What is a Trap Workout?

D. Messmer

A trap workout is a weightlifting routine that targets the trapezius muscles. The trapezius muscles form a kind of four-pointed star that connects the point where the back of the neck meets the back of the head to the shoulders and the midpoint of the back. Getting a good trap workout can be difficult at times, because it is difficult to create resistance at the necessary angle to work the muscles. Still, a good trap workout is a necessary component of complete back development and thus should be a part of any comprehensive weightlifting program.

An anatomical illustration including the trapezius (or trap) near the top.
An anatomical illustration including the trapezius (or trap) near the top.

There are two primary methods of working out the trapezius muscles: shrugs and upright rows. There are several variations to both of these trap exercises, but all of the variations adhere to the basic principles of one of these exercises or the other. In both of these trapezius exercises, the focus is on using the shoulder and neck muscles to pull weight upward on the same plane as the body.

Trap workouts focus on weightlifting exercises especially for the trapezius.
Trap workouts focus on weightlifting exercises especially for the trapezius.

Upright rows are an effective trap workout because they are a compound exercise and thus provide benefits to other muscle groups as well. To perform the exercise, the athlete grips the weight with a pronated grip while standing upright. The hands should be close to each other, and the arms should be extended straight, so that the hands are near the level of the groin. From this starting position, the athlete bends the arms, thus bringing the hands to about the middle of the chest. He or she then lowers the weight back to the original position.

Upright rows provide an excellent trap workout but also benefit the biceps and shoulders. They also are an effective form of trap workout because there are so many variations that each provide a slightly different benefit to the trapezius muscles. The motion is the same for all variations; it is the type of weight that accounts for the variation. It is possible to perform upright rows using a barbell, a set of dumbbells or a cable.

The other primary form of trap workout is the shrug. Performing shrugs is relatively straightforward. The athlete simply grips the weight with the arms extended. Then, he or she shrugs the shoulders in a slightly exaggerated motion. The athlete should pause in this shrugging position briefly before relaxing the shoulder and trap muscles to return to the starting position.

Like the upright row, the variations for shrugs are largely the result of different types of weight. It is possible to perform shrugs using a barbell, dumbbells or a hex bar. In addition to varying shrugs by using different types of bars, it also is possible, when using a barbell, for an athlete to hold the weight behind his or her body rather than in front of it. All of these variations put strain on the muscles at slightly different angles.

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