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9 Trap Exercises You Should Start Performing

Your traps are muscles that add an instant air of dominance, power, and masculinity to your physique. And when it comes to building them, there are three key factors you need to implement.

“First, it’s important to target your trap muscles from a variety of movements that include loaded carries, shrugs, Olympic lifting variations, upper back exercises, and overhead movements,” says Joel Seedman, Ph.D., strength and performance specialist and owner of Advanced Human Performance in Atlanta, Georgia.

“Second, you need to incorporate proper posture, spinal alignment, and scapular positioning on all exercises to activate your targeted muscles efficiently,” he says. “And finally, it’s critical to include the key mechanisms for inducing maximal hypertrophy, such as overload and mechanical tension, constant/continuous tension, metabolic stress, and stretch-induced micro trauma.”

Don’t worry. It sounds more traumatic than it really is.

The following exercises employ all of these components.

To maximize the growth of your upper back, you’ll want each of your trap workouts to include one Olympic lift variation, deadlift variation, shrug variation, overhead movement, row, pullup or pulldown, and loaded carry. For the best results this type of workout should be performed twice per week with at least 3 days of rest between workouts, incorporating different movements on each of the days, Seedman says. To avoid overtraining limit each workout to no more than 9 different exercises. 

#1 - Deadlifts

I don’t have massive traps, but for someone who hasn’t been in a gym consistently for a while, I still have decent traps.

Heavy deadlifts train your entire body, but your posterior chain and back really get worked.

If they aren’t already, adding deadlifts into your current routine will start upping your gains and building a great strength base.

Try performing deadlifts with a wider grip — this will create more tension on your upper back and traps.

When you are using a lighter weight, you could add in a shrug every rep for that extra bit of contraction.

#2 - Dumbbell Farmer’s Walks

Loaded carries are a great way to improve core strength, improve your grip strength, and will force your traps to grow.

Grab a couple of dumbbells and walk for 50-100 yards, or as far as you have room for. The amount of carries you can perform makes this a potent mass builder for traps.

This exercise is actually best for strengthening the muscles around your spine, so there are more benefits than just huge traps.

Want to up your core training? Carry just one dumbbell for an uneven load. An uneven load will force your core to keep your body erect. As we walk, our stabilizer muscles work and get stronger.

Keep a tall posture and walk with a fluid motion. It will feel different than a regular walking pace, but with some practice, you can get it.

#3 - Power Shrug

How to do it: Begin with the same partial hinge position described for the hang cleans and hang snatches above: Assume a tall standing position with the bar in your hands, hinged at the hips so the barbell is just above your knees. From here, extend your hips forward, and flex your feet as if you were going to jump; then shrug your shoulders forcefully by really engaging your trap muscles.

Why it’s effective: “The power shrug is an explosive exercise that involves powerful hip drive followed immediately by an aggressive shrug at the top of the movement,” Seedman says. “This move is exceptional for targeting the fast-twitch fibers of your upper back and traps since the high power output forces you to activate so many of them.”

#4 - Barbell Shrugs

Barbell shrugs are an obvious choice for building big traps.

Load the bar up and perform quality reps. Simply loading the bar as heavy as you can lift and attempting to shrug won’t cut it — you will need a full range of motion and quality contractions.

Play with tempo and pause reps to get a good squeeze. If you’ve got it in you, pause the contraction for one second every rep.

#5 - Dumbbell Farmer’s Walk

How to do it: Choose a total load that’s equivalent or greater than your body weight. Hold a dumbbell in either hand, and walk quickly yet smoothly with them for 50-100 yards.

Why they’re effective: “If you’ve ever watched the world’s strongest man events you’ve probably noticed that every competitor has enormous traps,” Seedman says. That’s because of the sheer number of farmer’s walks and loaded carries they perform. “Besides being a highly functional movement, the farmers walk is one of, if not, the single most potent mass builders for the traps, upper back, shoulders and neck. It’s actually an excellent exercise for strengthening the muscles along your spine, safeguarding against injury or strengthening your back after a pre-existing one.

#6 - Face Pulls

I personally love face pulls.

#7 - Rack Pulls

Rack pulls are basically a deadlift with the bar higher than on the floor.

Get into a power rack and set the catches around your knee level. This is going to be where the weight will start.

Since there is a shorter range of motion, you’ll be able to safely lift a little bit more weight than you can on a deadlift. This can help overload your traps and push you to the next level.

#8 -Hex Bar Deadlift

How to do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your hips back to lower your hands and grip the bar’s handles in the middle. Your lower back should be flat. Inhale and engage your abs. Stick your chest out and look in front of you, not at the ground. Drive your heels into the floor as you begin lifting the bar. Stand up, squeezing your glutes as you lock out your hips.

Why it’s effective: “If you’re looking for an all-in-one move that crushes your entire body while inducing hypertrophy in your traps and upper back, the hex bar deadlift is it,” Seedman says. It’s also safer than a typical deadlift. Rather than having the barbell loaded in front of your body, which puts you at a greater risk of hurting your lower back and spine, the hex bar fits around your body, placing the load to the sides of your torso. Better yet, this lets you lift heavier loads, complete broader rep ranges, and create high levels of tension and stretch throughout your upper back and traps. 

#9 - Push Press

How to do it: To perform this movement effectively you’ll either start by cleaning the weight to your upper chest and shoulders, or you can unrack the barbell from a power rack, Seedman says. From there, move into a partial squat by slightly dipping at the knees, then forcefully driving the weight overhead in one swift motion. Once you lock the weight out overhead, pause in the top position for several seconds to gain complete control of the weight. 

Why it’s effective: “The barbell push press is one of the single most effective strength and mass builders for the entire upper body,” Seedman says. “It also does wonders for crushing your traps—particularly at the top of the movement as you drive the weight overhead.”