out and lower the weight slowly, and repeat for the recommended number of reps. Repeat the same instructions for the left arm.
Bent over lateral raises helps in thickening the shoulder muscle fibers and giving you that broad look.
With cheating being a common sight in these movements, one must try to avoid it as far as possible.
After the shoulder gets tired and it is no longer able to lift the weight, there is a tendency of the lower body to start swinging to impart some momentum to the shoulder in the upper movement.
This, however, may lead to intervertebral disc injuries. Use the right weights, don’t train your ego at the gym. The only movement throughout the exercise should come from the arms. Immediately lower the weight or stop the exercise if you cannot perform further reps.
Traps Exercise #5: Barbell upright rows
- Grab a loaded barbell using an overhand grip. The width should be slightly lesser compared to the shoulder width grip.
- Rest the barbell on the top of your thighs, with the elbows slightly bent and the arms fully extended. This is the initial position of the exercise.
- Making sure that the back is straight throughout the repetitions, breathe out and raise the barbell with your shoulders such that the elbows move to the side throughout the movement. Raise the barbell till it touches the chin.
Tip: Do not lift with your arms, use only your traps muscles to raise the weights. Also, contact your trapezius muscles at the top of each repetition and feel the burn.
It is a top exercise to build big trap mass. The only movement throughout the exercise should be only of the elbows; to and fro swinging of the torso should be avoided as this can lead to lower back injuries.
Alternately, you can attach the barbell to the low end of a cable pulley machine too. It is recommended that you do shoulder rotator cuff warm ups regularly.
Traps Exercise #6: Front raises on an incline bench
- With a barbell on the floor, rest on an incline bench with your face down.
- Use an overhand grip to lift the loaded barbell off the ground.
- Keep your arms stable and straight, and raise the barbell in front of the head, with your arms fully extended.
- Hold and pause for a second at the top and come back to the initial position. Repeat for recommended amount of repetitions.
Traps Exercise #7: Clean and press
- With your feet spaced apart at shoulder width distance, bend at your knees so that you can grasp the loaded Olympic barbell. Use a pronated grip with a higher width as compared to shoulder width.
- The elbows must point out to the sides and ensure that your back is at all times flat and straight. Avoid any swinging movements in the back.
- Pull the barbell, keeping your knees and hips bent, and gently place it on your front shoulders. This part of the movement is known as clean. Immediately, extend your knees and move the hips forward to raise the weight above your shoulders. Keep the bar close to your torso at all times.
- The barbell should be directly overhead. This is the press movement in the exercise. Hold the position for 1 to 2 seconds.
- From here, you can press the barbell again or keep it on the floor for another repetition.
Make sure when the barbell reaches your knees, you shrug the traps powerfully enough to lift the weight. Follow that up with your elbows, in the clean part of the movement.
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