Top 4 Best Trap Exercises To Grow Bigger Traps

If you want to build stronger and more defined shoulders, you must ensure you are training your trapezius muscles. Which is exactly what we're here to cover today.

We will look at our top 3 exercises that effectively work your traps to build a powerful upper body.

But to build bigger traps, it is important to understand the anatomy of your traps and what function they provide. So let's get to it.

 

Trapezius Muscles Anatomy

Trapezius Muscles Anatomy

First things first, you need to familiarize yourself with the trapezius muscles. The more you know about the location of these muscles, the better you'll be able to target and isolate them. 

Remember, it's all about making that mind-muscle connection. There are three different parts to your trapezius muscles, the upper traps, mid traps, and lower traps.

 

Upper Traps

First, we have the upper traps, which is the top part of the trapezius muscle that runs down from the back of your neck to your shoulder blade. Your upper traps are very important for several reasons.

First, they allow you to shrug your shoulders, or in other words, to raise them upwards. Your upper trap muscles are also extremely important for allowing your scapulae to rotate upwards, which in essence allows you to lift your arms up above your head.

Your upper trapezius muscles are also important for a variety of neck movements, and they help keep your neck and back straight as well, thus helping you maintain good posture.

Mid Traps

Next, just below the upper traps, we have the mid traps, which sit neatly between the upper and lower trapezius muscles.

There are several main functions that the middle trapezius muscles serve, with one of them being the retraction of the shoulder blades.

This is an essential muscle to help you pull your shoulder blades together towards your spine.

They also help with other important functions such as helping to extend your shoulders, stabilize your shoulder girdle, and rotate your shoulder blades.

This is an important muscle when it comes to raising your arms up over your head.

 

Lower Traps

We then have the lower traps, which are the bottom part of the trapezius muscles.

These go from your lower shoulder blade down to the middle of your back, all along the spine. Just like the upper and middle traps serve various purposes, so do the lower traps.

For instance, one of the main functions of the lower trapezius muscles is to help drag your shoulder blades down. 

If you are reaching overhead, then this is very important. Furthermore, the lower trapezius muscles also help you maintain good posture, bring your shoulder blades back and together, and in general for lifting your arms up over your head.

Related: Our 5 Best Lower Trap Exercises

 

The Benefits of Having Strong Traps

In case you are wondering why exercising your traps is so important, there are several reasons why this is the case.

The simple reality is that if you have weak trapezius muscles, it can decrease your ability to perform regular actions on a daily basis, and it will certainly impact your ability to perform in a variety of sports.

So, why is having strong trap muscles so important?

 

Better Posture

Better Posture

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of having stronger trapezius muscles is that they help to support both your shoulders and neck. This therefore helps you maintain proper posture and alignment.

If you spend all day sitting at your desk, chances are that you probably have a whole lot of back pain and bad posture. Well, doing trapezius exercises can help reverse these effects.

 

Strength Increase

The simple reality is that having strong traps will help improve other lifts in the gym.

Your trapezius muscles are very important for lifting anything over your head, whether you're lifting up groceries or doing heavy exercises at the gym.

So, increasing your trap strength will assist you with all of your workouts at the gym.

 

More Functionality

Not only is being stronger good for being at the gym, but it's also beneficial for your everyday life.

Exercising your trapezius muscles allows you to practice all of the functional movements that you need in your everyday life.

Lifting up objects, turning your head, and even shrugging your shoulders all rely on the trapezius muscles.

 

Injury Prevention

Speaking of sitting at a desk, many of us have back, neck, and shoulder pain because of it.

Furthermore, weak trapezius muscles can lead to upper back, shoulder, and neck injuries if you are straining yourself or not used to exercising these muscles.

Strengthening your trapezius muscles and keeping them limber will help prevent injuries from occurring.

 

Appearances

Appearances

The other benefit of doing trap exercises is quite simply that you'll end up looking better.

If you are looking for that hourglass figure or that V shape, then exercising your trapezius muscles is how you'll accomplish it.

 

How to Best Target the Trapezius Muscles

Although we are about to look at the best trap exercises out there, it's a good idea for you to know exactly how to target these muscles.

So, training your back will in part develop your trapezius muscles, but simple back exercises might not be enough to achieve the shape and size that you're looking for.

If you really want big and strong trapezius muscles, you need to use exercises that will create a full range of motion, with shrugs being one of the best, as well as isometric exercises where the traps are used to stabilize, with the deadlift being a great example. 

 

Our Top 4 Best Trap Exercises

Now that we've covered the basics about doing trap exercises, let's take a look at some of the very best ones out there.

Shrugs

Perhaps the most common and most popular exercise for targetting your traps is shrugs.

If you are looking to activate both your middle and upper trapezius muscles, then the shrug is the way to go. 

Plus, shrugs be performed using a cable machine, barbell, dumbbells, trap bar or just about anything you can pick up.

If you want to use a barbell, this is a good alternative to using dumbbells, because it ends up targeting your spinal extensors and your rhomboids just a little bit more.

Instructions

  1. Choose a pair of dumbbells that you feel comfortable holding, but not too comfortable. Remember, you do want there to be a bit of tension.
  2. Hold the dumbbells in a neutral grip so that your palms are facing inwards, towards your thighs.
  3. You should be standing with your feet slightly narrower than shoulder width.
  4. Engage your core, take a deep breath, and then raise up your shoulders. To give you an idea of what this should feel like, simply imagine squeezing your ears with your shoulders.
  5. At the top of the motion, take a quick pause, really squeeze those traps, and then lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position.
  6. Aim to do up to 20 repetitions per set, and up to three sets.

 

Upright Row

If you want to train your traps on the day you train shoulders, then upright rows are a great option. Upright rows work a range of muscles including your traps, rear deltoids, anterior deltoids and more.

This is a good compound movement that will assist you in lifting weights above your head.

With that being said, if you often have shoulder pain, this exercise might best be avoided.

If you don't already suffer from shoulder pain, make sure to use proper form during this exercise, or else you will end up injuring your shoulders.

If using a barbell doesn't seem like a good idea, you could always use a pair of dumbbells.

Using dumbbells to do upright rows allows for a greater range of motion, therefore reducing the chances of injuring your shoulders. Using dumbbells is also ideal because it can help reduce muscular imbalances from occurring.

Instructions

  1. To do the upright row, first use an EZ bar or a barbell with a moderate amount of weight. Remember, this exercise doesn't require all that much weight to really activate your trapezius muscles and your deltoids.
  2. Hold the bar at roughly shoulder width, and hold it directly in front of your thighs with your arms fully extended down in front of you.
  3. While bracing your core and breathing in, and squeezing your glutes, you're going to drive the bar upwards. 
  4. This motion should come from your elbows, or in other words, you need to drive your elbows up, while bending your arms so that the bar ends up at your chin. Your elbows and shoulders should remain pinned back during this exercise.
  5. The aim here is to get your hands and the bar slightly above your shoulders, and once you reach that height, do a quick pause, and then return back down to the starting position.
  6. Repeat this exercise for anywhere between 8:00 and 12:00 repetitions, for up to three sets.

 

Face Pulls

If you want to correct your posture, increase the strength and size of your back and shoulders, and build muscle overall, then doing the face pull is a good option.

Face pulls engage a range of muscles like your rear deltoids, trapezius muscles, and rhomboids, helping in that classic V-shape upper body, then the face pull is something you absolutely need to try.

Instructions

  1. To do this exercise, you're going to need a cable machine. Adjust the pulley so that it is above your head, even at its highest position. You then want to adjust the weight to a moderate level, so you can pull on it without having to balance too much.
  2. Using the rope attachment, hold it using a neutral grip so that your palms are facing each other and your knuckles are facing the ceiling.
  3. Step back so that your arms are fully extended in front of you, and so that there is already tension on the cable before you start the exercise. You should lean back slightly, engage your core, and keep your feet at shoulder width.
  4. With the motion coming from your traps and rear deltoids, pull the rope towards your face, with the aim being to get your hands right beside your ears, so when you pull towards your face, you'll need to split your hands on either side of your face.
  5. Hold this position for one or two seconds, and then return to the starting position in a slow and controlled manner. Try doing at least 12 repetitions for three sets.

 

Trap Bar Carry

Here's a really cool exercise that you've probably never done before, the trap bar carry, which can also be done as a hex bar carry.

If you're looking to increase both the strength and size of your trapezius muscles, as well as your back in general, and you want to improve your grip strength as well, then the trap bar carry is fantastic.

This is one of these exercises that will help you train for those heavy lifts.

Instructions

  1. Stand in the middle of the trap bar and attach as much weight as you see fit. If you're a beginner, starting with a 25 LB plate on each side should be more than enough.
  2. Standing with your feet at roughly shoulder width apart, bend down at the knees and hinge your hips a little bit, grab the handles, and then stand up by pressing your heels through the ground.
  3. Making sure to engage your core, back, and trap muscles, take small steps forward while making sure that your core is kept tight.
  4. Take up to 20 steps and then put the trap bar down, and if possible, repeat for up to five sets.

Related Post: 6 Best Cable Shoulder Exercises To Try

 

Final Thoughts on Trap Exercises

At the end of the day, if you're looking to achieve that strong V-shape or hourglass shape, then your only choice is to start exercising your trapezius muscles.

The exercises we've listed above are the perfect way to get started.

Author's Photo

William Parrett

Will, co-founder of Home Gym Supply, launched the company in 2019 after 15-years in the fitness industry. His expertise stems not only from his professional background but also from his athletic pursuits. A former competitor in the World Beauty Fitness & Fashion (WBFF) and a competitive rugby player, Will has always been dedicated to health and fitness.