Traps is one of the most important muscle to create a powerful looking upper body and complete a well-developed frame.
A bigger and stronger trap not only enhances our physical appearance but also helps prevent shoulders and neck injuries. (1)
The traps are divided into three portions — upper, middle, and lower. So, to get bigger traps, we have to train them well.
In this article, I will give you the nine best traps exercises performed from different angles to hit all three portions of the traps very effectively, which will allow you to have overall better trap development.
Trapezius Muscle Anatomy
In order to learn how to best work out the traps muscle, we need first to understand its anatomy. Follow the below picture.
As I already mentioned, the trapezius muscle is divided into three portions, commonly referred to as the upper, middle, and lower traps.
We need to perform the movements that flex and squeeze the trapezius muscle fibers according to their movement to get a quality training session.
The upper portion is where the muscle fibers are at an upward angle, the mid-portion where the muscle fiber runs almost straight across, and the lower portion where the muscle fibers run at a downward angle.
Altogether, the trapezius muscle fibers are responsible for extending your neck, moving your head side to side, lowering and elevating your shoulders, retracting your shoulder blades, and much more.
Benefits of Strong Traps
Here’re the five key benefits of having a strong trapezius muscle:
- Increases strength to your upper body, including your neck and shoulders.
- As the shoulders are fairly weak joints, having strong traps muscle is important to keep them stable and supported.
- Increases your flexibility and range of motion, which are majorly responsible for enhancing athletic performance.
- Prevent shoulders and neck injuries which is great not only for contact sports but also for normal people.
- On top of the physical benefits, well-developed traps will provide an aesthetic look to our upper body, which we all want actually.
Okay, sounds impressive.
So, what are the best exercises for traps? Let’s scroll on to know!
The 9 Best Traps Exercises for Growth
Here we’ll go through the nine best exercises that we can use to hit all three portions of the trapezius muscle.
Best Exercises for Upper Traps
Here’re the top three best exercises to train your upper trapezius muscle.
1. Farmer’s Walk/Carry
Let’s begin with a very effective and versatile exercise called farmer walk or carry. You can perform this exercise with a trap bar, dumbbells, or kettlebells to burn out your upper traps.
- Place a pair of heavy dumbbells/kettlebells at your sides and pick them up from there.
- Squeezing your shoulder blades back together, chest up and hip engaged, start walking.
- Make sure your cadence and step length are steady and consistent while staying straight ahead in the right line without having drifting going on.
- You should pick a weight that you can carry for a maximum of 1-2 minutes. If you are able to carry more than two minutes, increase your weight.
Equipment needed: A trap bar or a pair of heavy dumbbells or kettlebells.
Muscles worked: Upper traps, shoulders, forearms, and legs.
2. Barbell Shrugs
A study proved that there’s no other exercise as effective as barbell shrugs when it comes to building, especially your upper traps.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a barbell with an overhand grip, lightly touching your thighs.
- From there, shrugs by pulling your shoulders up and slightly back. Take a little pause and squeeze your traps at the top.
- Then, slowly lower your shoulders back to the starting position and repeat for reps.
- Make sure you’re not bending your elbows when lifting the bar; it should be done with your shoulders.
Equipment Needed: A heavy barbell
Muscles Worked: Upper trap and posterior deltoid.
Although deadlift mainly focuses on the hamstrings and back, it will also provide an insane amount of tension to your upper traps as you can see the heavy lifters have bigger traps in general.
- Stand behind a heavy barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Make your butt out, chest up, bend your knees slightly, go down and make an overhand grip to the barbell slightly wider than shoulder-width.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together, keep your back flat and maintain a tight core.
- Then pull the barbell up by focusing on your hamstring and upper back.
- Squeeze your glutes and keep a straight position at the top. Remember, don’t bend too far back.
- Lower the bar down while keeping your head up, chest forward, and butt out.
- Tap the barbell on the floor, then explode all the way up. Repeat your desired reps.
Equipment Needed: A heavy barbell
Muscles Worked: Upper and mid traps, hamstrings, and back.
Best Exercises for Mid Traps
Here are the three best exercises you can perform to smash your mid-traps.
4. Cable Shrugs
The first mid-trap exercise we have is the cable shrugs, which is quite similar to the barbell shrugs, but here your shoulders’ backward movement will provide a solid contraction to your mid-trap.
- To begin, set up the pully at the bottom with a double handle rope attached.
- Grab the handles of the rope with both of your hands and take a step back so that the rope is tight enough with your arms.
- Then with your legs hip-width apart and chest up, shrugs by pulling the cable back with your shoulders and squeeze your traps at the top (make sure you don’t use your hands when pulling).
- Then return your shoulders to the starting position and repeat for reps.
Equipment Needed: A cable machine with attached two handles rope.
Muscles Worked: Middle and upper traps.
5. Barbell Row
The barbell row is one of the best compound exercises to train all the back muscles, including latissimus dorsi (lats), the traps (both middle and lower), and the rear deltoids.
- Stand behind a barbell. Keep your back flat and your knees slightly bent.
- Hinge your hips to grab the bar with an overhand grip (your palm facing inward) about a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Pull your shoulder back and down while keeping your back flat at about a 45-60 degree angle.
- Keeping your hips high and chest up, pull the barbell in towards your stomach and aim for your belly button.
- Squeeze your traps at the top, then extend your arms back to your starting position. Repeat.
Equipment Needed: A slightly heavy barbell
Muscles Worked: Middle and lower traps, latissimus dorsi (lats), and posterior deltoids.
6. Prone Reverse Fly
The next exercise is highly recommended to build thicker mid-traps that not only help you get an overall aesthetic back but also helps significantly in injury prevention and improving posture.
Multiple studies have found that the prone reverse fly with external rotation (thumbs pointing up) elicits maximal activity of your mid-traps as the mid traps muscle fiber runs horizontally towards shoulders.
- Lay face down on a flat bench or on the floor and grab a pair of light dumbbells with your hands.
- Lift your arms straight out to your sides with your thumbs pointing up.
- Then slowly lower your arms down to the starting position and repeat for reps.
- Here, the goal is to feel a strong contraction in the middle of your back. You can start without any weight and then gradually add weight over time.
Equipment Needed: A pair of light dumbbells and a bench (optional).
Muscles Worked: Middle trapezius, rhomboids, and posterior deltoids.
Best Exercises for Lower Traps
Okay, now it’s time to smash the lower portion of your traps. Let’s check out the best exercises to do that.
7. Face Pull Press
Face pull press is one of my favorite and most effective exercises to train middle and lower traps, posterior deltoids and to fix postural problems.
- Begin with setting the pully at your face height position and attach the triceps rope into it.
- Grab the rope handles with both of your hands while keeping the thumbs facing towards you.
- Take a step back to eliminate the slack, then pull the cable back towards your face while keeping your elbows at the same level as your shoulders and hands above your elbows.
- From there, push your hands up and out towards the ceiling.
- Lower your hands to the face pulled position and then stretch your arms to the starting position.
- Make sure you’re engaging your mid and lower traps throughout this whole movement.
Equipment Needed: A cable machine with attached double handle rope.
Muscles Worked: Middle and lower traps, posterior deltoids, and rhomboids.
8. The “Y” Raise
The next lower traps exercise we have is the “Y” raise which is a very effective movement to get thicker and stronger traps.
- To begin, set up an incline or flat bench and lye on your chest. You can also do this exercise by lying on the floor.
- Grab a pair of light dumbbells/plates with your hands which are extended straight towards the floor.
- Form there, raise your extended arms upward and out from your shoulders to create a “Y.”
- Take a little pause at the top and squeeze your lower traps.
- Then slowly lower your arms back down to the starting position and repeat for reps.
Equipment Needed: A bench and a pair of light dumbbells.
Muscles Worked: Lower traps, rhomboids, and posterior deltoids.
9. Plate Raises
The last lower traps exercise we have is plate raise which is one of the killer exercises to hit your lower traps very effectively.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and grab a plate with both your hands extended in front of your chest.
- Keep your knees slightly bent, hips back, and always core tight.
- With your arms extended, raise the plate to the overhead position.
- Then slowly lower the plate back down to the starting position and repeat for reps.
- Make sure you’re engaging your lower traps throughout this movement.
Equipment Needed: A plate
Muscles Worked: Lower traps, rhomboids, and shoulders
Okay, now you’ve got the best traps exercises to build a stronger and aesthetic looking upper body.
So, all you need to do is pick three to four exercises from these exercises on your traps day, and you’ll be good to go.
Remember, besides training, eating the right diet and resting well are also crucial for building quality muscle mass over time.
If you have any questions regarding workouts, feel free to ask in the comment section below. I will be glad to help you!