Monster traps are stunning. You can have a mediocre chest and biceps, but if your traps look like a mountain that travels up to your ears, you look like a beast.
Flip through a natural bodybuilding magazine. Find physiques that really impress you, and physiques that leave you feeling blah. Odds are that the physiques that you really like you have thick, triangular traps. Bodybuilding is all about creating an image - or illusion - of size. Huge trap muscles frame your face, and make your physique stand out wherever you go.
But, if you're like the average trainee, your traps are flat. You've tried dumbbell and barbell shrugs, but your traps just lay there like an old dog in the hot sun. Is there hope, or do you simply have genetically inferior traps? There's hope, brother of iron - there is hope!
So, without further ado, here are some trap training techniques and exercises.
Heavy weight is not always best for packing on trap mass. Go light if you need to, but focus on getting an intense contraction. At the point of full contraction, hold the weight for a split second. If you can’t hold the contraction, odds are you’re using too much weight and sacrificing rep quality.
Fortify Your Grip For Trap Growth
Often times, your grip will go out before you are able to rep anywhere near muscular failure. If this is you, it’s time to invest in a quality pair of lifting straps. Don’t feel embarrassed…it’s not cheating. Remember, the point is to grow your traps, not to express your manhood by showing how long you can grip the bar.
Quality Reps Equal Massive Traps
Make ever rep count! It doesn’t matter how much volume you do for your traps, if every rep isn’t maximized. Concentrate on turning each rep into the “best” rep it can possibly be. Don’t jerk the weight up or down. Use a controlled, fluid movement. This can often be difficult to do, simply because the range of motion used in training traps is so small.
Twice A Week Trap Training
How many times have you seen a workout routine that hammers traps twice a week? Most likely never. There is no rule that says you can only work traps once a week. The "obvious" day to work traps is on back day. But most shoulder movements utilize traps as well. Split your shoulder and back workouts at least 3 days apart, and insert some trap sets. Get to gettin’.
Mix Up Your Rep Ranges
Mix up your rep ranges. Try some heavier trap work in the 4-6 rep range. Then, switch to lighter weights and work in the 12-15 rep range. You can also mix things up by adding in advanced training techniques. Try static holds for 2-4 seconds at peak contraction for each rep. Or, try slow negatives. Take 4 seconds to lower each rep back to the starting position.
Lock Your Elbows To Better Engage Your Traps
Lock your elbows when performing trap exercises. If you find that your elbows are bending during each rep, you may be using your upper back to assist in rowing the weight up. Make the traps work hard by keeping your arms locked. It's harder to cheat this way.
Hammer Traps With Smith Machine Shrugs
Smith machine shrugs can be performed either with the weight in front of your body, or with the weight behind you. To perform a rep with the bar behind your body, grab the bar, and scoot your feet back so they are under, or behind the bar. Now, lean forward. Keep your arms locked, and rep out! This movement may seem awkward at first. Experiment with lighter weight before you go full bore.
Dumbbell Shrugs For Thick Traps
Lean slightly forward when performing dumbbell shrugs. This angle allows you to incorporate more of the trapezius, and builds more muscle mass. It will also allow you to use more weight. Squeeze the contraction tightly, and hold for a split second.
Standing Calf Machine Shrugs
This is an obscure, but effective way to stimulate trap growth, especially for trainees with grip strength issues. Stand as if you were about to perform a set of calf raises. Position your feet so that your weight is resting on your heels. You do not want your body to rock up and down as you rep out. Performing shrugs in the standing calf machine will allow you to use very strict form, and grip strength will never be an issue.
Smith Machine Upright Rows
Try this…use a very narrow grip. Place the tips of your thumbs together. You will notice that you are able to work the traps very effectively. This is a good exercise to perform if you work shoulders and traps on the same day.
Power Shrugs For Powerful Traps
Power shrugs are also called “cheating shrugs.” Do whatever it takes to shrug the weight up. Slap as much weight as you can handle on the bar, and shrug the weight up. It might seem like this exercise doesn’t accomplish much, but the burden from the heavy weight, and the force from the explosive lift will hit your traps in a good way.
Rear Barbell Shrugs
This exercise is almost the same as rear Smith machine shrugs. Rear barbell shrugs are another great trap builder. With the barbell behind your body, assume a wide stance, and shrug. Don’t start with a heavy weight. You don’t want to sacrifice form, and injure your rotator cuffs. As you gain confidence with the movement, you can add weight to the bar.
The Final Rep
Trap workouts are generally an after-thought. Don’t waste the opportunity to add depth to your physique by ignoring your traps. On the other hand, you don’t want to over-train your traps either. A natural bodybuilder shouldn’t need more then 6 quality sets to get in a great, mass-building trap workout.