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4 Exercises Upper Body Trap Bar

With my article on the 5 Trap Bar Exercises You’re Not Doing, I already gave you a taste of how the trap bar can be used to push your gains to the next level. But, as I’m sure you noticed, all of the exercises discussed were lower body and core focused. Not that focusing on core strength is a bad thing (as it will assuredly do much more for your body composition and athletic performance than endless bicep curls do) but pigeonholing the trap bar doesn’t do justice to its versatility.

Upper-Body Push
With both horizontal and vertical pushing movements, it's important to grip the handles in the middle to prevent the bar from tipping one way or another. This control is one of the hardest aspects of any of the Trap Bar Pushes.


Let’s start with everyone’s favorite trap bar exercise: the shrug. The beauty of using the trap bar here is that it allows you to hold a lot of weight in a shoulder friendly position without using lifting straps or an over/under (snatch) grip. It’s a great way to build size in the traps, and when done for high reps, it’s also a great grip exercise too.

Trap Bar Bench/Floor Press

Floor pressing with dumbbells offers a certain degree of freedom with your hand and wrist position. However, progressively overloading the muscles to build strength and size can become an issue. Using the trap bar allows you to load and lift more weight, thereby  increasing results for your chest, shoulders and triceps.

Setup: Lie either on the floor or on a bench, grip the bar and lower it toward your chest. Avoid hitting yourself in the head as you lower the bar. Once you reach an appropriate range of motion, press the bar up.

Trap Bar Rows

Bent over rows can be very hard on your lower back, and tough to grip when done with a lot of weight. Thankfully the trap bar helps solve these problems by reducing stress on the low back while allowing you to hold big loads without using straps. My favorite variation of this exercise is to do these dead stop every rep, as if performing a “Pendlay” row with a straight bar. This will improve starting strength for the pulling muscles while allowing you to go very heavy in a controlled fashion.

Neutral Grip Pull Ups

Pull ups are one of the best overall exercises for muscle and strength, which I’m sure you already know. But by putting the trap bar in a power rack you can perform neutral grip pull ups which may be even more effective, as the grip is the most shoulder friendly, and the bar allows for a true vertical pull causing complete contraction. Give these a shot, especially if your gym doesn’t have neutral grip bars.