Exercises For Massive Traps

What do Brock Lesnar, Batista, and Goldberg have in common?

Other than the fact that all three have been WWE megastars, these folks sport some of the sickest traps you will ever see. Now, we are not implying that their traps have something to do with their wrestling skills, but hey, who knows?

Maybe they got the wrestling opportunities they did because of how badass their traps made them look, but we digress. Let’s not allow our love for wrestling to deviate our attention from why we are here today. 

Traps are one of the most overlooked muscles. They form a big part of the posterior muscle chain, and yet many lifters still give them the cold shoulder. In this article, we’ll go over the trap exercises that will make you looked yoked.

Best Exercises For Building Giant Traps

1. Face Pull

How To Do The Face Pull

Face pulls are an incredibly effective exercise for building the trapezius. It targets your lower traps and helps build thickness in your back. While most people prefer the cable machine for the exercise, resistance bands are a great alternative as they help in maintaining constant tension on your muscles throughout the exercise.

Steps:

  1. Set the pulley at eye level.
  2. Attach a rope handle to the pulley and grab the ropes using an overhand grip.
  3. Use a moderate weight so that you don’t lose your balance.
  4. Maintain the natural arch in your back. 
  5. While keeping your elbows high, squeeze your shoulder blades as you pull the cable towards your face.
  6. Return to the starting position with a slow and controlled motion.
  7. Repeat for recommended reps.

Also Read: Top 10 Back Exercises For Building Width and Thickness

2. Rack Pull

Evan Centopani performing a rack pull.

Rack pulls are one of the most underutilized exercises in the gym. Lifting a barbell off the rack shortens the range of motion of the exercise. It allows you to use heavier weights which can help with trapezius muscle development. 

Steps:

  1. Place a barbell on safety pins so that it is below your knee level.
  2. Stand with your feet placed shoulder-width apart.
  3. Push your hips back, bend your knees slightly, and bend over.
  4. Grab the bar with an overhand grip, keeping your hands around shoulder-width apart. 
  5. Lift the bar off the rack by driving your hips forward and straightening your knees.
  6. Pull your shoulders back at the top of the movement and squeeze the life out of your shoulder blades.
  7. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for the recommended repetitions. 

Read more: Ultimate guide to rack pulls.

3. I-Y-T Raise

We know what you are thinking, but no, it is not a YMCA variation. You know what, IYT could be a dance move if dumbbells were allowed inside clubs. There are many variations of I-Y-T raises, but the incline bench version is the best for targeting your traps.

Steps:

  1. Lie chest down on an incline bench while it is at a 60-degree angle.
  2. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and let them hang down so that your arms are perpendicular to the floor.
  3. While maintaining a slight bend in your elbows, lift the dumbbells until your arms and torso form an “I” (your arms and upper body should be in a straight line). Hold the position for a second before returning to the starting position.
  4. Now, raise your left arm at the 11’o clock angle and the right arm at the 1’o clock angle to form a “Y.” Squeeze your shoulder blades at the top before returning to the starting position.
  5. Lastly, raise your arms out to the sides to form a “T.” 
  6. Return to the starting position and repeat for recommended reps.

4. Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Lateral raises train your medial deltoids and trapezius muscles. Raising your arms higher than parallel to floor level will help recruit your traps better.

Steps:

  1. Stand with an upright torso while holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. While maintaining a slight bend in your elbows, lift your arms until your elbows are at your eye level.
  3. Return to the starting position with a slow and controlled motion.
  4. Repeat for reps.

5. Dumbbell Overhead Carry

Constant tension on your shoulders during dumbbell overhead carry will set your traps on fire. This lift will also help in improving your core stability.

Steps:

  1. Grab a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip (palms facing each other).
  2. Raise your arms over your head so that they are perpendicular to the floor and start walking.
  3. Keep your elbows locked out throughout the exercise.
  4. Focus on and contract your traps while you are walking. 
  5. Don’t let your arms lower down during your set.
  6. This exercise might feel like a punishment, but we assure you – you are right. 

6. Upright Row

Upright Rows

If done right, upright rows are one of the most effective trapezius exercises. Do enough of this lift, and you’ll see mountain-shaped muscles growing on both sides of your neck. 

Steps:

  1. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and stand with an upright torso.
  2. Grab a barbell with a wider than shoulder-width overhand grip.
  3. Lift the barbell to your chin by raising your elbows towards the roof.
  4. Return to the starting position with a slow and controlled motion.
  5. At the bottom of the lift, stretch your traps by lowering the bar without bending forward.
  6. The bar should be close to your body throughout the movement.
  7. Make sure you are not using any momentum by swinging back and forth. 

7. Snatch-Grip Barbell High Pull

People suffering from shoulder injuries might find upright rows painful and hard to do. Snatch-grip barbell high pull is an upright row alternative that is great for people suffering from injuries. This exercise reduces shoulder involvement as you’ll be using an explosive move to lift the barbell.

Steps:

  1. Use light weights on this exercise as you’ll be using momentum and a jerking movement. 
  2. Grab the bar using a wide overhand grip with your hands just a few inches from the weights.
  3. With a natural arch in your back, bend at your hips and knees to get into a half-squat position.
  4. Push your hips forward explosively and rise onto your toes as you bend at your elbows to raise the bar to your chin. 
  5. Return to the starting position and repeat for reps.

8. Farmer’s Walk

Farmer Walk Increased Strength

Let us let you in on a secret. Lifting heavier weights helps in building monster traps. You’ll never see a powerlifter with tiny trapezius muscles. Go as heavy as you can (safely) on each exercise, and you’ll notice your traps growing. 

Steps:

  1. Grab a heavy dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip. 
  2. Brace your core and maintain an upright posture throughout the exercise.
  3. Walk!

Read more: Farmer’s Walk Guide.

9. Barbell Row

Barbell Rows

If you want an exercise that gives you the best bang for the buck, look no further. Barbell rows train the posterior muscles, arms, and core. Bringing the barbell towards your upper abs while performing the rows can improve trapezius recruitment. 

Steps:

  1. Stand with your feet placed shoulder-width apart.
  2. Maintain a slight bend in your knees, hinge at your hips, push them back and bend over so that your upper body forms a 45-degree angle with the floor.
  3. Grab the barbell with a wider than shoulder-width overhand grip.
  4. Pull the barbell to your upper abs by lifting your elbows towards the roof. 
  5. Hold for a second and contract your shoulder blades at the top of the movement.
  6. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for reps.

10. Scaption

Bodybuilding is a game of illusions. Broad shoulders can make your traps look ginormous. Scaptions (an I-Y-T variation) will make your shoulders wider, sculpt your anterior deltoids, pump your traps and improve your posture.

Steps:

  1. Stand with an upright torso and your feet placed shoulder-width apart.
  2. Grab a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip. 
  3. With a slight bend in your elbows, raise your left arm at the 11’o clock angle and the right arm at the 1’o clock angle.
  4. At the top of the movement, your arms should be parallel to the floor.
  5. Return to the starting position and repeat.

11. Bent Over Y

This exercise might look easy but will have you begging for mercy by the end. In this exercise, you’ll experience gravity first-hand. You would want to start with lighters weight in this exercise.

Steps:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Grab a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip (palms facing each other).
  3. Maintain a slight bend in your knees and hinge at your hips. Your upper body should be forming a 45-degree angle with the floor. 
  4. Maintain this position throughout the exercise.
  5. Lift both your arms so that your upper body forms a “Y.” Your arms and torso should be in a straight line. 
  6. Hold this position for a minute before returning to the starting position. 

12. Barbell Shrug

Barbell Shrugs

With this exercise, we have entered the shrug territory. Shrugs are one of the most common trap exercises. Almost everyone performs a variation of shrugs to train their trapezius muscles on shoulder day, and for good reasons.

A study published in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders found that 85% of the subject industrial workers doing strenuous jobs felt pain relief after adding shrugs to their workout routines.

Steps:

  1. With an upright stance, stand with your feet placed shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend at your lower back and knees, and push back your hips.
  3. Grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip.
  4. Push your hips forward and straighten your knees to get in the starting position.
  5. Explosively lift your shoulders as high as you can. 
  6. Hold and squeeze your traps at the top of the movement. 
  7. Return to the starting position and repeat for the recommended reps.

Read more: Barbell Shrugs Guide

13. Dumbbell Shrug

Dumbbell Shrug

Most people let their egos get the better of them while performing shrugs. If you can lift the dumbbells only a couple of inches, you need to lower the weights. A full range of motion is vital to building jacked traps.

Steps:

  1. Stand upright with a shoulder-wide stance.
  2. Grab a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip (palms facing each other).
  3. Lift your shoulders as high as you can and hold at the top of the movement for a second.
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat.

14. Power Shrug

If you love going heavy and cheating a little while training traps, you’ll love power shrugs. Although we don’t encourage cheating, we believe monogamy should be reserved for relationships.

Steps:

  1. Grab a barbell with an overhand grip in front of your thighs. 
  2. Slightly bend your knees until the barbell reaches the knee level. 
  3. Extend your knees and perform an explosive shrug. 
  4. Repeat for the recommended reps. 

15. Machine Shrugs

Barbell and dumbbell shrubs are good, but you will hit a plateau if you keep performing the same exercises in every workout. Performing shrugs on a machine/cables will ensure that you have constant tension on the trapezius muscle throughout the movement.

Steps:

  1. Stand upright and grab the smith machine bar with a shoulder-width overhand grip.
  2. Lift your shoulders as high as you can and contract your traps at the top of the movement. 
  3. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for reps.

16. Pullup Shrug

You’ll need some upper body strength to be able to perform this exercise. If you can’t hang onto the pullup bar for longer than ten seconds, you should skip to the next exercise on this list.

Steps:

  1. Hang onto a pullup bar with a shoulder-wide grip.
  2. Keep your core tight and your spine straight.
  3. Only using your shoulders, lift slightly so that your shoulders move back and down while your head and neck move upward.
  4. Hold this position for five seconds and return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for one minute straight.

17. Shrug Downs

Shrug downs are great for beginners who can’t do pullups. You could perform this exercise on a lat pull-down machine or with resistance bands. 

Steps:

  1. Place your legs under the thigh pads on the lat pull-down machine.
  2. Lock your elbows and pull down the bar using only your shoulders. 
  3. Move your shoulders back and down and squeeze your traps at the bottom of the movement. 
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat for reps.
  5. Maintain an upright torso throughout the exercise. 

18. Behind-The-Back Dumbbell Shrug

Many lifters make the mistake of moving their head forward or downwards while performing shrugs. You should refrain from doing this and maintain a neutral spine position.

Behind-the-back exercises are riskier than anterior lifts as most people lack mobility and core stability. So, use weights you’ll be able to control. 

Steps:

  1. Rack a barbell at a height so that it is touching your hamstrings.
  2. While maintaining an upright torso, bend at your knees and hold the bar with a shoulder-wide overhand grip.
  3. Straighten your knees to get into the starting position.
  4. Shrug your shoulders as high as you can and squeeze your traps at the top of the movement. 
  5. Return and repeat.

19. Incline Bench Dumbbell Shrug

Incline bench dumbbell shrugs are an isolation exercise, and you’ll end the sets with muscle-ripping pumps. Since most lifters use too much weight and momentum while performing the shrugs, they have never experienced a trap pump. The incline dumbbell shrug will change this.

Steps:

  1. Lie with your chest placed against an incline bench set at a 60-degree angle to the floor.
  2. Grab a dumbbell in each hand with a pronated grip.
  3. Lift your shoulders as high as you can and squeeze your traps at the top. 
  4. Return to the starting position with a controlled motion.
  5. Repeat.

20. Dumbbell Jump Shrug

Dumbbell jump shrugs are as explosive as exercises get. Use light to moderate weights on this exercise as going too heavy can hurt your joints.

Steps:

  1. Stand upright with a shoulder-wide stance.
  2. Grab a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip.
  3. While bending at your knees and lower back, push your hips backward. 
  4. Hang your arms so that the weights are just below your knees. 
  5. Thrust your hips forward explosively, perform a shoulder shrug, and jump as high as you can.
  6. Return to the starting position and repeat.
  7. Dumbbell jumps shrugs should be performed with no rest between reps. 

21. Overhead Barbell Shrug

Overhead barbell shrugs are for advanced lifters. Make sure you have a strong core before attempting this exercise. Use light to moderate weights to make the most of this exercise. Overhead barbell shrugs will not only give you yoke shoulders, but they will also improve your posture.

Steps:

  1. Stand with a shoulder-width stance and grab a barbell with a wider than shoulder-width grip.
  2. While keeping your elbows locked out, raise the bar above your head using an overhand grip. 
  3. Shrug your shoulders upwards and squeeze your traps at the top of the movement.
  4. Return to the starting position, and repeat.

Conclusion

Building massive traps take a lot of hard work and patience. Along with lifting heavy weights, you need to focus on following the full range of motion. The exercises in this article will train your traps from every angle imaginable. Performing a combination of any two exercises in every shoulder workout will take your trapezius growth to the next level.