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Total Traps Training!



Aug 11, 2010
The trapezius, more commonly known as the "traps", makes up a large portion of your back. It is one of the most important muscles in the body, controlling many motions of the scapula. But it is also one of the most overlooked and undertrained muscles in the body.

The trapezius is a large superficial muscle that extends longitudinally from the occipital bone to the lower thoracic vertebrae and laterally to the spine of the scapula (shoulder blade). Its functions are to move the scapulae and support the arm.
The trapezius is divided into 3 parts. Upper, middle, and lower. Each portion of muscle fiber has it's own function. The upper fibers control and support the weight of the arm. The middle fibers control scapulae retraction. And the lower fibers control scapulae depression, pushing shoulders down.
Many people assume that the traps simply control "shrugging" of the shoulders. So what you see in the gym is guys grabbing heavy dumbbells, or loading up a straight bar with heavy weight, and going to town with shrugs. And there is nothing wrong with this, if you only wish to develop your upper traps. But to gain full development of this muscle, it should be targeted in a few different ways.

If I had a dime for every time I saw someone only doing shrugs to train their traps, I would never have to work again in my life. But obviously no one is handing me dimes for my observation, so I must press on. As stated above, if you throw in some shrugs at the end of a back workout and feel a good burn, excellent. But if you are curious how to gain the edge with your back and set you apart from the guy next to you, read on.

Upper traps
Targeting the upper traps is done by the grand daddy of all traps exercises, the shrug. It is a great exercise for building mountains next to your neck. It is an exercise that everyone has either done, or at least witnessed at some point. Commonly most people do a vertical shrug, or a shrug with some type of shoulder roll at the top. This roll could be forward or reverse. The roll is thought by many to activate more muscle fibers and develop the traps more. This does activate more fibers, but it could be done more effectively.

For the sake of this article, a shoulder roll will not be incorporated. Just a simple shrug to the ears with a pause.
Dumbbell shrug:
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and maintain good posture. Lower back slightly arched, shoulders pulled back slightly. Begin with a dumbbell in each hand. Shrug your shoulders up towards your ears and pause at the top for 2 seconds. Lower your shoulders and repeat.

Simply rolling your shoulders forward or back doesn't target the middle traps enough. To isolate these fibers, your arms should be straight out in front of you. This can be achieved by either a seated position, or laying prone on a flat or incline bench. A seated row machine does a good job at targeting these fibers if the scapula (shoulder blades) are pinched together at the end of the movement.

Middle traps exercise 1:
Seated row- Close or Wide grip, Row to Chin or Chest
Begin in a seated position with your chosen grip in front of you. Let your shoulders round fully while keeping your lower back slightly arched. Begin to pull in with a controlled motion. When you have reached the end of your range, pull your shoulder blades together, holding for 1 second.

Middle traps exercise 2:
Incline bench row
Begin with a bench set at a 35 degree angle. Lay prone on the bench with your arms hanging straight down. It is easiest to lay the dumbbells down in front of you to begin the exercise. Pick up the dumbbells in each hand. Let your shoulders round. Begin pulling the dumbbells straight up. When your arms reach a 90 degree angle, pull your shoulder blades together. Hold this position for 1 second and return to the start.

These two exercises will adequately target the middle traps when added to a back routine.

Targeting the lower trapezius fibers is a little trickier. There are two main ways to target them, both requiring equipment found in most gyms.

Lower traps exercise 1
Seated dip machine:
If your gym has a seated dip machine, great. If not continue to the next exercise.
Sit in the machine like you would if you were going to do dips. Press the handles down in the same motion described on the machine. But at the bottom of the motion, lock your elbows. This will be the starting position for this exercise. The exercise will be simply pressing your shoulders down. Try to focus on pushing your palms straight down.

Lower Traps Exercise 2
Dip bar:
This exercise will be the same as the above, just not on a seated dip machine. Use the same motion with elbows locked out. Except now, focus on lifting your body up just by depressing your shoulders.

Building your entire Trapezius will result in a more developed and respected physique. If it is a serious problem are for you, devote a day to this in the gym. Along with a decent diet, you should see gains in no time.


TID Board Of Directors
Mar 6, 2011
You don't need to perform all of these to develop mountain sized traps. If you're pulling conventionally you have solid traps. If you want to really work them even more put in snatch pulls, snatch high pulls, clean pulls, clean high pulls, etc. These will not only build monstrous traps but they will also make you a helluva lot faster and carry over to everything.
porky little keg

porky little keg

May 21, 2011
Nice write up.... but I have to agree with BrotherIron....

Pull heavy deadlifts, especially against bands or in the rack, and squat with a high bar. Traps are one of the few things us powerlifters and oly lifters can offer advice on, LOL...


VIP Member
Dec 22, 2010
Deads here as well. Love rows too but rarely do them now.


Bangs Raiden's mom VIP
Jan 3, 2011
I don't know man, seems like a lot of break down for a small muscle. I think BI's post hit the trap on the head.