The traps are the foundation of upper body strength. Regular training of the trapezius muscles strengthens the spine, creating an athletic posture and allowing you to work with heavyweights like classic barbell exercises.
However, when working the traps, it is necessary to follow the correct technique and consciously involve the target muscle in work. In addition, to increase muscle mass, exercises must be performed in an adequate repetition range.
This article describes the anatomy of the trapezius muscles and the five best exercises to increase their strength and volume.
Trapezius muscle anatomy
The trapezius muscle is located in the upper back. It consists of three regions, each of which performs a specific function. For example, the upper trapezius stabilizes the neck, lifts the shoulder girdle, and participates in the movement of the shoulder blades.
The middle part of the trapezius brings the shoulder blades together and is located between them. In turn, the lower area of the trapezius muscle participates in the descending and rotating movements of the shoulder blades. The general function of the trapezius is to keep the trunk upright.
In strength training, the trapezoid is actively involved in pulling exercises (deadlift, pulling the belt, etc.), shrugs, and weight retention. It is also essential that solid and worked traps allow you to perform barbell squats more comfortably (holding the bar at your back in the area of your shoulder blades).
How to exercise the trapezius correctly?
The trapezius is a solid and rigid muscle. To train effectively and build muscle mass, you need to perform exercises with a working weight large enough to stimulate muscle growth. That is why the technique must be perfect.
Rest between sets: 30 to 60 seconds, depending on the body’s recovery ability. The number of repetitions in each group is 10 to 14. To more accurately determine the ideal number of repetitions, focus on the sensation in the muscles. The set’s final 2-3 reps should take place with a characteristic burning sensation.
One tip for increasing the intensity of your trapezius workout is to pause at the peak of muscle contraction (that is, at the top of the exercise).
Exercises for traps
The trapezius muscle is involved with most basic exercises to train the back and shoulders. However, several more effective exercises allow you to work the trapezius muscle separately. Here are five examples of routines for traps:
- Chin pulls
This exercise works the trapezius and deltoid muscles. In a standing position, hold the barbell or dumbbells with a narrow grip so that there is a 15-20 cm distance between your hands. Lift the weight against your body to chin level. The elbows are directed upwards.
To emphasize the load on the upper part of the trapezius, the elbows should be above the level of the shoulders at the high point. If you take the weight with a wide grip, most of the load will fall on the center of the wishbone.
- Military barbell press
The barbell military press is considered one of the basic multi-joint exercises. It is one of the most effective exercises for the shoulders and is never lacking in barbell disciplines like CrossFit and bodybuilding.
Learning to perform this exercise correctly is essential to building trapezius muscles without injury.
Stand with your body upright and your core muscles tight, looking straight ahead. Hold the bar across your upper chest, grasping it with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Press the bar directly over your head. Do not lean your hips forward during the movement.
- Side flights
The lateral flights are usually done to train the muscles of the shoulders. But with some techniques, this exercise puts a tangible load on the upper part of the trapeze.
Starting position: standing, hold the dumbbells in your hands. Keep your thighs and glutes tight. The back is fixed in a straight place, the head is directed forward. Raise the dumbbells from the sides and stretch your elbows up.
At the highest point, the hands should be just above the head. Then lower the dumbbells only to shoulder level. Movement in such a short amplitude is aimed precisely at working the trapezius muscle, experiencing a static-dynamic load.
In this exercise, the weight of the dumbbells is not essential. Choose a weight that can withstand the planned time under load. Perform reps for four sets depending on the workout: 40 seconds of work / 40 seconds of rest.
- Side dumbbell lunges
The exercise is more aimed at exercising the leg muscles. However, static weight retention puts significant pressure on the trapezius muscle and the forearms. In addition, in this exercise, the powers of the abdomen and buttocks work in a balanced way.
Take a comprehensive step to the side and, in a controlled manner, shift your weight onto your exposed leg, bending your knee. The other portion remains straight and lends itself to a slight stretch. Try to keep your back straight by leaning your body slightly forward.
- Dumbbell military press
This ideal traps exercise replaces the barbell military press at home.
First, select your dumbbells. Don’t overdo the weight here because this is an exercise that feels very difficult in the middle of a set. Opting for too heavy a weight can also mean you risk injuring your shoulders if the form becomes sloppy due to loading.
Hold the dumbbells by your shoulders with your palms facing forward and your elbows out to the sides and bent at a 90 ° angle. Extending your elbows to press the weights over your head without leaning back. Then slowly return to the starting position.
How to train the traps at home?
Workouts at home with your body weight will also help strengthen the trapezius muscle. For example, you can train the trapezius with elastic bands or in a lying position.
To do this, start in a lying position, as in classic push-ups on the floor. Relax the trapezius muscle so that the shoulders bend back slightly and the shoulder blades contract.
Then activate the traps; shoulder blades should be straightened. In this exercise, the number of repetitions does not matter. An approximation should take approximately 45-60 seconds.
The traps can be trained for advanced athletes by doing handstands against a wall. The principle of muscle work is the same here. While standing on your hands, relax the trapezoid so that your shoulders “drop” down. Then tense the muscle and return your shoulders to the starting position.
Isolated dumbbell trapezius exercises are ideal for understanding how to activate this muscle. To get the maximum effect from training the trapezius muscle, it is necessary to work it together with the rest of the muscle groups. Only in this case can you achieve a visible and tangible result in increased muscle mass.