The 4 Best Exercises to Build Massive Traps

Add size to your traps with these four targeted moves.

Monster traps command respect from those around you. They can transform an ordinary physique into an exceptional one. They’re associated with power because most of the movements that grow our traps are big, powerful exercises. Look at history’s great deadlifters or Olympic lifters, what do they have in common? Massive, powerful traps.

Trapezius Anatomy

But a lot of lifters are clueless about how to build those gargantuan traps. They add in a few sets of dumbbell shrugs at the end of shoulder day and wonder why their traps just won’t grow.

The Clean

One needs only to look at an accomplished Olympic lifter to see the effect the clean has on the traps. This lift works the traps in a couple different ways; during the first pull you want a tight upper back, which is accomplished by squeezing your scapulae together. Scapular retraction is a great lower/mid trapezius exercise. During the second pull of the clean, a shrug motion is performed completing your full extension, working the upper part of the trapezius muscle. If cleans are not something you want to take the time to learn, just do clean high pulls.

For instructions on the how to do a clean check out Mastering The Power Clean.

The Deadlift

During a deadlift, the hips and legs work to lift the bar from the ground. The trapezius muscles (along with other muscles in the back) contract isometrically to keep a straight back. The traps also help you keep your chest up, which is critical to completing the deadlift.

Rack Pull Shrugs

To perform this exercise set the safety pins in the squat rack at knee level. Load the bar with heavy weight — 100–120% of your deadlift 1RM. If grip strength is an issue, strap up for this exercise. Try to emulate your deadlift position as closely as you can. Pull the bar up to lockout and then shrug the weight, all in one motion. This will work the traps both isometrically during the rack pull and concentrically during the shrug.

Barbell Shrugs

This is a classic bodybuilding exercise that works the upper trapezius (the part we see in the mirror.) Load the bar with a heavy weight (75–80% of deadlift 1RM) and shrug your shoulders straight up to your ears. Don’t roll the shoulders back, simply shrug them straight up, and think about touching your shoulders to your ears. Do this exercise for higher reps (somewhere in the 10–20-rep range.) This is a great isolation exercise for the upper traps.

If big traps are your goal, try out these exercises and watch your traps grow into something that will garner respect and admiration.