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Build your trapezius muscles quickly with The 5 Best Trap Exercises!

Build your trapezius muscles quickly with The 5 Best Trap Exercises!

What if we told you that one of the finest workouts for the traps isn't the dumbbell/barbell shrug? Too frequently, bodybuilders and athletes call it a day on their trapezius muscles after finishing their back workout with a few reps of dumbbell or barbell shrugs ("traps"). Their traps fail to perform to their full potential, as expected.

The main issue, though, is frequently not that you're performing the "wrong" trap exercises; rather, it's that you frequently rely on other upper-back muscles to lift the weight. Since the trapezius muscles collaborate with many other back muscles, including the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and levator scapulae, it might be challenging to fully separate them. The finest trap workouts are therefore not as common as you may think.

Use the exercises and workout advice in this article to strengthen your trapezius muscles and put a stop to those bad back-training habits!

These Easy Training Modifications Will Help You Develop Trap Muscles

The challenging aspect of working out your upper-back muscles is that you can't see the muscles contracting like you can when working out muscles on the front of the body. This is probably a big factor in why some trainees can't "feel" their trap muscles contracting during some workouts, especially the lower traps.

Close your eyes and concentrate on feeling your traps functioning during the first few sets of your trap workout. Training the upper back requires a strong "mind-muscle link," as the saying goes. When performing a dumbbell shrug or barbell shrug, if you don't feel any stress in your traps, it's probably not serving its intended goal very well.

So, how do you resolve that? By modifying factors like your grip and torso lean/angle, you can emphasize the lower and higher traps in a number of different ways.

For instance, performing a straightforward barbell shrug or bent-over row may appear simple, but based on your grip style (overhand vs. underhand), the angle at which you pull the weight towards your body, and the range of motion (ROM), you may experience more tension in particular parts of your upper back.

Yes, a straightforward rowing exercise can effectively work the latissimus dorsi, teres major/minor, rhomboids, trapezius muscles, rear deltoids, and, if you really want to, the erector spinae. Targeting the traps thus doesn't always require adding new exercises; rather, it merely necessitates altering the way in which the fundamental compound actions, such as barbell rows, deadlifts (particularly when done with a trap bar), and rows on a cable machine, are performed.

Increase the tension in your lower, middle, and upper traps by performing fractional reps.

It makes sense to use "fractional reps" during some actions to build your traps in all directions, especially at the end of a session when your muscles are weary and you can't lift as much weight. You might wonder what fractional reps are.

They are essentially partial reps performed following the completion of a regular (full-ROM) session to muscle failure. Once you are unable to complete any more reps with a full ROM, you attempt to complete as many reps as you can with a partial ROM (the top half of that movement).

When working on your traps, fractional reps are extremely helpful for strengthening the mind-muscle connection. The partial reps can emphasize the lower, middle, or upper traps more depending on the movements you're doing. Find that "sweet spot" where you believe your traps are engaging most effectively by experimenting a little.

Is the Barbell Shrug Among the Best Exercises for Traps?

Let's quickly discuss why the barbell shrug is possibly the most overrated exercise for the traps before we reveal the finest trap exercises. The range of motion is typically absurd when you observe gym patrons performing barbell shrugs (or rack pulls) with way too much weight. The barbell is only shrugged maybe a quarter of an inch per rep, but it's actually doing more.

Additionally, just because a bodybuilder with enormous traps performs strenuous shrugs doesn't necessarily suggest that's how strong their upper back is. Despite their efforts, a lot of people with extraordinary physical attributes accomplish such goals.

Leave your ego at the door, exercise with good form, and try not to focus too much on the amount of weight on the bar. How little resistance is actually necessary to activate your traps will astound you.

The Best Trap Exercises (That You're Likely Ignoring)

However, it is not advisable to train the upper-back muscles separately, unlike the limbs. It is just not how the human body functions for bodybuilders and gym visitors to compartmentalize their routines in the aim of targeting one muscle area at a time.

The muscles in your back function together as a single unit to maintain your spine, bring objects close to your body, and lift your shoulder blades. As a result, exercises like bent-over rows, snatches, cleans, and deadlifts will surely engage your trapezius muscles.

Olympic weightlifters Dimitri Klokov and Lu Xiaojun have solid resumes. There are several good videos of them performing uncommon workouts that can promote trapezius growth, particularly slow-motion footage.

Here is a wonderful illustration of the overhead squat and using the traps: Headover Squat Video

The lifter in that video has excellent mobility because his head is "through the bar," allowing the weight to be centered and stabilized only by his upper-back muscles.

The overhead shrug is the first trap exercise we'll do after that.

Header Shrug

To get used to the first odd posture of the bar when performing overhead squats, overhead shrugs are a terrific exercise. For most overhead shrugs, all you need is an empty Olympic barbell.

Simply assume a wide overhand grip on a barbell and press it over your head until your arms are almost completely locked out to return to the starting position. Your spine and the bar should be vertically parallel (just slightly towards the back of your head).

Now, by raising your shoulder blades, you carry out the identical motion as you would while completing a normal barbell shrug. Before lowering your shoulder blades back to the beginning position, hold for a brief moment at the apex of the action. Allow the traps to raise and lower the bar; keep your elbow joints stationary the entire rep.

The overhead squat and overhead shrug may feel unpleasant to most people at first, but with some mobility training, form work, and perseverance, these are unquestionably two of the best trap exercises. Additionally, they'll improve your posture and core stability. Unfortunately, if you have a shoulder issue, you won't be able to do overhead trap workouts.


Face pulls are best described as a row directed at your face. The best way to perform them is using a cable machine that has a rope attachment, but you may also use a resistance band wrapped around the attachment point.

Getting into the starting position is easy; simply take an overhand grip on the rope attachment that is positioned close to eye level. To ensure that your arms fully extend immediately before the weight stack moves, place yourself far enough from the pulley.

To increase the range of motion and tension on the traps, pull the rope towards your face until each hand is just past your ears. As you do this, keep your elbows out at a 75-degree angle from the floor. After holding for a moment, slowly extend your arms back to the beginning position.

Snatch-Grip High Pull/Upright Row

The snatch-grip upright row is difficult to beat when you really want to target the upper traps. The exercise is identical to a regular upright row, except you should use a barbell (or smith machine) so you can take a broad enough overhand grip.

Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, gently forward-lean your upper body. Now, burst the bar up to your chin in a controlled manner, much as you would while performing a hang clean, but without flipping your wrists beneath the bar.

Here is a useful demonstration video: High Pulls with Snatch-Grip

Deadlift With Trap Bar

Stand within a heavy trap bar with your feet shoulder-width apart, similar to the snatch-grip upright row. Utilizing your hips, pull the bar up to your waist while maintaining a neutral spine. Throughout the exercise, your traps will remain stationary, but they are effective. For a pleasant change of pace every now and again, you can also perform shrugs utilizing the trap bar.

Fisherman's Carry

When training traps, the farmer's carry is sometimes disregarded, although it's a wonderful exercise for statically engaging your upper back. (And who doesn't want to be more adept at carrying all of their grocery bags up the stairs at once, let's face it?) The appeal of farmer's carries is that they can be performed with a wide variety of somewhat heavy, handle-mounted objects, including kettlebells, dumbbells, and grocery bags.

All you have to do is walk straight until your grip gives out while holding them at your sides like you would in the beginning position of a dumbbell shrug (or traps burn to the high heavens, whichever comes first). Generally speaking, you should pick a weight that prevents you from walking more than 50 to 100 meters every set.

On back day, don't forget to do trap exercises!

It might be challenging to isolate the traps, particularly if the rest of your upper back muscles are already worn out. Start your back exercises with face pulls utilizing the rope attachment on a pulley to activate slack trap muscles. This will not only loosen up your lats and shoulder blades, but it will also "pre-exhaust" your trapezius before you begin compound exercises like pull-ups and barbell rows.

And keep in mind the earlier-mentioned trap workout advice:

Shut the door on your ego

The three main factors to control are movement angle, grip type, and fractionated training ROM.

There are numerous routes to your target, as there are in most things in life. Trap exercises are no different. By performing heavy deadlifts, snatches, cleans, bent-over rows, and Olympic weightlifters, strongmen, bodybuilders, and powerlifters alike all develop big trap muscles. Although the barbell shrug and dumbbell shrug are often used trap exercises, they are frequently performed with poor form and excessive weight (thereby limiting the already nonexistent range of motion).

Exercises that are significantly more difficult than normal dumbbell/barbell shrugs, including as the overhead shrug, explosive high-pull, and face pull, will help you add variety to your trap workout program.