Trap Exercises

Trap Exercises

A muscular set of traps can be a defining feature of a well-worked out back.

This long, triangular muscle can seem inconsequential until you actually see the effect it has on the landscape of your shoulders. A well-developed set of traps practically screams tough guy. They balance the body in a way that highlights the rest of your muscles and makes you look much stronger overall.

Exercising your trapezius muscles is about more than just the aesthetic of a well-cut physique. Adding bulk to your shoulders will undoubtedly enhance your performance in nearly every upper-body lift. It can significantly increase the weight you can handle as well as increase your overall functional fitness. For athletes of many sports, building up strong traps is invaluable to scoring a goal or snagging a point.

Strong traps are also the gateway to developing and defining all those little bumps and ridges along your scapular and spinal musculature. It can help you work toward the “cut from bedrock” aesthetic. 

History of the Strongman

Where did trap lifts and exercises originate? 

In the United States, particularly, they stemmed from the 19th and early 20th century strongmen. 

Strongman is a term that gets thrown around a lot by people who have no idea what it actually means. To the general public, referring to a strongman simply means an old-timey bodybuilder or weightlifter. This is not factually accurate and is representative of the fact that the word has evolved in meaning.

This confusion is largely a product of the World’s Strongest Man Contest having been coined as “Strongman Competitions.”

The truth is, the term strongmen refers to a very specific group of people. Real 19th and early 20th century strongmen were traveling circus performers who mingled in the crowds during the circus intermission. During this time, they would perform feats of strength and sign autographed pictures of themselves posing. They were a critical attraction of any well-established circus.

Some of the feats of strength performed by strongmen included card-tearing, tire-flipping, and nail-bending, among others. One can imagine the kind of trap strength needed to perform these acts. 

How to Perform a Basic Trap Workout

There are many different types of trap workouts, but this one provides a good jumping-off point as it is relatively straightforward.


  • Basic shrugs: 1 minute
  • Foam rolling: 1 minute
  • Cat-cows: 1 minute
  • Ys, Ts, and Ws: 1 minute
  • Wall slides: 1 minute

Lift 1: Barbell shrugs. Perform 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps before resting for one minute.

Lift 2: Above-knee back pulls. Perform 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps before resting for one minute.

Lift 3: Prone dumbbell Ys: Perform 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps before resting for one minute.

Lift 4: Prone reverse cable flys: Perform 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps.  


  • Increases shoulder strength and power
  • Improves overall back and shoulder aesthetic
  • Builds shoulder muscle mass
  • Enhances general physique
  • Increases functional fitness
  • Improves performance in sports
  • Relieves stress


There are many exercises out there that target the traps, but these are some of the most popular among fitness trainers:

  • Overhead barbell shrug
  • Face pull
  • Dumbbell jump shrug
  • Bent over “Y”
  • Pull-up shrug
  • Behind the back barbell shrug
  • Dumbbell lateral raise
  • Dumbbell jump shrug
  • Farmer’s carry
  • Incline dumbbell shrug

Trap Your Back

Anatomically speaking, there are three parts of the trapezius muscle: 

  1. Upper traps
  2. Mid traps
  3. Lower traps

The upper straps provide the show-stopping bulge the bumps up your shoulder topography. The mid and lower traps are the muscles on the underside of your arm. These typically get overlooked. Most of us like something to show for the hours we spend toiling away in the gym and building up your traps can be that something.

The bigger and stronger the underlying musculature of your traps are, the bigger and stronger the outer, more visible portion will be. Utilizing moves and lifts that target all parts of the traps are integral to the muscle group as a whole.

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