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You always hear about chest, leg, back, shoulder, and arm training. Occasionally you will get some calve training articles and summertime of course the six pack articles. What you don’t get though is a lot of trap training articles. Building a big old yolk via trap training will make anyone look like a beast. While a powerful set of traps will make a normal guy look like a man’s man.  A good set of traps will also help a woman look more lady like in certain areas also. Besides making you look big, powerful or sexy, big strong traps will help improve overall functional. 

Anatomy of the Trapezius-  

Trapezius gets its name from its trapezium-like shape when looking at both muscles at once: the corners being the neck, the two shoulders, and the thoracic vertebra.The muscles of the trapezius, starts at the base of the skull and extends down to the middle of the back. From the spine it also extends laterally to the scapula.    

The trapezius has 3 functional regions: The superior region (descending part) supports the weight of the upper limb. The intermediate region (transverse part) retracts the scapulae. The inferior region (ascending part) medially rotates and depresses the scapulae. 

Because the fibers in the traps run in different directions, it has a variety of actions.

The superior fibers or “upper traps” start at the base of the skull and attach to the back third of the upper shoulder blades. The main functions of the upper traps are to support to the arms. The upper traps control scapular elevation. This includes shrugging up and lifting of the shoulders. The upper traps are what gives a man that dominate appearance.


The middle fibers of the traps or “middle traps” are just below the upper traps and run laterally across the rear shoulder blades and vertebrae. This part helps with scapular retraction pull the shoulder blades back (drawing the shoulder blades toward the midline). Because the middle traps helps pull the shoulders back this area is important for women. When the shoulders pull back the chest stands more upright helping a woman look more “shapely” up top.

The inferior fibers or “lower traps” is the lowest part of the traps. The lower traps help lower the scapula and helps with scapular depression (pulling the shoulder blades down).

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Keep It Steady-

There is no doubt that a monstrous pair of traps can make a person quite an impressive looking specimen. Traps however are much more than an impressive show muscle. Well developed traps help greatly in improving upper body strength and stability. Traps not only help with pulling and or lifting but also help in opening up the upper chest for better breathing. When moving the scapula the traps help provide stability to the spine. In contrast when moving the spine the traps also help provide stability to the scapula. 

With a lot of shoulder injuries, a lack of scapula mobility and stability are the culprits. By developing a good set of traps scapula mobility and stability can be aided. As a matter of fact some therapist will provide shoulder rehab programs that include some shoulder shrugging motions.  Shrugging motions directly target the traps. 

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Beyond The Basics-

When it comes to targeting the traps most people don’t go beyond a couple basic shrugging movements. A few sets of barbell shrugs and maybe a couple sets of dumbbell shrugs and that wraps it up for most people. Shrugs are probably the best known and most direct way to hit the traps. Adding variation to the ways of hitting the traps however develops different parts of the traps. To really work your traps though, you want to go beyond a few sets of barbell shrugs.

 Variety Is The Spice-

As the saying goes “variety is the spice of life!”  Here are a few trap exercises that could really improve your trap development and add some variety to those plain old shrugs.Here are a few choice exercises:

         Deadlifts

         Wide grip Shrugs

         Bent Over Shrugs

         Barbell Behind The Back Shrugs

         Overhead Shrugs

         Pullback Shrugs

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Deadlifts

Do you want to gain some monster size on your traps? Look no further than the deadlift! Not only will the deadlift put slabs of meat on your body but it will build some monster traps fast. No exercise keeps constant tension on the traps longer than the deadlift...not even shrugs! While the deadlift is not a trap exercise per say, the movement keeps the traps under tension for a long time making it an excellent trap builder.

Wide Grip Shrugs 

Wide grip shrugs put a totally different feel to trap training. By taking a wider grip, it really hits the traps on the outside and to a degree the rear delts. Wide grip shrugs also help improve shoulder stability and back posture. To perform the wide grip shrug, grip a barbell with your hands at least 1 1/2 times the width of your shoulders. While keeping your body mostly stationary, shrug your shoulders up, pause at the top for a count of one second, and lower the bar. Be sure not to bend the arms and only lift the bar straight up and down. 

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Barbell Shrug Behind The Back

While regular shrugs tend to focus more on the upper traps, the behind the back version hits the upper and middle areas of the traps. The behind the back shrug places your shoulders further behind you allowing for more middle trap muscle recruitment. Hold a barbell behind your back with your palms facing backwards. "Shrug" your shoulders upward as high as you can and squeeze it for a second. Then lower the bar all the way down as far as you can. To get the barbell into position, you can rest it on a power rack or bench and then pick it up from there. You can also do these with dumbbells, a cable apparatus, or the smith machine. The Smith machine or cable apparatus can allow you to lean forward a little more for a longer range of motion.  

Bent Over Barbell Shrug (Gorilla Shrug)
The Bent Over Shrug or Gorilla Shrug as it is sometimes called does a great job at hitting the mid to lower part of the traps. This movement gets it’s name from the fact that you perform shrugs in a bent over position or the same position as a gorilla when they are hunched over their knuckles. You start with the barbell on the ground and you bend over it like you are getting into bent over row position. Grab the bar with a shoulder width grip. Instead of rowing the bar up keep your arms straight and pull up as high as you can. Hold at the top for 1 second and return to the bottom. 

Pullback Shrugs

Pullback Shrugs are very similar to regular shrugs with just a slight variation in movement. They focus more on the mid to lower trap while also hitting the top outside part of the traps. To perform the pullback shrug set yourself up like you were to perform a normal shrug. Instead of pulling straight up like a normal shrug, you want to pull upwards and back. When you have the bar is upwards and back, you want to try and squeeze the shoulder blades together as tight as possible. Hold for 1 second and return to starting position.

Overhead Shrugs

This shrug variation attacks the traps from an angle that is almost foreign to trap training. The Overhead Shrug stimulates the traps from above.  Coming from the top really hits the upper traps. Another couple benefits are this exercise does an incredible job of helping build shoulder stability and aligning the sternum, two things crucial to upper body lifting.

The first thing you are going to do for this exercise is greatly reduce the weight that you are using. Pick up a barbell and press it overhead like a military press. Once you have the bar in full lockout, keep your arms locked and shrug the barbell upwards. You will only be able to move the bar a few inches but the key is squeezing at the top. Not only will these cook your upper traps but your shoulders will love them also.

Pulling things together-

While a person can build a pretty good set of traps from basic shrugs, they can build an even better set by learning to hit their traps from different angles. By learning to use different angles you can almost isolate the area of the traps you want to hit more for better overall development.

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All articles on this site are authored or co-authored by Jarueba Taylor. They are the copy written  property of Taylored Nutrition.
12-2012