Trap workouts not only help you to build mass and strength but also to maintain the right posture. Strong traps are essential to maintain your shoulder blades and arms. It also helps in maintaining enough rotation flexibility, scapular retraction, and depression in your neck, head, upper back, and shoulder area.
The trap is the short form of Trapezius which got its name as it resembles a trapezoid in structure. It has a broad and flat quadrilateral shape which creates elongated columns for the movement of the upper back and neck area.
As trap muscles are essential for maintaining the mechanics and postural correctness you shouldn’t neglect strengthening them while focusing on your chest, and shoulders. Broadly speaking trap muscles can be divided into three major parts namely Upper, Middle, and Lower trap.
The upper trap is responsible for supporting your shoulder muscle groups and carry your arms while the middle and lower trap muscles manage the movements, rotations, and retractions of your biceps and shoulder joints.
What is a good trap workouts routine?
We just discussed how important strengthening the trapezius muscles are for balancing and mobility. Now the question arises ‘What is a good trap workout routine?’
A good routine of trap workouts should include a good mix of upper trap exercises and mid trap exercises for the peak performance of shoulder and back muscles and for the stability of your neck. Also, remember if you haven’t done any of the trap workouts before you can’t just hit the gym floor and start picking up the weights as weak muscles can increase injury risks.
For the best results, you have to think beyond the attractive physique perspective and more in terms of mobility, degree of movements, and flexibility. No doubts trap workouts will help you to achieve more muscles, strength and build bigger traps but you can’t ignore the performance and stability of the scapula also known as the shoulder blade.
I divided this article into 10 best trap workouts into two parts of 5 exercises each for the upper and mid trap. You can perform these trap workouts at home with just dumbbells, barbells, and even without any types of equipment. The goal is to provide you a beginner-friendly exercise list that can be performed regularly without any bulky setup. Let’s start…
5 Best Upper Trap Exercises
Barbell shrug is quite popular and called the king of the trap workouts. Barbell shrug involves small movements which are really effective for improving power and strength in the upper trap region.
It can help you in lifting your scapula area by challenging the shoulder and trap muscles with the motion of weights which can be significantly increased due to ease of performance.
How to: Stand with your back straight arched with your shoulder and arms wide apart.
Keep your hip lean forward and bend your knees. Tighten your abs and hold the weights in both of your overhands grips and shrug your shoulders as high as you can towards your ear without leaving the posture.
Reverse the movement to return back to the starting position.
Reps: You can perform 3 sets of 8 reps each.
The list of upper trap exercises is incomplete without an upright row as it helps you to build your deltoids, rhomboids, and biceps along with upper traps. The upright row is a great alternative for high pulls and can improve your clean and press movements and is hence quite popular among weight lifters and bodybuilding. Some people also confuse upright row with high pulls but mind you they are completely different beasts.
As upright row is a dynamic exercise it should be performed with care to avoid any injury or tissue damage.
How to: Stand straight with your chest and abs hinged. Keep your shoulders and feet wide-apart, body in parallel with thighs. Hold the barbell or dumbbell in your hands.
Exhale and lift the weights towards your chin and expanding your elbows towards the body till your arms are in line with your shoulders.
Squeeze your traps in the top position and hold them for few seconds and now slowly lower the barbell while inhaling to the starting position. Focus on your abdominal muscles and conditioning while performing the upright row to avoid excessive strain in your grip and shoulder joints.
Reps: You can perform up to 10-15 reps in 3 sets with a resting period in between.
ALSO READ: 3 Best Pull Up Variations To Grow Huge Lats
The Farmer’s Walk is quite popular among trap workouts as opposed to traditional upper trap exercises it tests your agility, grip, upper trap strength, and mental ability.
How to: Step between 2 pairs of dumbells and squat down to hold them with an overhead tight grip. Now slowly get back to the standing position as you do in deadlift keeping your back straight and chest up pushing through the heels.
As soon as you return to the standing position start walking holding the dumbbells tight and keep notice of the walking distance and keep counting the lap each time to track the record for the next time.
The Gittleson Shrug
The Gittleson Shoulder Shrug focuses on the retraction and contraction of upper trapezius muscles in an isolated unilateral manner. It is named after one of the great fitness and strength coach Mike Gitteslon. Gittleson invented this hybrid version of shoulder shrug with a great range of motion and muscle groups.
In my list of trap workouts Gittleson Shrug when performed with dumbbells results in relatively greater muscle fibers growth with lesser chances of neck and shoulder injuries as the starting position is well below the normal shoulder level which gives your fibers a diagonal vector resistance.
It also avoids the development of the impaired balance of traps due to range of motion.
How to: On a flat bench seat with a dumbbell on one side. Hold the dumbbell in your overhand grip and with your ideal handhold the bench behind your hip. Make sure your spine is straight and your feet pressed on the ground.
Drop the shoulder holding the dumbbell below the other shoulder and now squeeze your trap to lift the dumbbell bringing your ear to your shoulder. Release it slowly so it could be stretched down.
Reps: 3 sets of 6-8 reps each.
Heavy deadlifts allow you to improve your whole body strength by working on your abs, forearms, shoulders, and glutes. For the same reason, it stabilizes your whole body improving the neurological connection and prevent any injury.
Not only this, heavy deadlifts can be highly effective in burning fat and strengthening the core and hamstrings.
How to: Add more plates to the barbell. Bend your knees and hips with your arms extended straight to the barbell and back intact in a straight line.
Grip the bar with your hands wide than your shoulders. Make sure there is no bend in your body and your feet pushing down the ground. Return to the standing position by straightening your knees and pushing the ground with your heels. Keep your chest up and back straight with your shoulders un-calved.
Now return the bar back to the ground while keeping your back straight and your hip bent.
Reps: You can start with 10 reps and reduce it to 8 and then 6 in consecutive sets.
5 Best Mid Trap Exercises
Overhead arm raises
In the list of Mid Trap Exercises, the first I would like to put forward is Overhead arm raises. Overhead arm raises are beneficial for traps as well as deltoids.
The reason why I love overhead arm raise is that it can be performed by adults and is quite helpful for people suffering from arthritis. Makes is the best trap workout with dumbbells.
How to: You can stand tall with your feet and shoulder wide apart or sit on the bench with your back straight. You can do this workout with or without dumbbells. Bring your arms overhead from sideways while inhaling and a little bend in your elbows.
If you’re using dumbbells make sure to keep them in the vertical trunk position. Hold this position for few seconds.
Exhale while returning back to the starting position.
Reps: If you’re using weight don’t go beyond 6 reps in each set of overhead arm raises in the beginning.
Scaption is a great way to develop shoulder mobility and improve your scapula and rhomboids which helps in lateral movement, bench press, and shoulder raise.
Not only this it also strengthen your deltoids, anterior, mid traps, and rotator cuff.
How to: Hold the dumbbell on both sides with your feet apart with a neutral grip and palm. Engage your core and glute without bending your elbow and raising the arms upward at 30-40 degrees with your shoulders and thumbs facing up.
Make sure your palm is in a neutral position without any rotations. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds.
Now slowly return to the start position.
Reps: 3 sets with 8-10 reps in each set.
Cable face pulls are the crown of trap workouts. Face pulls with the under-hand cable grip hits your mid and lower trap muscles and broadens your shoulders while helping you with postural health.
Face pulls develop your shoulder blades and rear deltoids but is generally underrated as it is not as visually appealing as other mid trap exercises.
How to: Ensure to set the rope cable at the height of the eye. Pull the rope towards your face while inhaling and keeping your elbow high. Keep your back straight and don’t lean forward. Keep your palm towards the sides and squeeze your traps when the rope reaches your face.
Slowly release the rope while maintaining the tension in the starting position.
Along with the mid trap muscles T-Bar Row also strengthen your latissimus dorsi. It gets its name as the action mimics the rowing action of the boat. One of the easiest exercises among trap workouts T-Bar Row has the involvement of ligaments and support from muscles.
The movement involves in T-Bar Row also works on the biceps and shoulders. While stabilizing abdominals, glutes, and hamstrings. It is essential a neutral spine while performing this exercise as it can cause injuries.
If your gym doesn’t have a T-Bar machine don’t worry! I will explain how you can perform T-Bar with the available equipment.
How to: Take a bar and support its one side of a squat rack or side of the wall. Hook your bar with the wall with a couple of plates behind. Now put some plates on the other side but make sure the weight on the lifting side is not more than that of the holding side as you won’t be able to get the complete lift.
Stand with your feet wide apart with the bar between them and bend over your hips keeping your chest parallel to the ground. Hold the handles, keep your back neutral and core tight. Slowly pull the bar towards your chest and squeeze your scapula. Your torso should be at 45-degree to the floor while your arms are extended.
Reps: You can go up to 200 pounds with 6-12 reps in each set.
The list for trap workouts is incomplete without including Push-Ups. Push-ups have been the most popular workout for building chests but what you don’t know is it also helps in building triceps, pectoral and mid trap muscles.
Push-up is considered a compound exercise as it involves multiple muscle groups at the same time. To keep it effective and challenging make sure to increase the number of reps every time. You can also try variations of push-ups to hit the different muscle groups.
How to: While in the high plank position on the floor, keep your body tension intact and avoid forming an arched back by keeping your glute muscles squeezed. Your wrist should be placed in a vertical position under the shoulder.
You can keep the arms narrow or wide depending upon the variation. Go all the way down inhaling while keeping your body straight push your shoulder blades downwards.
Exhale and get back to the start position by pushing your hands on the ground.
Reps: Start with 10 reps per set and increase the number of reps per set. If you’re unable to complete a pushup you can take support of your knees.
Why won’t my traps grow?
Trap muscles can handle a great deal of weight and if you are not seeing any significant growth after a regular workout routine that means you have to hit them hard with more weight and frequency of reps.
A good mix of load and volume is essential to broaden your traps which can be achieved by an increase in the number of reps in consecutive sets of trap workouts. For eg. If you’re starting with 8-10 reps per set, you can go up to 20 reps in the last set which will cause more muscle toning and burning.
As trap muscle groups are completely different you can easily club other parts and perform supersets focusing on other muscle groups like biceps, chest, legs during trap recovery.
You can also test hybrid trap exercises like Farmer’s walk and Gittleson Shrug for the trap growth as it also builds your agility and grip. The idea is to try different variations so that trap muscles growth doesn’t get stale.
Should I train traps with shoulders or back?
You can definitely pair trap workouts with shoulders or back as all of these three areas have a great range of common muscle groups which can be benefited if worked out together.
The upper trap muscles work with the shoulder muscles and are responsible for the correct posture and shoulder mobility and stability. This is why weightlifters tend to train shoulders and traps together as the upper trap muscles are already warmed up and conditioned which causes more muscle development and saves time.
Similarly mid and lower trapezius muscles work closely with the back muscles, which makes it really convenient and beneficial to train them after a session of a back workout. This means you can do mid trap exercises like scaption after training your back muscles but doing upper trap exercises like shrugs and farmer’s walk is not an intelligent choice on a back day.
So you can train your traps with either shoulders or back. A more advanced way to do it would be to train upper traps with shoulders and lower traps with your back as discussed above.
How long do traps take to grow?
Trap muscles usually recover faster than other muscle groups that simply mean you can train them more than any other area and see the results relatively faster than what it will take for any other muscle group.
The time requires to grow the trap muscles can vary from individual to individual but as you can train traps more frequently it can cause rapid muscle-burning resulting in the protein synthesis for muscle growth and allows you to get ready for the next session of workout.
You can also increase the no of reps while training your traps that means within 6 to 8 weeks of workout sessions you can see significant progress in your trap growth by keeping the training challenging and variable. Don’t forget to take a proper diet and rest after your intensive workout session.
Can I train traps everyday?
You can perform trap workouts 2 to 3 times per week and pair them with your shoulder and back workout for the optimal results quickly. As trap muscles require heavy load and volume for growth it can cause a great amount of fatigue in the trap muscles and it is not advisable to do trap workouts every day.
Rather than working out your traps every day, you should try to work out them a couple of times a week with increasing weights and number of repetitions as it will burn more muscles.
You should also try new variations and modifications to keep the workout challenging and prevent muscle adaption to the workout for better muscles growth and strength development. For eg. Try switching between different variations of pushups hitting the different trap muscles in the mid and lower section.