The Un-Deadlifter: 4 Deadlift & Trap Workout Variations

Traps are the new abs! Slam your traps into growth and build a colossal deadlift one rep max using these 4 excruciating and devious workout options from Steve Shaw.

Un-Deadlifter: noun, a crazed gymaholic who will go to any length to beef up his deadlift strength and trapezius size. An un-deadlifter embraces new tactics and exercise variations.

It's rare to find someone at a commercial gym performing deadlifts. When I do encounter this rare creature, the story is always the same. Floor deadlifts, floor deadlifts and more floor deadlifts.

The same goes for trap work. When I see a trainee shrugging, it's usually with a moderate weight and involves some form of mind-muscle connection reps. Half the time these shrugs are performed on a Smith machine. If you want small and weak traps, this is the way to go.

Deadlift training doesn't have to be repetitive and boring. There can be more to a deadlift workout than just tugging the bar off the floor. And when it comes to traps...don't get me started. Mind-muscle connection dumbbell and Smith machine shrugs using a light weight are pointless. I've never seen a lifter build big traps using either of these exercises.

Traps are the new abs

I have a saying that I want you to embrace:

Traps are the new abs.

Anyone can have abs. It requires no effort in the gym. Traps are a different story.

Very few lifters have mountain-peak traps. If you have them, you earned them. Traps are not easy to obtain, but are always respected. If you see a lifter with a pair of monstrous traps lurking under his Muscle & Strength t-shirt, you know this "bro" tosses around barbells loaded with heavy ass weight.

If you love deadlifts and want traps a mile high, then this article is going to change your life. I guarantee it.

So let's get to gettin'. Here are 4 trap and deadlift workout combinations that get it done.

Barbell deadlifts

Very few lifters have mountain-peak traps. If you have them, you earned them. Traps are not easy to obtain, but are always respected.

Workout #1 - High Tugs and Power Shrugs

For this workout you will go high, and you will go hard. Place the barbell in a rack at, or slightly above knee level. Work up to high rack pull triples using the following progression:

  • Set 1 - 40% of deadlift 1RM (one rep max) x 5 reps
  • Set 2 - 50% of deadlift 1RM x 5 reps
  • Set 3 - 60% of deadlift 1RM x 3 reps
  • Set 4 - 70% of deadlift 1RM x 1 rep
  • Set 5 - 80% of deadlift 1RM x 1 rep
  • Working sets - 90% of deadlift 1RM x 3 sets of 3-5 reps

If your deadlift max is 400, your high rack pull sets will be with 360 pounds. When you can perform 5 quality reps for each set, add 5 pounds to the bar the next time you perform this workout.

Once your rack pull sets are completed, it's time for power shrugs. Keep the same weight on the bar for your first set. From there, you will decrease weight 10% during each subsequent set. All of your shrug sets will be for max reps. When your reps start to get too sloppy, stop the set.

  • Set 1 - Working weight from high rack pull triples for max reps
  • Set 2 - Drop weight 10%, perform for max reps
  • Set 3 - Drop weight an additional 10%, perform for max reps
  • Set 4 - Drop weight an additional 10%, perform for max reps
  • Set 5 - Drop weight an additional 10%, perform for max reps
Workout #1
High Tugs & Power Shrugs
Exercise Sets Reps
High Rack Pulls 3 3-5
Power Shrugs 5 Max Reps

Workout #2 - The Destroyer Combo

A simple but brutal combination, this trap destroyer and deadlift builder is sure to become one of your favorites. Here's how it works...

Place 75% of your deadlift one rep max on the bar and perform 15 rest-paused singles. Make sure to reset your form after each single. Let go of the bar, shake your hands out, regain your focus, and immediately perform another single.

Sounds too easy? Well here's the kicker. After each deadlift rep, perform 3 power shrugs before setting the bar down.

By the time you have completed this rest-pause set your traps will be on fire and you will feel like a beast.

Make sure not to rush your singles. You want your reps to be quality, and with good form. On the other hand, you shouldn't be resting for long periods of time in between reps either. If you are, the weight is too heavy. Aim for 15 seconds max in between rest-paused reps.

Workout #2
The Destroyer Combo
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlifts, 75% 1RM - Rest-pause singles with power shrug triples 1 15

Heavy deadlifts

Deadlift training doesn't have to be repetitive and boring. There can be more to a deadlift workout than just tugging the bar off the floor.

Workout #3 - Dumbbell Duo

Strap up, grab the heaviest dumbbells at your gym, and give this workout a run.

Start by performing dumbbell Romanian deadlifts for sets of 8-15 reps. After resting for 2-3 minutes, grab the dumbbells and perform the following shrug sequence 5 times.

  • Power dumbbell shrugs - 3 reps
  • Static dumbbell hold - 5 second count

This sequence will crush your traps and yield 15 total shrug reps.

Alternate between dumbbell Romanian deadlifts and the shrug sequence 3-5 times. You will thank me in the morning. (And for days to come)

Workout #3
Dumbbell Duo
Exercise Sets Reps
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts 3-5 8-15
Shrug & Static Hold sequence 3-5 15 shrug reps

Workout #4 - 100 Rep Hell

I save this specialization workout for those rare occasions when I am forced to take a hiatus from lifting for some odd reason, and want to punish myself before the break.

The approach is simple. Take 60% of your deadlift max and perform it for 100 total reps. It doesn't matter how you get there - 1 rep sets or 10 rep sets - just get there. Once the deadlifts are done, the fun continues. 

Load a barbell with 95 or 135 pounds, based on your strength levels, and perform 100 total reps of POWER upright rows. Power upright rows are a little more explosive; you're allowed to use a little English.

This workout will leave your mid-back, lats and traps painfully sore. I recommend a post-workout feast that includes a buffet and a quart of chocolate milk.

Workout #4
100 Rep Hell
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlifts - Using 60% 1RM Varies 100 total
Power Upright Rows Varies 100 total