Traps are situated on the top of our back, just below the head and between shoulders. The proper name of this muscle is ‘Trapezius’ probably because its trapezoid or diamond shape. This muscle covers most of our neck and the middle of the upper back.
The main function of trapezius is to move shoulder blades and support arms. It is responsible for:
- elevating shoulders up (lifting them like you were trying to cover your ears);
- depressing them (bringing shoulders down – opposite motion),
- pulling shoulder blades back together.
Traps are the part of our back muscles but they work hard during shoulder workouts as well. I prefer to train them with my shoulders however many people train them with their back. It’s a personal preference.
Exercises for Traps
- Barbell Shrugs.
This exercise can be done also on a smith machine keeping bar in the front or behind our body. Dumbbell variation of this movement is also very effective. It allows us for greater range of motion than barbell version.
Additional exercises for trapezius are: Cleans, Farmer Walks and Upright Rows.
Example of Workout for Traps Muscles
If you train your traps muscles with your back or shoulders on the same day, one exercise is enough but if you train them separately, you should perform both exercises:
- Barbell Shrugs 3-5 sets (15-8 repetitions);
- Dumbbell Shrugs 3-5 sets (15-8 repetitions).
Number of sets depends from experience. Beginners should perform only 3 sets where intermediate and advanced lifters 4-5.
Traps muscles usually respond very well to any shrugging exercises. It means they may grow very quick that’s why you have to be careful to not train them too much and therefore not grow them too big. Too big traps can make your physique look narrow and funny (pencil shape).
Shrugging movements are very short – the range of motion (ROM) in every exercise for traps is very small. For this reason I recommend to do traps with a bit higher repetition range (15-8) rather than 12-6.
For anybody with problems in developing this muscle group I recommend to try farmer’s walk (3-4 sets of 30-45 seconds walk) at the end of your shoulders or back training. If you don’t have proper equipment for this exercise, simply grab very heavy dumbbells and perform the walk with them.
Alternatively you can try to do Barbell Shrugs for strength – within a lower repetition range (5-1). After few weeks of training like that this body part will become much stronger what will contribute to growth after changing back to moderate reps again. This is a great way to improve underdeveloped muscle group.
Traps are rarely treated as a separate muscle group. Usually we think of them as a part of shoulders or back and this is when we train them.
Normally they respond very well to training and that’s why we don’t give them too much attention – couple sets of shrugs after shoulder training is usually enough to build big traps.
Make sure your grip strength doesn’t hold you back in developing this muscle. If you grip is very weak – it gives up before your traps – you can use straps in a final working sets. To improve the grip strength you can do some deadlifts or perform hanging on a chinning bar for as long as you can – first with both and later with a single hand.