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YOKED: 4 Exercises for Massive Traps

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bigyokeNothing catches attention like a big yoke. 

Sure, big arms are great, but you’re going to get more attention from a set of muscles popping out of the side of your neck than arms that are more than likely covered up by a shirt.

Traps are impossible to hide.

They take more work than other muscles, but with the proper exercises, you can increase the size of your traps in just a few weeks. 

What Exactly Are Your Traps Anyways?

Traps is short for trapezius muscle; they extend from the top of your neck down to the middle of your back and extend from either side of the neck and down behind your shoulders, forming a diamond shape.

The most noticeable portion are the peaks that develop on either side of your neck, making it look like you have another layer.

Got that? Good. Let’s quit wasting time and start growing these beyond normal proportions.

People tend to target their traps when they train their back or shoulders, but you can train them whenever you want as long as you: 

  1. Perform effective exercises that recruit your traps significantly.
  2. Eat a sufficient amount of calories to support muscle growth.
  3. Rest properly to allow said muscles to recover.

That’s it.

There isn’t a big secret, people tend to say, “Fuck it” to the fundamentals of training and wonder why their body never changes. Don’t be one of those people. 


Wide Grip Barbell Upright Rows

This is one of the most powerful exercises for not only your traps, but your deltoids as well.

A recent study1 that measured for the max effectiveness of different grips on the upright row showed that the wide grip surpassed the close grip in both eccentric and concentric contractions.

Funny how that works, huh? 

And remember, pulling some light weight all day isn’t going to cut it if you want your traps to grow. You must pull moderate to heavy loads if you want to develop more than just muscular endurance.

Think of a moderate load as something that you can perform 8-10 repetitions of, while struggling to finish the last one or two reps. Heavy loads are 1-5 reps that you should be struggling to complete most of the way. 

Low Cable Face Pulls

Low Cable Face Pulls aren’t a commonly performed exercise, yet they get the job done when it comes to placing a burn on those traps of yours.

These are performed on a pulley machine with the rope attachment. Set the cable to where it’s just below chest level to get the most out of this exercise.

Grasp the rope with an overhand grip (or pronated grip for all you savvy fitness enthusiasts). You then pull the rope towards your face and basically end with your hands at the side of your head much like an upright row.

Don’t pause rep this exercise like a lot of the other cable based movements.

Simply pull, release, and pull again. Keep the movement continuous to where you are regretting even performing the exercise. Use a moderate weight and quit whining.

Barbell High Pull

High Pulls devastate your entire body since they’re a compound lift, but your traps and delts receive a lot of the attention. Start off in a squatted position, holding the bar like you would in a deadlift, but instead, pull the bar past your knees and then use your upper torso to basically pull the weight like an upright row.

Let gravity lower the bar back down and your legs to prevent the weight from smashing into the floor. Try this exercise out with heavy weight as a 5×5 workout.

Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Shrugs

The obvious and true trapezius muscle recruiter is, of course, the Dumbbell Shoulder Shrug. I chose the standing variation of this exercise for a very specific reason that will benefit you in the long run.

The seated version of the dumbbell shrug takes away the possibility of your legs helping with the movement, and without the support of your legs, too much weight can take a painful toll on your shoulder joints.

Barbell shrugs both front and back can also put you in the bad habit of leaning to help pull heavier loads while performing the exercise.

Standing with dumbbells allows you to vertically pull the weight with your traps without giving you a reason to cheat.


Now, A Trap Specific Workout

Just like with your other body part-specific training, you can focus on your traps for a full training day if you want to see quicker gains.

I’d recommend doing it after a legs or back training day, with preference going to doing it after a legs day. Following a chest or shoulder day is a no-go because your shoulder joints and their surrounding muscles need time to recover.

You can specifically target any muscle region that you want to grow at a heightened rate, but it’s most beneficial to do so once you’ve hit a plateau in your current full body program.

The following workout will make you hate life once muscle soreness kicks in, but your work is going to pay off with undeniable results.

The Workout: 

1. Barbell High Pull – 5×5

2. Standing Dumbbell Shrugs – 5×8

3. Wide Grip Barbell Upright Rows – 5×8

4. Low Cable Face Pulls – Descending Load Burnout*

Note: Pay attention to the rep amounts to know if the exercise calls for moderate or heavy loads. 

Rest: Take 3-5 minutes of rest after each set. Yeah, I said the right numbers. This has always worked great for me and other powerlifters/bodybuilders. New science2 even seems to be on the same thought process for rest and muscle growth. 

*Now, let’s talk about this descending load burnout briefly. A burnout is when you keep performing the same exercise until your muscles literally give up from fatigue.

With descending load you are making your muscles work to their max potential by simply decreasing the load you started with and doing more reps.

You then repeat this process until you are only pulling the block without a pin on the pulley machine. People in the gym are going to give stupid looks while you struggle pulling 10lbs. of weight on the cable machine, but who really cares.

Start big, end small, and watch as your traps burst out from underneath the seams of your shirt. You can thank me in the comments section below.  


Resources

  1. The effect of grip width on electromyographic activity during the upright row: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22362088
  2. Short inter-set rest blunts resistance exercise-induced increases in myofibrillar protein synthesis: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1113/EP085647/full
About the Author

Demmy James is a fitness buff, strength and conditioning specialist and content contributor with Muslce & Strength . He is constantly looking to inspire and motivate through his writings.

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