3 Best Exercises for Big Traps

by Drew Spears on February 12, 2024

What are the trapezius muscles?

The trapezius muscles, commonly referred to as "traps," are a pair of large muscles that extend from the base of the skull to the middle of the back and down to the shoulder blades. These muscles play a crucial role in shoulder movement, neck stability, and overall upper body strength.

Why should you train your traps?

Developing strong and well-defined traps not only enhances your physique but also improves your posture and upper body functionality. Strong traps provide stability and support during various exercises, such as deadlifts, rows, and overhead presses. Additionally, well-developed traps can help prevent neck and shoulder injuries.

1. Barbell Shrugs

Barbell shrugs are one of the most effective exercises for targeting the trapezius muscles. To perform this exercise, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hold a barbell in front of you with an overhand grip, and let it hang at arm's length. Lift your shoulders as high as possible, hold for a brief moment, and then lower them back down. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

2. Dumbbell Upright Rows

Dumbbell upright rows primarily target the upper traps. Start by holding a pair of dumbbells in front of your thighs with an overhand grip. Lift the dumbbells by raising your elbows out to the sides, keeping them higher than your forearms. Continue lifting until the dumbbells reach shoulder height, then lower them back down. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

3. Farmer's Walk

The farmer's walk is a functional exercise that engages multiple muscle groups, including the traps. To perform this exercise, grab a pair of heavy dumbbells or kettlebells and hold them at your sides. Walk forward while maintaining an upright posture and engaging your core. Aim to walk for a specific distance or time, gradually increasing the weight as you progress.


Tempo is the Key to Unlocking Trap Growth 

The trapezius muscles are made of predominantly slow twitch muscle fibers. That means they are built for endurance, not speed & power. If you really want to unlock growth in the traps, you need to create more time under tension. I recommend holding each rep of each exercise at full contraction for 2-3 seconds, and doing 3-4 second negatives. Use less weight, and focus on control and time under tension. You will find this works much better for growth than blasting through a super heavy set of shrugs in 10-15 seconds. You may even want to start your trap training with the Farmer's Walks as well to help this process. 

Remember to warm up before performing any exercise and consult with a fitness professional if you're new to these movements or have any underlying health conditions. Incorporating these three exercises into your workout routine will help you develop strong and impressive traps, improving both your physical appearance and overall strength.


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