Build a monster back with these 9 trapezius exercises!
In this article:
- Workout Factors for a Strong, Defined Back
- 9 Exercises for the Trapezius
9 Back Exercises for Well-Developed Traps
Workout Factors for a Strong, Defined Back
Building up the traps—the long, triangle-shaped muscles that makes much of the upper part of the back—is one of the keys to having a well-developed back. Training these long, triangular muscles that take much of the upper back will result in upper body definition by adding size to the shoulders and back.
Aside from having improved upper body aesthetics, training the traps also develops strength in almost every upper body lift. These muscles are majorly involved in spine and scapular movements.
To ensure getting improved physique and strength, there are three principles to remember when training. Consider them the keys to big traps.
- Movement Variety
Traps routine should include a variety of movements: shrugs, load carries, upper back exercises, overhead movements, and Olympic lifting variations.
- Proper Form
For efficient activation of the targeted traps muscles, proper posture, scapular positioning, and spinal alignment have to be executed.
- Max Hypertrophy
The use of techniques to induce maximal hypertrophy is essential for maximum gains. Employing overload and mechanical tension, stretch-induced microtrauma, constant stress, and metabolic stress are needed.
Hypertrophy Definition: The enlargement of a muscle brought by the increase in the size of its cells. The increase in induced by physiological processes that increase the contractile proteins in each muscle fiber.
9 Exercises for the Trapezius
The exercises below aim to achieve these three components. For maximum upper back improvement, trap workouts should have an Olympic lift exercise, shrug exercise, overhead movement, deadlift, loaded carry, and pullup or pulldown movements. To give the body a little boost from the inside, try a workout supplement that will achieve faster gains.
1. Barbell Shrug
The author of Men’s Health Natural Bodybuilding Bible called the barbell shrug as the king of all traps exercises. This is one of the most common traps exercises performed in the gym and for a good reason. It targets the upper part of the traps and builds them rightfully so when executed properly.
- Load the barbell. Ideally, the heaviest liftable.
- With an overhand grip, shoulder-width apart, grab the barbell while focusing on maintaining an upright stance and staying tall.
- Shrug the shoulders straight up as high as possible.
- Pause for a few seconds at the top of the shrug.
- Reverse back to the original position.
Subjecting muscles to the most tension and stress and maintaining the right form are crucial. This is why lifting the heaviest load possible and focusing on the pause at the top of the shrug are recommended.
It’s also important to avoid rounding the shoulders and protruding the head forward during the movement.
Do 2 to 3 sets with 10 to 12 reps with 60-90 secs. of rest in between each set.
2. Dumbbell Farmer’s Walk
Farmer’s walk, a highly functional movement, is a potent mass builder for the shoulders, upper back, neck, and of course the traps. This is a great exercise for improving the strength of the muscles along the spine.
It might look very simple, but this exercise is quite taxing. It can spike the heart rate and give a familiar burning sensation on the entire shoulders, traps, and upper body.
- Pick a total load, preferably greater than or equal the body weight.
- Hold the dumbbells in each hand as one would a suitcase.
- Walk for about 50 to 100 yards quietly and smoothly.
To do this properly, make sure to keep the core tight, posture tall, and shoulders straight while walking. Finish 2 to 3 rounds of 50 to 100 yards walking, take 60-90 secs. of rest in between each set.
3. Hex Bar Deadlift
The Hex Bar Deadlift is an all-in-one move that trains the whole body while pushing hypertrophy to the upper back and traps.
With a normal deadlift, there’s a greater risk of back injuries with the barbell loaded in front of the body. When using a hex bar, the loads are placed to the sides of the torso, making it safer than a typical deadlift.
This redistribution of load allows one to lift heavier weights, finish higher reps, and create more tension throughout the traps and back.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Hinge over at the hips while keeping the lower back flat.
- Lower the hands and grab the bar handles.
- Breathe in, engage the abdominal muscles.
- Look forward and move the chest out.
- Lift the bar, stand up, and squeeze the glutes while locking the hips out.
Do not lean back and extend the lower back too much when locking the hips. Always keep the back flat when bending the hips back and lowering the bar.
Complete 2 to 3 sets of 3 to 6 reps incorporating heavy loads with 60 to 90 seconds of rest in between each set.
To achieve greater hypertrophy of the muscles, finish off with another 1 to 2 sets of 8 to 12 reps with 3 to 5 minutes of rest in between each set.
4. Overhead Squat
The overhead squat is an upper-body intensive movement involving the traps, shoulders, and the whole upper back. This exercise is highly effective at increasing the size and strength of the traps because it puts the upper back and shoulder muscles under longer periods of tension.
- Grab the bar with a very wide grip and hold it overhead, slightly behind the head.
- Perform a squat with the shoulders pushing the bar up, armpits facing forward, hips descending lower than the knees.
- Stand back up and repeat.
To maintain balance, try to focus on pressing against the barbell to push one’s self into the stance and pushing it back slightly. Finish 2 to 3 sets of 3 to 6 reps with 2 to 3 minutes of rest in between each set.
RELATED: Squatting – Do It Right!
5. Push Press
Push presses are one of the best strength and mass building exercises for the entire upper body. What it does to the traps while driving the weight overhead is simply impressive.
- Start with a hip-width stance, fully gripped on the bar, with hands just outside the shoulders and elbows slightly in front of the bar.
- Slightly dip at the knees to perform a partial squat.
- With force, drive the weight overhead in one quick movement.
- To gain complete control of the weight, pause for a few seconds after locking the weight out overhead.
To create the most tension in the traps and upper back, emphasize the top motion pause. Since the exercise requires a lot of coordination, it’s ideal to have a high-set-low-rep attack on the movement. Perform 4 to 7 sets of 1 to 5 reps with 2 to 5 minutes of rest in between.
6. Rack Pulls
While the movement is focused on the hips, the upper back needs to stay tense to support the weight when doing rack pulls. This tension-stretch combination is what makes this exercise great for building the traps.
- Start by setting the barbell in a power rack just above the knees.
- Set the hips back and arch the spine.
- Grab the barbell, and start the movement.
- Drive the hips frontward and stand.
- Hold the position for a few moments and return to the starting stance.
To maximize the benefit of the movement, focus on feeling the pull of the load. Using heavier loads, complete 3 to 4 sets of 2 to 6 reps with 3 to 5 minutes of rest in between with. Then finish with 2 more sets of 10 to 12 reps with a lighter load.
Rest for 2 minutes in between sets.
7. Snatch-Grip Deadlifts
What makes snatch-grip deadlifts ideal for building the back is the amount of tension the wider hand placement brings on the traps and upper back, and the larger range of motion the movement forces one to lift the load.
- Stand in front of the barbell feet hip-width apart.
- Assume the lifting position by bending over at the hips and knees.
- Snatch-grip (twice as wide as a shoulder-width grip) the barbell.
- Arch the back and spine and lift the barbell by driving through the hips and legs.
Make sure not to round the back and flex the spine while doing the movement to avoid injuries. Complete 3 to 5 sets of 3 to 8 reps with 2 to 4 minutes of rest in between each set.
8. Face Pull
Although quite underrated, face pulls are excellent with training the lower traps. This can be done either with a cable machine or even just a resistance band.
- Set the cable or resistance band at almost-eye-level height.
- In an underhand grip, grab the cable handles or the ends of the band.
- Pull toward the face by squeezing the shoulder blades while keeping the elbows high and resisting the urge to lean forward.
- Pause for a few seconds once having pulled back as far as possible.
- Return to the original position.
Complete 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 reps with 60 to 90 secs. of rest in between each set.
9. Pull Up Shrug
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Aside from building the traps, doing pull up shrugs develops one’s pull up form.
- Hang from a pull-up bar with a tight core and aligned spine.
- Extend the head and neck upward by pulling the shoulders back and down.
- Pause for a count, then return to the original position.
Complete 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 reps with 60 to 90 secs. of rest in between each set.
Want to build your trapezius fast? Check this video from ehowfitness and find out how:
To achieve the best results, do the workout 2 times a week with an interval of at least three days. Execute different exercises on each of the days and limit routines up to 8 movements only to avoid overtraining. Start the journey to having an awe-stricking physique by doing these Ask Muscle recommended back exercises.
Do you have other back exercises in mind? Let us know in the comments section below!