Nothing says you’ve entered full-on beast mode like a bit set of traps. They’re a clear indicator of strength and a weight training background, they help frame a well-built chest, shoulder and biceps perfectly, and quite frankly they look awesome. Here we’ll cover a few of the best trap exercises for mass and how to get the most out of your training.
There are actually three trapezius muscles – the upper, middle and lower traps. While they should all receive at least a little focus in your training, the majority of what we’ll cover here will be focused on the upper traps. Training the middle and lower traps is covered largely in our mass building back exercise article.
Developing the upper traps is based around movements that draw the shoulders upwards towards the ears, and the cornerstone of any trap-specific training should be the barbell shrug. Heavy deadlifts will work most of the back (including the traps) and should also play a key part in your development, but for targeting the traps themselves the barbell shrug is ideal.
The shrug is a straightforward movement, and you should find that when you start to train it regularly you’ll be able to add a lot more weight in a fairly short period of time. The barbell allows you to do this easily, and you’ll find that heavy shrugs will provide improvements in your grip strength and forearm size as well as your traps.
How to Structure Your Workout
There’s probably not enough exercises out there specifically for the upper traps for it to be worthwhile having a dedicated training day, so generally we’d advise adding some of the movements to the end of your shoulder training workout.
Pick a couple of the exercises (barbell shrugs and something else – dumbbell shrugs will do if you don’t have access to a barbell) and aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
A with all mass-building training, eat more calories than you burn and get plenty of protein. Aim for a few hundred calories a day over maintenance and 0.8g of protein per pound of body weight and, if you’re training hard, you’ll start to see results.
- Stand with your back straight, your core tight and a slight bend in the knees
- Grab the barbell with an overhand grip with your arms just outside of shoulder-width
- Lower your shoulders as much as you can while keeping your back straight
- Raise your shoulders as high as you can up towards your ears
- Pause briefly at the top of the movement before lowering them to the starting position in a controlled manner
- Set up with your feet around shoulder-width apart, your core tight and a slight bend in the knees
- Take a dumbbell in each hand, arms hanging by your sides
- Lower your shoulders as much as you can
- Keeping both arms straight, raise your shoulders up to your ears
- Pause a moment at the top of the movement before lowering your shoulders in a controlled manner
Cable Shoulder Shrugs
- Set the cable machine to the lowest setting and attach a pulley
- Set up with your feet shoulder-width apart, your core tight and your back straight
- The starting position is with the pulley at waist height with your shoulders as low as possible
- Keeping your arms straight, raise your shoulders up towards your ears as high as you can
- Pause briefly at the top of the movement before lowering the weight to the starting position
- Set up with your feet under the bar around shoulder-width apart
- With your knees slightly bent, bend at the waist while keeping your back straight
- Grab the bar with an overhand grip, with the hands roughly 16 inches apart
- Begin to straighten your back upwards while keeping your arms straight
- Pause briefly when you’re fully upright, before lowering the bar to the floor in a controlled manner
One Arm Upright Row
- Set up near a post or other tall, stable object and hold on with one hand
- Take a dumbbell in your other hand with an overhand grip
- The starting position is with the dumbbell in front of your thigh
- Raise the dumbbell up towards your shoulder with your elbow pointing away from your body
- Lower the arm to the starting position in a controlled manner
Dumbbell Rear Deltoid Row
- Set up with your right foot on the floor and your left knee and hand resting on a bench
- Lean forward so you’re supporting your weight with your left side
- Reach down to pick up a dumbbell in your right hand while keeping the back flat
- Raise your right arm up towards your chest, bending the elbow to bring it back as far as you can
- Pause briefly at the top of the movement before lowering the dumbbell in a controlled manner
- Repeat the process for the other side
Bent-Over Lateral Cable Raises
- Take the handle of the pulley with your right hand
- Lean forward at the hips until your upper body is parallel to the floor
- With a slight bend in the knees, place your left hand on your left thigh
- Your right arm should hand down from the shoulder with a slight bend in your elbow
- Lift your right arm, maintaining a slight bend in your elbow
- Continue until your arm is in line with your ear and is parallel to the floor
- Lower the weight to the starting position in a controlled manner
- Repeat the process for the other side
Iron Cross with Dumbbells
- Set up with a dumbbell in each hand in a low squat stance
- Your feet should be around shoulder-width apart and your arms in front of you with palms inwards
- Stand upright and move your arm away from your body and outwards to form a T shape