6 Best Exercises to Build Better and Stronger Traps

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The traps are a large, diamond-shaped muscle on the back of the body. It works together with the other muscles to support the neck, shoulders, and upper back.

However, it can be difficult for people to develop their trapezius muscles, as they lack direct access to them. The best way to build this muscle is by doing compound exercises that involve multiple joints and muscle groups at once.

Exercises to Build Trapezius Muscles

Here’s a look at six such exercises:

#1 Upright Row

Upright rows are a great way to target the upper body and place some load on the traps. They target the traps, shoulders, and arms.

Here’s how you do this exercise:

  • Grab a barbell or dumbbells, and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Your arms should be extended by your sides, with the palms facing forward. If using a dumbbell, hold it in each hand.
  • Hold the weights at arm’s length in front of your thighs, with palms facing inward (pronated). Pull the weight up towards your chest as far as you can without arching or rounding the back, keeping your elbows close to the sides throughout the movement.
  • Lower back down till your arms are fully extended but not locked out; perform the desired reps.


#2 Barbell Shrug

Shrugs are a classic exercise mostly done on pull day. They arguably target the traps most efficiently out of all the exercises on this list, yet it leaves some room for the back and arms to do some work as well.

Here’s how you do this exercise:

  • Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell with an overhand grip that’s just wider than shoulder width.
  • Shrug the bar up, keeping it as close to your body throughout the movement as possible.
  • Lift till you feel a good stretch in your trapezius muscles at the top of the movement.
  • Don’t shrug too high so that you lose tension on these muscles — just enough to get them engaged and stretched out.
  • Slowly lower under control back down to the starting position, and perform 10-12 reps (or 3 sets of five reps).
  • Make sure to use proper form by keeping your shoulders back, chest out, spine straight, and abs tight throughout each set. That will help prevent injury and also make sure you’re getting the maximum benefit from every rep.


#3 Farmer’s Walk

The farmer’s walk is a great exercise for strengthening the trapezius muscles. It’s more of a full body movement than the other exercises on this list, which means it will work your core and legs as well.

To do this exercise, you will need two heavy weights (preferably dumbbells), but you can also use something like a kettlebell or sandbag. Proceed as follows:

  • Hold the weights in each hand, and stand up straight with good posture.
  • Walk forward for as long as possible with proper form, and make sure to maintain good posture.
  • Don’t let your shoulder shrug up towards your ears. Keep your head up and chest out, and don’t let either arm swing wide away from the body.


#4 Face Pull

Face pulls are an excellent exercise for the upper back, rear deltoids, and traps. They can be performed with dumbbells, cable pulley machines, or resistance bands.

Face pulls are a good alternative to upright rows when working the muscles of the upper back by targeting different areas that may be difficult to hit with typical bench press or push-up moves.

Face pulls should be done using a cable machine or resistance band attachment that allows you to place your hands together. Most gyms have these attachments available for use on a cable machine.

However, if yours doesn’t, simply attach yourself to either end of a long stretchy band, and pull it towards your face approximately at chest height before releasing it back down in front of you again.


#5 Front Shoulder Raise

The front shoulder raise can be done with either dumbbells or cables, but each one its benefits. It targets the anterior deltoids and traps, making the entire deltoid region look massive.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Use a dumbbell or cable machine to perform front shoulder raises. If you’re using a machine, make sure your arms are stabilized and that it’s not moving when you raise the weight.
  • Keep your elbows close to your body as you lift the weight up, and lower it back down in front of you (not behind).
  • Don’t raise your shoulders, or swing the weight. Try to keep them still throughout the exercise.

#6 Trap Bar Deadlift

The trap bar deadlift is a variation of the conventional deadlift that uses a trap bar to encompass you as you lift the weight.

This exercise takes the load off your back and recruits the upper body, namely the traps and shoulders, more efficiently, making it an optimal choice for training the traps.

To do a trap bar deadlift, stand in the bar with your feet about shoulder-width apart, and proceed as follows:

  • Keep your back straight, and bend down to grab the handles.
  • Keeping your chest up and shoulders back, pull the weight up towards your hips till it touches them.
  • Pause for a second in this position before lowering it back to the starting position.
  • Don’t round or arch your lower back. Stay straight throughout.

If you’re new to strength training and have never done trap bar deadlifts before, try using a lighter weight than what you can lift with free weights at first. Once you get used to how they feel, gradually add more weight till you reach a challenging level of resistance (10-15% less than what would cause failure).


The trapezius is an important muscle for building a strong back, so it’s crucial to make sure you’re working it out regularly.

In addition to the aformentioned exercises, there are many others you can use as well to get the most out of them. Make sure not only do they challenge your upper back but also involve other muscles.

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