Growing Big Traps


by Charles Poliquin Iron Man Magazine

Q: How can I develop bigger traps so that they pop out when I do a crab pose?

A: Consider that the pose you’re referring to is also considered a “most muscular” pose because it brings out not just the traps but also the pecs, shoulders, delts and arms. You asked for great traps, however, and a great first step would be shoulder shrugs done with barbells and dumbbells.

The shoulder shrug done with a barbell is a simple exercise that will develop the upper traps. One key training tip is to curl your wrists under slightly so that the elbows point out, not back. It will help ensure that the bar travels straight up and give you a greater range of motion.

The key advantage of dumbbells over a barbell is that they enable you to perform the exercise with your arms at your sides and your hands in a neutral position, thus giving you a greater range of motion and a more vertical line of resistance than you would get with a straight bar. This technique helps correct the excessive internally rotated shoulder and arm posture commonly associated with those who have bench-pressed excessively for years.

One of my favorite shrugs is the one-arm barbell shrug. It’s a much smoother motion than dumbbell shrugs, as there is no friction from having the weights sliding up the legs. To get the most out of one-arm barbell shrugs, do them in a power rack with the barbell set across the pins. You can then brace yourself with your free hand against one of the power rack posts, which will enable you to keep your torso upright. Also, to increase the time under tension—which favors growth—pause for a predetermined time—one to six seconds, for example—at the end of the concentric range of motion.

Unless you are a weightlifter and have slabs of muscle on your upper back, be sure to include some type of shoulder shrug in your workouts frequently. After all, everyone needs to be able to “Hulk out” once in a while.


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