The first part of your body that people notice as you walk into a room is your upper torso, and symmetrical definition is more impressive than sheer size in this matter. And while a pair of mighty biceps send a message of superior strength, nothing screams alpha like a set of big, baddass traps on top of them.
They are one of the prominent characteristic of a true “no-nonsense” physique, yet many guys fail to give them the attention they deserve by assuming that a few sets of shrugs at the end of their shoulder workout are enough to stimulate real growth. Well, that’s one of the main reasons you don’t see too many guys with good overall development in the shoulder area.
Keep in mind that the trapezius and forearm muscles are areas that you simply can’t hide when posing, no matter what you do, and a lack of development in these muscles can hurt your overall aesthetics more than anything else. However, we would only encourage you to focus on your traps if the rest of your upper body is already adequately targeted with the rest of your training routine. Don’t forget, symmetry is the key to a stellar physique!
The traps are being worked in many upper body exercises that primarily target the forearms or chest, and that’s a decent start. But to really build a pair of huge, respect-demanding traps, you need some heavier stimulus in the form of isolation work that will hit the upper, middle and lower part of these muscles. A good way to develop the upper traps are exercises like shrugs and upper rows, while exercises that involve pulling the shoulder blades together will emphasize the mid traps.
And movements that draw the shoulder blades downward while keeping the arms straight work best for lower traps. With an adequate combination of exercises like these in your shoulder workout, massive growth will follow in no time. Begin with these 4 trap-blasting movements:
Barbell Shrug: 4 sets, 15 reps
Stand up straight with feet shoulder width apart. Hold a barbell at thigh level with a pronated grip. As you breathe out, raise your shoulders up as far as you can go, while avoiding unwanted biceps involvement, and hold the contraction at the top for a second. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.
Face pull: 4 sets, 15 reps
Attach a rope to a cable machine. Grab the rope with both hands and pull the weight directly towards your face, separating your hands. Keep your upper arms parallel to the ground and your elbows higher than your wrists throughout the movement. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.
Bent-over lateral raise: 3 sets, 10-12 reps
Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand with knees slightly bent and back arched forward. Keep your chest out, back flat, elbows slightly bent and palms facing each other. Raise the dumbbells up and out to your side by extending your arms until your elbows reach shoulder height and your arms are roughly parallel to the floor, while trying to bring the shoulder blades as close together as possible. Hold for a second, then slowly return to the starting position and repeat.
Calf machine shoulder shrug: 4 sets, 12-15 reps
Position yourself on the calf machine so that the shoulder pads are above your shoulders, while your torso should be straight with the arms extended by your side. As you exhale, raise your shoulders up towards your ears and hold the contraction for a second. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.