I see it all the time, guys trying to get their traps to grow but they’re simply never successful with the traps exercises they use or the methods they incorporate. With 22 years of experience under my weight belt, a run on TV with WWE, Inc, and being surrounded by competitive, pro-bodybuilders pro fitness competitors all my life like Abbas Khatami (IFBB), Priscilla Tuft (WNSO), and many others, I’ve picked up a few tips that have created the traps-ceratops’s that you see today. Here’s my secrets:
Traps exercises tip #1: Use proper form
Proper form for shrugs means focusing on the traps muscle group and using that muscle group and ONLY that muscle group to raise the bar. Don’t bounce with your legs and don’t use your back to shuck the weight up. These are both recipes for disaster and make you prone to injury. Plus, you’re now making the movement a compound movement and taking most of the stress off your traps and putting it into your legs, back, and everywhere else is shouldn’t be. Remember, these are traps exercises, so focus on the traps.
Traps exercises tip #2: Use a full range of motion
The shrug is a very simple exercise that involves holding weight and raising your shoulders as high as you possibly can. I tell my guys “Try to get your shoulders to touch your ears and SQUEEZE”. That being said, I see a lot of people in the gym that, when shrugging, move their shoulders barely an inch either direction. This means that the weight is most likely too heavy or you just need to refresh on the proper form.
Start by lowering the bar (or dumbbells) with your traps to a fully extended position. You should feel a pull in your traps when you’ve reached the lowest point. Be sure to keep your back straight and your glutes tucked under tight, and keep a slight bend in your knees as well.
Now raise the bar or dumbbells as high as you can using only your traps. This means trying to get your shoulders to touch your ears. Hold it up there for half a second and then slowly lower the weight. using about a 1-2 two second tempo on the negative motion. Lowering the weight slowly as I just mentioned to maximize the blood flow to the traps. If you drop it quickly on each rep, you’re only cheating yourself.
Traps exercises tip #3: Do more than shrugs
There’s other exercises besides shrugs for traps? Yup, there are! Try throwing in an upright row with a barbell or cables or a medium grip row with your palms up and elbows flared upwards. You can also do reverse shrugs (while technically still a shrug) and/or row machines that allow for trap recruitment.
Traps exercises tip #4: Reps – lots and lots of reps
20-40 reps seems to be the magic range for me – and everyone else I know. Anything less than that rep range for traps exercises and the muscles just don’t want to grow. With that in mind, I tend to do sets of 40, 30, 25, 20, 20, and 20. Sometimes, I’ll super set on the last set as well. One of my favorite super sets for traps exercises is a standing cable upright row for 20 reps and then do a seated, medium grip, palms up, elbows flared upwards cable row. For a detailed explanation, have a look at our recent traps workout we posted.
Traps exercise tip #5: Do traps with shoulders AND alone
Maximizing muscle growth is all about keeping the body and muscles guessing. So keep in mind that when you do a shoulder workout, you’re also hitting your traps as a secondary muscle group. This is especially true when working the rear delts. As they start to fatigue, you will unconsciously recruit the traps to pick up the slack and complete the range of motion. Now that you know this, the trick is to completely fry your traps during your shoulder workout. Many times we will incorporate our traps exercises at the end of the shoulder workout and do one or two exercises for them. Other days, we will spend an entire hour JUST doing traps exercises.
Mixing it up in ways like this is going to keep your muscles guessing and force them to grow!
Good form, do more than just shrugs, and get those reps up there! That’s the quick and dirty on getting traps to grow. That, plus nutrition – of course. If your nutrition isn’t on point, you’re not gonna grow. End of story. If you need help with your nutrition, have a look at our custom meal plans.
Two must-have items for this trap workout
Lots of guys are against wrist wraps/straps when doing trap exercises. I on the other hand, am a huge fan. As the weight gets heavier, I want to continue to work my traps and not worry about my grip. Usually as I get past the 315lb mark for shrugs, I’ll throw on my wraps so that I can focus on ONLY recruiting the trap muscles and not worry about my grip.
The other must-have item for this trap workout are BCAAs. This is a very intense workout and BCAA powder in your shaker cup will help prevent you going catabolic. I’ve included links to both of these products from reputable sellers on Amazon.com, below. I am an advocate of online shopping, especially at Amazon.com since the prices are incredibly low compared to anywhere else I’ve found. I NEVER shop at retail stores for my gear or for my supplements. It’s a waste of money.