How to build your traps muscle.

Exercise Description and Database For the Trapezius Muscle Group

Want to look jacked? You traps muscle make all the difference.

There are very few muscles that stand out like the traps. Sure a big chest or massive arms look great, but nothing stands out like well developed traps.

The trapezius muscles (traps), are the huge muscle group in the upper portion of your back. They form a huge diamond-shaped kite running from the base of your skull, to your shoulders, then down to the middle of your back.

I will cover a traps workout for mass, and how they work. Things may get a little technical. If you don’t care about all this and just want to get to the exercises, click the link below…

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Muscle Group Database

trapezius muscle fibersTrapezius Muscle Group

The traps are made of 3 sections:

  • Lower Fibers, inferior
  • Middle Fibers
  • Upper Fibers, superior

Muscle Action

When people think of traps, they think shrugs. But the shrugging motion isn’t their only muscle action.
The traps are huge. They span from the base of the skull all the way down to the middle of your back.
Because the traps have such a large span there are multiple attachment points along the spine. All these different attachments means they can perform multiple functions.
The traps muscle is made up of 3 sections and play a major role in many movements. They rotate, retract, elevate, and depress the scapula, (your shoulder blades).

Elevation – The upper fibers are worked primarily by shrugging the shoulder blades up.

Retraction – The middle fibers are primarily worked by pulling the shoulder blades together.

Depression – The lower fibers are primarily worked by pulling the shoulder blades down.

They also work together with other muscle groups to stabilize the scapulae and rotate the shoulder.

1. Scapular Elevation
Raising the shoulder blades upward. Think shrugging your shoulders. For this movement, the main fibers of the trapezius muscle used are the upper fibers. Exercise – Barbell Shrug
2. Lateral or Upward Scapular Rotation

Elevate the shoulder blade (scapula), while at the same time rotating the inferior angle of the shoulder blade to the outside. To get a better understanding of this movement, think of what happens to your shoulder blade when you raise your hand in class. Exercise – Face Pull

3. Scapular Retraction.

Moving your shoulder blades back and together. Exercise – Bent Over Rear Delt Raise

All three workout together, along with the rhomboids to retract and adduct the scapula.

 Watch The Trapezius Muscle Group In Action

This video is more of an educational video.  It can get a little wordy, so be warned. I still think it’s worth watching. It does give you a good overview of how each portion of the trap muscle works.

Exercises That Work The Traps

The traps get worked very hard during a number of different lifts like deadlifts, shoulder exercises and Olympic lifts. The only exercises that really isolate the traps are upright rows and shrugs. Those lifts tend to focus more on the upper trap fibers.

Typically, I don’t include trap specific training in my workouts because I do so many deadlifts, Olympic lifts, and rows that they get plenty of work. But if you’re looking to add more exercises into your routine that hit the traps give these a try…

Trap Muscle Isolation Exercises

These are the classic trap exercises. They mostly target the upper trap fibers helping you get that thick muscular neck.

Shrug Variations

  • Barbell Shrug
  • Trap Bar Shrug
  • Dumbbell Shrug
  • Isometric Shrugs
  • Chest Supported Shrug
  • Overhead Shrug

Up Right Rows

  • Barbell
  • Rope
  • Dumbbell
  • EZ Bar
  • Cable machine with all the same grips as above

Isometric Trap Exercises

These exercises are excellent for building up your traps, but they’re not trap specific exercises. What makes these exercises so great is the amount of weight you can use. Your traps are supporting a very heavy load making them work hard to transfer force through your body and to the weight.

Olympic Lifts

Olympic lifts are an excellent way to train the traps. They are explosive and take you through a full range of motion.

  • Snatch Variations
    • Snatch Hang High Pull
    • Full Snatch
    • Power Snatch
    • Dumbbell Snatch
  • Clean Variations

Mid and Lower Trap Fibers

Pulls are an excellent way to work the lower and middle fibers of the traps. To get the most out of these exercises, it’s important to retract and depress your shoulder blades.

  • Face Pulls
  • I, Y, T, W, L, A shoulder stability exercises
  •  Rows
    • Seated
    • Bent Over
    • One Arm Rows
  •  Sternum Pull Ups

Surprising Trap Exercise

  • Cable lateral raises

Bret Contreras is kind of a geek when it comes to the science of lifting. He hooked up a bunch of high tech gadgets and took readings of different exercises. What he found was that this exercise works incredible well for the upper traps. Even more than shrugs.

Stretches and Drills

  • Forearm Wall Slides
  • Scapular Wall Slides
  • Overhead Wall Slides With Shrug

When doing many of these trap exercises it’s important to start the exercise with the traps. When you row the first movement is to pull your shoulders back. The same goes with a pull down. Start the movement with your shoulder blades. Pull them back and down. Then finish the pull.


Traps Muscle Workout


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