How To Get Big Traps – Full Guide!
In this article I will be explaining how to get big traps. Big traps signify power and enhance your overall physique. I will go over various exercises that you should think about incorporating into your program to attain bigger traps over time.
Small traps can ruin a physique and make it look like you don’t lift. Having big traps and a big back combined is the ultimate package for looking more imposing and powerful.
Trap Bar Shrugs And Deadlifts
Deadlifting and shrugging using a trap bar is one of the best ways to build massive traps. In a previous article I talked about whether deadlifts are worth it. There I discussed how the trap bar deadlift is a far better deadlift variation for the long term. It is far safer than the deadlift and will activate your traps better.
EMG research has shown that performing slightly wider grip shrugs as is facilitated with the trap bar compared to dumbbells elicits greater activity in the muscles of the upper trapezius . By using the trap bar not only do you get a great stretch at the bottom of the shrug but you also get a better contraction at the top.
So you benefit from increased range of motion as well as more activation of the upper trapezius.
Hammer Strength Machine Chest Press Shrug
Another great exercise for building up big traps is to perform your traps using a hammer strength chest press machine. The grip will be wide but double overhand. You will get the benefits of higher upper trapezius activation but working the traps from a different angle to the trap bar.
Also, I find this exercise to be superior to a wide grip barbell shrug. This is because your “junk” doesn’t get in the way when shrugging up. The movement on the way up is a lot smoother using a chest press machine. I like to squeeze at the top of every rep and hold the contraction for a few seconds. On the way down get a good stretch of your traps.
Shrugs Using Resistance Bands
An often overlooked but great exercise for the traps are resistance band shrugs. For this exercise you would need heavy duty resistance bands with higher levels of resistance.
Simply lay the resistance band flat on the floor and stand on top of it. From there grab the sides of the band, stand up and start shrugging. I like to hold every rep at the top for a couple seconds and feel the peak contraction. I find this exercise to be tremendous in building bigger traps and one that everyone should consider incorporating into their training.
To make the exercise more difficult all you have to do is stand on multiple resistance bands at the same time and perform your shrugs as normal. You can also double a band and stand on it to make the exercise harder than just standing on a single end of a band. There are so many options of progressive overload with bands.
The dumbbell shrug is another classic shrugging movement that will help you to get bigger traps. There are various variations of this exercise from seated to standing. I personally prefer the seated dumbbell shrug as it is more strict and you can isolate the traps a bit better.
For the seated variation simply grab the dumbbells and sit down on a flat bench. Lean over a little and keep a neutral head position with your chin tucked in slightly. Shrug the dumbbells up and squeeze at the top for a few seconds on every rep. This is a fantastic exercise for isolating the traps and making them very sore.
For the standing version you would simply do your shrugs while standing. The same principle applies with this version, you want to bend over slightly at the waist and keep your chin tucked in. Then shrug up and emphasise the peak contraction. The benefit of performing your shrugs in this way is you can get a greater range of motion on the peak contraction. I find this style best for building up the traps.
Barbell shrugs are on of the classic movements that everyone has heard of. Whenever people think of shrugs they typically think of barbell shrugs. The big benefit with barbell shrugs is the loading potential. This is best suited as a power exercise and performed with very heavy weights.
The idea is to overload your traps as much as possible. Heavy barbell shrugs can also help your deadlift and it will certainly strengthen your traps. You should use a lot more weight on these than your max deadlift, focus on performing the exercise with fairly good technique. A little “body english” is fine but you shouldn’t be cheating too much.
If you are using excessive body english and cheating then the weight is simply too heavy for you and you should lower the weight. Perform these every once in a while to really overload your traps.
To conclude, in this article I have outlined how to get big traps and looked at a variety of exercises that will certainly help you to achieve this objective. My personal favourites are the trap bar deadlift and shrug, resistance band shrugs, dumbbell shrugs and hammer strength chest press machine shrugs.
Personally I don’t perform heavy barbell shrugs nowadays, but I did used to perform this exercise along with heavy rack pulls when I was younger. I love the hammer strength chest press machine shrugs as they are done with a fairly wide grip and I can get a great contraction at the top. I also find the movement to be really smooth and natural.
If you have any questions about anything I have written in this article please leave a comment. Let me know which exercises are your favourites for developing bigger traps. Do you perform any of the aforementioned exercises in this article currently?
As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!
- Pizzari, T., Wickham, J., Balster, S., Ganderton, C., & Watson, L. (2014). Modifying a shrug exercise can facilitate the upward rotator muscles of the scapula. Clinical Biomechanics, 29(2), 201-205.