February 17

Ultimate Traps Workout Routine: The Best Exercises for Traps

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This is the third workout routine in our strength series of body part routines. In this article you will get to know about the workouts that help you to target your trapezius muscles, in short the traps. Let's start with the anatomy of trapezius muscles, then move on to each workout and  your traps workout routine. 

 Anatomy of traps

Traps or Trapezius muscle are two large surface muscles on the backside of your upper torso.

Traps muscles originate from the occipital bone,  Ligamentum Nuchae, and the Spinous Process of Vertebra C7 to T12( the base of the skull, neck, and the upper part of the spine).

Trapezius muscles insert into the lateral clavicle, acromion, and the spine of the scapula. 

Your traps can be divided into three regions based on their functioning.

The upper fibers of the trapezius muscle support the weight of the arm. Its function is to rotate upward and elevate the scapula.

The middle fibers will pull the shoulder blades together (shoulder retraction).

The lower fibers of the trapezius muscle depress the scapula and help the upper traps in upward rotation of the scapula. 

Muscle fiber types and training strategy

  • Your traps muscles are postural muscles and are dominant in slow-twitch fibers. So your traps need high volume training. But the lower and transverse traps are fast-twitch predominant fibers.
  • The rhomboids that lie beneath your traps are also fast-twitch dominant. These fast-twitch dominant fibers respond to low volume high-intensity training. They also respond well to explosive movements. 

Lagging / forgotten parts- how to get overall development? 

Your traps training does not mean you have to train your upper traps only.

Training your upper traps only will strengthen them and this will cause strength imbalance.

Muscle imbalance can affect your joint health and can lead to injury.

So you have to do the workouts to strengthen weak muscles and thus even out that imbalance. 

Workout Tips

Sets: 2-3 sets each exercise

Reps: 4-8 reps.

For upper traps, you aim for higher reps. Slow-twitch muscle fibers are dominant in upper traps. For middle and lower traps, low reps will work.

Frequency: Frequency is the number of times you train your muscles each week. It's good to train your traps once every week. 

Rest in between sets: 60-90 s rest is best for muscle hypertrophy. Your ATP will be restored during this time. 

Progressive overload: increase the weight lifted if you hit your target reps. If your target rep is 6, increase the weight lifted if you have done six reps. Progressive overload is the key to muscle growth.

 Exercise selection 

  • Trapezius muscles act as a synergist in most of the pulling movements. 
  • Upper trap fibers keep your shoulder in place while doing a deadlift.  The deadlift is one of the best exercises for your upper traps. Your upper traps will keep your shoulder from depression under the load while deadlift. 
  • The middle fiber gets trained during dumbbell rows and barbell rows.
  • The lower trap fibers work during lat pulldown. 
  • Lat pulldown, dumbbell rows , barbell rows, and deadlift will help you pack some muscles on your traps.

If you want to train them more, add the workouts listed here.  

Equipment for your traps workouts 

Barbell, is an iron rod with a provision to add weights at both ends. They are 4ft to 7 ft long, for our purpose we need 7ft bar or any larger than 5ft. 

Trap bar: the bar looks like a hexagon in the middle which you can stand inside and grab the bar with a neutral grip.

It's a great innovation by Al Gerard, to replace the barbell due to lower back injury.

The trap bar is lower back safe and the study shows, it does more power during deadlifts.

Dumbbell is a short bar with weights attached to each end. 

Weight plates are usually made of cast iron. It is added to the barbell to increase weight.

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How to do each exercise

Let's look at each of the exercises and how to do it properly. From the all-time favorite shrug to unknown dumbbell angled press. 

Barbell Shrugs

Place the barbell on a power rack or weight stand. Grab the bar with a grip wider than shoulder-width apart.

Unrack and position the barbell in front of you with your arms straight. Keep your chest up and take a deep breath. 

Shrugs with barbell:

Pull the weight by shrugging your shoulder towards the ears. Try to touch your ears with shoulders. This will squeeze your upper shoulder muscles. Pause and then lower the weight to the starting position.

Breathe out and take a big breath to do the next rep.

Don't use your knee and hips to assist you while lifting the weight up. Use proper form while lifting.

Your elbows must be locked in position. Do not flex your arms while shrugging, as its seen while the weight goes up.

trap workout with barbells - barbell shrugs

Dumbbell shrugs

-dumbbell workout for traps

Grab two dumbbells and stand upright. Keep the dumbbells to your sides and elbows close to the body.

Shrugs with dumbbell:

Similar to barbell shrug, pull your shoulders up to touch ears. Hold at the top and lower the weight to the starting position.

The barbell shrug places a lot of stress on your spine and shoulders. While the dumbbell shrug using a neutral grip is shoulder-friendly.

trap workout with dumbbells- dumbbell shrugs


Snatch grip high pull

As the Christian Thibaudeau of t nation saying

β€œone exercise that can make a visual difference in a physique within two workouts.”

Grab the bar with a grip wider than shoulder-width(wider). With your back in its neutral position, shoulder blades squeezed together and your chest up.

Pull the bar explosively towards the neck using your legs, hips, shoulders, and traps. While pulling, the bar must be close to your body. 

At the top, the elbows will be above the bar, then lower the bar to the starting position in a similar explosive way as you have lifted. Use the knees and hips as shock absorbers when you hang the weight at the bottom.

snatch grip high pull for overall development of traps muscle


Face pull - middle and lower trap​

 Adjust the pulley height to match your upper chest on the cable machine.

Grab the rope with palms facing each other and arms straight. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.

Pull the rope towards the face by extending upper arms at shoulders(horizontal abduction).

Pause when the elbows are in line with the shoulders (when the muscles are fully contracted).  This position will look like you are flexing your arms, like hitting a double bicep pose. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

Single-arm trap-3 raise 

Grab a light dumbbell in one arm and place your opposite forearm on an incline bench. Place your forehead on the forearm.

Position your feet staggered and hang the dumbbell directly below your shoulders.

Pull your shoulder blade up and raise the dumbbells until it reaches your shoulder height towards your front. 

Pause at the top and return to the starting position. During the workout, focus on your lower trap muscle fibers. 

Forearm Wall Slide

Stand facing closer to the wall and keep your forearms against it. Squeeze your shoulder blades together throughout the movement.

Slide the forearms upwards, focus on your lower traps during the movement. Lower and repeat. 

Workout routine for your traps




Barbell shrug  / High pull



Face pull 



Single-arm trap-3 raise /

 Alternating Forearm Wall Slide



*Does not include warm-up sets, do 2-3 warm-up sets with light weights before doing working sets.

Rest for 60- 90 s between sets 

Frequency: once every week. 

best workout routine for your traps

A good workout is not enough for building big traps; you have to get proper nutrition and rest. 

Muscle growth happens outside the gym. So take care of your nutrition and get enough sleep.


Image credits: https://github.com/everkinetic/data



strength series, traps workout

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