The trap muscles (Trapezius), or “traps” as they’re known, are located in your upper body just below the neck and between your deltoid (shoulder) muscles, as illustrated in the image below. Looking from your back they run from the neck down to your upper back.
The trapezius is a large muscle group which is often neglected as most trainee’s do not realise the sheer size and potential for growth in the traps. Excellent growth in the traps will provide a thicker, larger and more powerful back development which will help in other exercises and minimize injuries.
Barbell shrugs are one of the best ways to develop your traps as they are a simple and effective exercise, requiring only a barbell and weight plates. You simple rack the barbell with sufficient weight as to stimulate the muscle and perform the shrugs using a ‘shrug’ motion, as if you were signalling to a friend that you don’t know what he’s saying, while holding a barbell in your hands.
You really can’t go wrong with this exercise…
Use a supinated (one hand overhand and the other underhand) or an overhand grip for both hands and lift your shoulders as high as possible in a rapid motion and lower for 1 rep, then repeat.
I advocate using 8-10 reps when performing barbell shrugs as it’s a delicate exercise and easy to use too much weight under the impression you’re actually lifting it, when in reality you’re barely lifting your shoulders and not stimulating any sort of muscle at all, and only briefly if you are.
An alternative to barbell shrugs is to use dumbbells in each hand and perform the motion exactly as you would in the barbell shrug. Some find dumbbells easier and more comfortable as they hand directly beside your body as opposed to slightly in front, as is the case with barbell shrugs.