The trapezius or 'traps' is the large muscle that runs from the upper back across the top of the shoulders and below the neck. The trapezius is used when moving the shoulders and it prevents the head and neck from moving too far in any direction. The best way to build big traps is by lifting weights and performing various shrugging movements two days per week.
Things You'll Need
- Barbell with collars
- Two dumbbells with collars
- Variety of multiple and different size weight plates (2.5 to 45 pounds)
- Weight bench or secure chair
- High-protein diet
Building Your Traps
Without any weight, hold your arms at each side. Shrug both shoulders up slowly and hold that position for a couple seconds, squeezing the trapezius muscle. Lower both shoulders and stretch the trapezius muscle the opposite way by moving both shoulders downward. Hold that position a few seconds. Repeat 10 times.
Load a barbell with two 25-pound plates on each side. Secure the collars at each end. While standing, place the barbell across a weight bench or chair. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip about shoulder-width apart. Lift the barbell up by bending your knees slightly, grabbing the bar and using your leg strength. Straighten your legs with the barbell in front of both thighs. Take a breath and exhale as you slowly shrug both shoulders and lift the barbell up, keeping both arms straight. Squeeze your traps for a second or two, then inhale as you lower the weight down with both shoulders, stretching your trapezius at the bottom of the movement. Repeat these movements 10 times each. Do 3 total sets. Do this exercise two times per week with at least three days rest in between workouts. If you cannot do 10 repetitions, use less weight. If the barbell is too light, use 35 or 45-lb plates.
Load two dumbbells up with two 10-pound plates on each side. Lift them up and stand with your back and arms straight and a dumbbell at each side. Take a deep breath and exhale as you slowly shrug both shoulders up. Squeeze the traps for a second or two, then inhale as you lower the dumbbells down and stretch your traps at the bottom of the movement. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions. Repeat these movement two times per week with at least three days rest between workouts.
Eat a high-protein diet each day consisting of either beef, chicken, fish, turkey or tuna.
Tips & Warnings
- Always warm the traps up first before using any weight. The first weightlifting exercise is called the barbell shrug and the second one is the dumbbell shrug. Gradually add more weight to the barbell and dumbbells as you get stronger. You can increase weight from one set to another as well. Expect to be a little sore in the beginning (See resources 1-3 below for more details and exercises). As for your diet, adding muscle requires not only high protein but additional calories. Besides meats, eat plenty of grains and vegetables.
- Never completely bend over at the waist to lift the barbell or dumbbells, as you could injure your back. Also, do not exceed trapezius workouts per week as this can be hard on your shoulder joints and neck.
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