Ever train your legs and seem to always forget to train your calves? Now think about the upper body. Another neglected muscle that we often forget to train on our upper half is the trapezius muscle, also known as our traps. The traps are involved in spinal extension and neck flexion (forward, backward) and rotation (left, right). What also seems to be little known is that the traps don’t just start and stop in the upper clavicle area by your shoulders. Traps actually extended into the upper-middle back as well. Considering the purpose they serve and the amount of space they cover, it is key to remember working out your traps as part of a normal workout routine. But how?
Trap training may seem tricky and monotonous to some, comparable to training biceps. You can do a million variations of curls, but you’re still doing curls. The same sort of thing applies to trap workouts in the form of shrugs. Literally think of shrugging your shoulders in dismay. Shrugs in a trap workout move along the same line of motion. Let’s take a look at three different type of shrugs. As with any exercise, make sure to think of the muscle as you execute each exercise and do so with proper form, before increasing weight. For trap exercises, reps are normally kept between the 10-15 range, and sets at 3-4. Once you are comfortable with the line of motion in which the shoulders contract and release, you should be able to easily take on any form of the following shrugging exercises:
Seated Dumbbell Shrugs- Find a bench with a back support at 90 degrees. Holding dumbbells in each hand, sit with back flush to the bench, core tight, chest up and knees bent and flat on the floor. Keeping the arms straight, lift your shoulders as high up as possible (picturing trying to get them to touch the bottom of your ears). Hold the weights in this position for one or two seconds, and then release back to starting position (shoulders relaxed).
Barbell Standing Shrugs- Grip a barbell (standard 45lb) with palms facing in (overhand grip). Stand with a very slight knee extension, and lift your shoulders as high as possible (exactly as directed in the above exercise). Add plates as you become comfortable with this exercise. This can also be done on a Smith exercise Machine. just keep in mind that the weight of the barbell on these assisted machines is less than that of a regular barbell, so adjust your weights accordingly.
When you train other muscle groups (think shoulders and deltoids, for example), you will also be working your traps. Old school deadlifts, also, are great for working the traps in a secondary fashion. Upright rows, which are often done by lifters on shoulder day, hit the traps as well. Because these two muscle groups seem to often subsequently affect one another (shoulders/traps), it may be most effective to train traps on days you are already training shoulders.
If you are a lifter who incorporates accessory training days (abductors, adductors, etc) into your current workout, tossing traps into the mix wouldn’t hurt. Regardless of what you choose, remember that in order to have a strong, efficient machine from head to toe, we must strengthen all muscles from top to bottom.