2 Best Exercises For Building Kick Butt Traps

Why Traps Kick Ass


“Hey dad, how did those guys get big up here?” I was pointing at my 8 year old boy traps…

My dad had the same look of confusion I had.

“Um, they lift weights.” That was his reply.

I wasn’t going to question him.

He was telling me the truth.

Sounded simple to me.

Lift weight, get traps.

See, as a kid I used to watch wrestling with my dad.

The good stuff.

WWF, Hulk Hogan, Road Warriors, Ultimate Warrior…

I couldn’t tell you who which wrestler I was talking about when I asked my dad.

But I suspect it was Ravishing Rick Rude…

One thing I can tell you is this.

A combination of traps and shoulders looks athletic and commands respect.

Killer traps aren’t exclusively seen on wrestlers.

Look at track and field athletes.

You’ll see them with muscular traps.

NFL players, gymnasts, basketball players.

They have well developed traps as well.

Built traps give off two a clear signal:

You’re athletic, you lift weights, you go heavy and you command respect.

How to Include In a Workout

So if we want to have traps that everyone will take notice of we have to have a laid out plan.

We probably don’t have gifted genetics like a pro wrestler.

More than likely we lack the same genetics as an MMA or UFC fighter.

That’s ok.  Let’s work with what we have.

Let’s make the most out of it.

If we’re going to build up our traps we have to work them the right way.

Sure, we could walk into the gym.

Do sets of upright rows and shrugs and call it a day.

Or we could throw these sets sporadically but that won’t help much either.

We won’t get the most out of our workout.

The best approach is to add these exercises on an upper body day.

On an upper body day we can hit the traps and shoulders with direct stimulation.

We won’t overdo it.

But we can give it some extra attention.

Ideally what we want to do on an upper body day is the following:

Work on chest, back, shoulders.

If you’re wondering whether we’ll be doing long workouts, this won’t be the case.

I’m all for keeping workouts under an hour.

Keep it short.

We won’t be doing 4 or 5 exercises per muscle group.

So we won’t be doing 4 exercises for chest.

We won’t be doing four exercises for shoulders.

We won’t be doing four exercises for back.

Doing so would be overkill.

It would be pointless.

Choose 2 pressing movements for chest.

Choose 2 exercises for back.

Choose a shoulder pressing movement (Military Press would be ideal).

Add Upright Rows and Shrugs and you’re set.

2 Best Exercises for Building Traps

So there’s several exercises that will work the traps.

No doubt about it.

In fact, I’ll talk about that later.

But for now I’ll cover the 2 exercises that will target the traps directly.

Here they are:

  1. Barbell Upright Rows: Hold a barbell with shoulder wide grip. Let your arms hang straight down and raise the barbell up to your upper chest area.  Stop when your elbows are parallel to the floor.  Lower the barbell in a controlled fashion.
  2. Barbell or Dumbbell Shrugs: Hold either a barbell or dumbbell in a shoulder wide grip.  Stand straight and looking straight ahead.  Shrug the shoulders as if your shoulders were trying to reach up to your earlobes.  Tip: do not bend your elbows or roll your shoulders in a circular motion.

These two exercises will hit the muscle area better than other exercises.

But in order for both of these exercises to work it’s important to use proper form.

I’ll often see guys do upright rows by holding the bar with both hands held close together.

By holding the bar with hands close together this puts too much stress on the shoulders when raising the barbell.

For best results always keep the grip at shoulder wide grip.

The same goes for shrugs.

Use the same shoulder wide grip.

And this is very important.

Do not roll your shoulders either forward or backward when doing a shrug.

Just shrug vertically up and lower your shoulders.

I have to stress this because there is the mistaken belief that rolling the shoulders will activate more muscle fibers.

Rather than activating more muscle fibers you’ll likely end up with damage to the rotator cuff.

So beware.

My Recommended Alternative

(Here I am showing a Smith Machine Upright Row & Shrug Workout)

Although I recommend free weights at all times I know a lot of guys have shoulder problems.

Or many of us have a hard time going heavy on barbell exercises like upright rows and shrugs.

For a safe alternative replace both of these exercises with Smith Machine versions of both.

Smith Machine Upright Rows & Smith Machine Shrugs will give you a big bang for your buck.

The good thing is the Smith Machine will allow for using heavier weight than if you were using the barbell version.

And a Smith Machine variation will also help with using proper form.

It’s easy to jerk your body or swing the weight when using a barbell or any type of free weight exercise.

However, when using a Smith Machine, the weight will move in a controlled and safe manner.

I actually prefer doing Smith Machine Upright Rows and Shrugs.

I prefer these variations for the reasons I have mentioned.

  • It helps me go heavier on the lift.
  • I’m able to use good form.


Now let’s break things down if we were going to use these exercises in a workout session.

Do both exercises back to back in the same session.

Start with the more taxing exercise.

In this case start with upright rows first then follow it with shrugs.

Don’t superset.

Complete your sets of upright rows before moving on to shrugs.

Do one to two warm up sets with lighter weight for each exercise.

Use three sets for each exercise.

Rest for 60 seconds per set.

  • Barbell or Smith Machine Upright Rows

3 x 8-10

  • Shrugs (Barbell/ Smith Machine or Dumbbell)

3 x 8-10

Further recommendations:

On the first set of each exercise start with eight reps.

Aim for ten reps on your second or third set.

Once you can complete ten reps on the exercise, increase the weight slightly.

A small increase of 5 pounds is ideal and safer.

This will also help with avoiding injuries.

We don’t want that.

Do these exercises only once per week.

Choose one day, ideally when you are doing upper body training and go with that.

The Workout Plan

Here’s a sample workout:

  • Incline DB Press (3 x 8-10)
  • Bench Press (3 x 6-8)
  • Military Press (3 x 6-8)
  • Upright Rows (3 x 8-10)
  • Shrugs (3 x 8-10)
  • Chin Ups (3 x 10-12)

Don’t superset and don’t perform them in a circuit.

Complete each set of exercises before moving on to the next.

Rest 60 to 90 seconds between sets and exercises.

Choose one day to do this work out.

For example, let’s choose Mondays.

The workout will then be performed once a week every Monday.

Final Thoughts

Try these trap and shoulder building exercises in your workouts.

Stick with it long term.

After 90 days you’ll notice a difference in your traps.


To your fitness,

Sam- Look Like An Athlete

P.S. Comment below, share and like this article.

Get Cannonball Type Shoulders With Rear Deltoid Exercises

Although fitness magazines would have you believe that in order to get great looking shoulders all you need to do is do exercises like shoulder presses, the reality is that you can not achieve good shoulder development without doing rear deltoid exercises.

You are probably familiar with the workouts in fitness magazines.  They outline a workout that consists of the following:

  • Shoulder Presses
  • Lateral Raises
  • Front Raises
  • Upright Rows (maybe)

Although these exercises will give you shoulders development the truth is that the rear deltoid muscles should never be neglected.

The Importance Of Rear Delts In Shoulders

It is easy to dismiss the rear delts as an important component of the shoulders area since we often see bodybuilders or athletes with cannonball type shoulders with medial deltoids and front delts standing out.  However it is the rear delts that give that added roundness to a properly developed shoulder.

The rear deltoids are found on the back part of the shoulders.  The rear delts tie in with the muscles of the back as well and pull the shoulders back, which keeps the shoulders from having an appearance, is if they are slumping forward.

Developing this area of the shoulders is also very important as it helps in avoiding injury.  The shoulders are a complex muscle group and as such cannot be dismissed with one generic exercise that some assume is enough to cover all your bases.

Primary Rear Delt Exercises

Rear Raises:  This is the king when developing the rear delts.  These are performed similar to lateral raises but the difference is you have to be bent over either seated or standing.

Upright Rows: Upright rows are excellent at working on any area of the shoulders.  This exercise works the front, side, top, rear and really the entire muscle.  Unfortunately this exercise is often left out of shoulders workouts but should definitely be included.

Do I Have To Work On Rear Delts On Shoulders Workout Days?

Here is the good news; you do not have to work on rear delts on shoulder workout days.  There are other exercises for rear delts that target or stimulate this area when you work on certain back exercises.

Here are some exercises you can do that target this area of the shoulders as a secondary muscle:

Low Rows: Doing rowing exercises are excellent as the rears of the shoulders are secondary muscles stimulated.  The back muscles are primarily developed with this exercise.   Low rows however work the rear portion of the shoulders more than a typical rowing exercise.

High Rows: These are performed with a rope on a pulley machine and the weight is pulled towards the eyes level and the rope flares out.  I have actually heard many guys tell me that they prefer doing high rows because they find it difficult to perform rear raises.

Lat Pull Downs and Pull Ups/Chin Ups: Again an often neglected exercise but these also work on rear deltoids to a lesser extent.

If you are not performing any one of these exercises there is a good chance your shoulders are not reaching their potential.  I am often surprised how often people don’t workout on their back muscles.  Simply doing some rowing exercises would help in developing the rear deltoids.

Then again, I am also surprised to see many people skip out on shoulders workouts or just doing some offhand shoulder presses.

Performing exercises for rear deltoids is not something that should be ignored or something that you have to dedicate an entire workout to.  In fact, simply adding some exercises for the back muscles along with rear deltoid exercises will take you a long way in getting cannonball type shoulders.

The Two Best Exercises For Building Trap Muscles

Are you wondering what the best exercises for building trap muscles to get that muscular look are? Well building the trapezius muscles is easier than you would expect by simply incorporating two easy moves in your repertoire.

In fitness magazines and in bodybuilding competitions you often see well developed muscles run that run from the shoulders and in to the lower neck. When you see this it gives the appearance of dominance, strong shoulders and neck. I have even heard many women say that this part is very sexy in a man.

The trapezius muscles are often overlooked by many in the gym because of the focus that is placed too often on the arms and chest muscles. However having development in the traps allows the back muscles and shoulder muscles to stand out more. So if you want to make your back and shoulders stand out more incorporate trapezius workouts.

Here are two easy exercises for building trap muscles you can incorporate in your routine:

· Upright Rows: These are performed using barbell, smith machine, dumbbells or cable with the straight bar. Grab the weight/ handle with two hands at shoulder width apart while standing with the knees slightly bent. The weight should hang in front of your thighs. Slowly bring the weight up in a controlled to your upper chest level so that your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Use a slow motion on the way up and on the way down.


· Shrugs: this exercise allows you to go heavy. Again use either a weighted barbell, smith machine, dumbbells or cable with the straight bar. Grab the weight/ handle with two hands using a shoulder width grip. Keeping your arms straight and at thigh level bring your shoulders up and then down using a slow motion. To make it easy imagine you are trying to touch your shoulders to your ears. Always look straight and do not use a rolling motion. If you roll your shoulders forward or back it can cause injury or damage to the rotator cuff.

Perform these exercises on days you work on your shoulders along with shoulder presses, lateral raises and rear delt raises. If you include these two exercises for building trap muscles you will get awesome shoulders development. If you include this on your workouts to get bigger shoulders you will be more than pleased with the results to follow.

Workouts to Get Bigger Shoulders

Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought, “how can I do workouts to get bigger shoulders and get that cannonball shape?”  Fortunately it is not as difficult as you may think.
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Photograph courtesy of www.the-ultimatebody.com

Many people go to the gym and put a huge emphasis on working out the chest and the arms but they fail to neglect other body parts like the shoulders.  It is very important to fully work on the shoulders for various reasons.  First of all it gives the arms great definition. Second, when they are well developed they pull your shoulders back and give you good posture and make your chest look bigger.  Third, when they are well developed you will avoid having injuries to the area.

So now that you know the advantages of working on this area we need to understand that the shoulders are not a simple muscle.  It is very common for a person to focus on just doing presses with a barbell or dumbbells.  The entire area is more complex than that and in order to have well developed shoulders you need to work them from every angle.

A shoulder is composed of the frontal (front) area, medial (middle) area, and rear deltoid.  It is important to give each area equal attention by having exercises that target each area specifically.  So if you want to get big shoulders it will take a good structured workout.

Sample workout:

  • Shoulder press:  perform these with a machine, dumbbells or barbell focusing on form and raising the weight slowly and bringing the weight down slowly.  The pace I recommend is a one second up and two or three seconds down.
  • Lateral raises:  these focus on the medial area.  Hold a pair of dumbbells at your side with a pretty light weight and raise the weights slowly until you reach shoulder level, pause for a second come down slowly again.
  • Upright rows:  grab a barbell, dumbbells or pulley attached to a cable.  Hold the bar or dumbbell below your waist with arms extended. Pull the weight up until the weight is at chest/ nipple level.  Bring the weight down slowly.  Perform using that 1-second up/ 2 or 3 second down pace.
  • Shrugs:  again hold a barbell, dumbbells or pulley below your waist with arms extended.  Simply shrug without bending the elbows, pause and lower the weight. Elbows should not lock.  Picture yourself trying to bring the shoulder muscles to your ears. Focus on the contraction when you shrug.
  • Bent over lateral raises:  sit on a bench or chair and hold a pair of light dumbbells in your hands.  Perform the same motion as if doing simple lateral raises.  In this case you will remain with your body bent down throughout the exercise. Look down at the floor as you do this.
  • Front raises:  easier to do with dumbbells.  Hold the weights below the waist and raise the dumbbells in a slow and controlled motion to shoulder level either one at a time or both together.  Again use the 1-second up/ 2 or 3 second pace.

Do this workout for 4 sets and 8 to 10 repetitions each set.  You should be able to see results in a few weeks.