How to Build the Traps: Training Your Trap Muscles

The traps are the muscle most noticeable as the one viewable from the front which jumps out from the top of the shoulders and run into the neck. In fact, the traps begin at the base of the skull, fan out behind the shoulders, and run down the back between the shoulder blades before tapering off. The function of the traps is to raise and lower the shoulder girdle.

Exercises for building the traps are rather limited in quantity, but variations can always be applied by the lifter. Let’s see what we’ve got.


Shrugs can be performed with a barbell, or dumbbells. Standing, holding a barbell, relaxed, in front of you with an overhand grip, raise the barbell up simply by raising the shoulders. Hold at the top for a squeeze to make sure you’ve reached maximum contraction, before slowly lowering.

If using dumbbells, the dumbbells are held to the sides, palms facing inwards.

Now, what will strike you as a simple lift can actually be rather complicated, because the arms have a tendency to bend. You do not want to involve the biceps in any way, shape, or form when performing shrugs. You need to simply let your arms hang dead below. Most people make the mistake of involving the biceps and wonder why they don’t make much headway with the traps. Always keep this in mind!

Upright Rows:

Using an overhand, wider-than-shoulder grip, Let a barbell hang at arms length in front of you. Now, lift the barbell up to a point near the chin, and lower as slowly as you can. The elbows should be kept out and slightly up of the bar, and the bar kept close to the body throughout.


Developing the traps is similar to developing the lats, in the way that many people have trouble feeling the muscles working, so don’t really know if they are performing the lifts correctly. By giving the muscles a good squeeze at the top of the movement, this will help you to develop more of a feel in the muscles over time, so you’ll begin to feel them working more. That way, know just from how the exercise feels whilst you are performing it, that you are hitting the trap muscles. And, if you don’t feel it, you’ve only got to look in the mirror to know you are doing something wrong.

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