By: Noah Bryant
Big traps command respect from those around you. When someone walking toward you has traps that touch their ears I am betting you feel a little hint of intimidation. If you want a real world visual of the intimidating power of big traps, head to the zoo and check out the gorilla. They have the biggest, most beautiful traps in the animal kingdom.
We associate big traps with power partly due to the fact that most of the movements that grow our traps are big, powerful exercises. Look at history’s great deadlifters or Olympic lifters, what do they have in common? They all have massive, powerful traps!
A lot of lifters are clueless when it comes to building gargantuan traps. They add in a few sets of dumbbell shrugs at the end of shoulder day and wonder why their traps won’t grow. But like anything in the Iron Kingdom, only hard work is gonna get you the results you want.
When most people think of traps, they envision the upper part of the trap, after all it’s what you see in the mirror. But the trapezius is one of the biggest muscles in the back. It runs longitudinally from the occipital bone (back of the skull) to the lower thoracic vertebrae (mid back.) That is a long muscle and one that needs a big stimulus to grow.
BEST EXERCISES FOR TRAP DEVELOPMENT
One needs only to look at an accomplished Olympic lifter to see the effect the clean has on the traps. The clean works the traps in a couple different ways; during the first pull you want a tight upper back, this is accomplished by squeezing your scapulae together. Scapular retraction is a great lower/mid trapezius exercise. In addition, during the second pull of the clean a shrug motion is performed completing your full extension, working the upper part of the trapezius muscle. If cleans are not something you want to take the time to learn, just do clean high pulls.
During a deadlift, the hips and legs work to lift the bar from the ground. The trapezius muscles (along with other muscles in the back) contract isometrically to keep a straight back. The traps also help you keep your chest up, which is critical to completing the deadlift.
Rack Pull Shrugs
To perform this exercise set the safety pins in the squat rack at knee level. Load the bar with HEAVY weight, 100-120% of your deadlift 1RM. If grip strength is an issue, strap up for this exercise. Try to emulate your deadlift position as closely as you can. Pull the bar up to lockout and then shrug the weight, all in one motion. This will work the traps both isometrically during the rack pull and concentrically during the shrug.
This is a classic bodybuilding exercise to work the upper trapezius (the part we see in the mirror.) Load the bar with a heavy weight (75-80% of deadlift 1RM) and shrug your shoulders straight up to your ears. Don’t roll the shoulders back, simply shrug them straight up, and think about touching your shoulders to your ears. Do this exercise for higher reps (somewhere in the 10-20 rep range.) This is a great isolation exercise for the upper traps.
If big traps are your goal, try out these exercises and watch your traps grow into something that will garner respect and admiration from your fellow gym rat.
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