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How to Build Bigger Traps and Why You Should Want To

  Feb 11th, 2013

Build Bigger Traps - GoldbergBack in the summer of 1999 I had just moved to a new home and would be kicking off my senior year of high school at a brand new school where I wouldn’t know anyone.

 

Our new home was only about 25 miles from our “old home”, so I was still able to hang out with my old friends. The only problem was that I didn’t have a job, so I didn’t have any money for gas.

 

To make matters worse, I didn’t have my own car and had to get permission from my parents before I could drive anywhere.

 

They were pretty cool about letting me drive their car, but my chances of driving back to the old neighborhood more than once or twice per week was a tough sell when I couldn’t even pay for gas.

 

The home we moved into was a new house that had just been built and our neighborhood was still being developed.

 

After I finally became sick of not having any money I decided to walk up to the trailer of the home construction company that was about 500 feet from my new house to inquire about a summer job.

 

Luck would have it that they were actually in need of a couple full-time laborers to help carry lumber, siding and bricks, and also help with any odd jobs and cleanup activities that needed to be taken care of after the various contractors were out of the way.

 

I had never worked in construction, but I was keen enough to know I was in for a ten hour a day butt whoopin’. That’s exactly what I got, too!

 

To this day, I can say without any hesitation that I’ve never physically worked as hard as I did during that summer over 13 years ago.

 

Building Bigger Traps, The Hard Way

How to Build Bigger TrapsOn my very first day, I spent the better part of the morning helping a contractor move and hang drywall.

 

Even now, I remember the jacked set of traps the contractor I was working with had.

 

His wife beater was snug against his neck and appeared to be threatening to choke off his air supply because his traps took up the entire distance of the straps on his shirt that would have hung down to around armpit height on most dudes.

 

It didn’t take me long to discover his secret…

 

After moving three or four sheets of drywall from the first floor up to the second floor my traps were burning, cramping and all but screaming at me to stop.

 

Unfortunately, I didn’t have that luxury and wound up moving another fifteen or twenty sheets over the next few hours. That experience on my first day would end up being one of only a few times that summer that my scrawny 160lb, 17-year-old self was subjected to moving more than a sheet or two of drywall at a time.

 

Still, even after more than 13 years have passed, the herculean traps of the contractor I assisted for just a few hours that first day are still emblazoned on my memory.

 

Why Build Bigger Traps

When it comes to looking our best with our shirt off, the importance of having well-developed pecs and abs – with a pair of bulging biceps – is rarely overlooked.

 

The trap muscles, on the other hand, rarely get the attention they rightly deserve.

 

There isn’t another set of muscles that are more intimidating, or that exude strength and power more vividly, than a set of mountainous traps. Even a loose-fitting shirt can’t hide a well-trained pair of trapezius muscles.

 

As you can see in my photo in the banner at the top of this page, high trap muscles also create separation from the upper pectorals and shoulder muscles, which only serves to accentuate the appearance of your upper body as a whole.

 

What’s even better is that training to build a shelf-like set of traps on your upper back doesn’t even take a great deal of extra effort and attention.

 

How to Build Bigger Trap Muscles

Build Bigger Traps - Barbell ShrugsI’m going to assume that you don’t have the time (or desire) to go lugging around sheet after sheet of 3/8″ thick drywall for eight or nine hours a day.

 

If you do, that’ll certainly do the trick, as you’ll undoubtedly have a set of traps that will force you to go up a shirt size in two or three months.

 

For those of us non-laborers who have to build our traps solely through training implements, there is only one physical movement that fully activates the trap muscles: the shrug.

 

Shrugs are the simplest lift to perfect and carry little risk of injury when the proper precautions are in place.

 

You should be able to shrug an amount of weight that is similar or greater than what you dead lift. If you’ve never performed shrugs before, it may take you a few months to build them up to this point, but you’ll eventually get there if you work hard enough.

 

You can shrug using a barbell or dumbbells. Although, most men will “out-grow” dumbbells and will be forced to use a barbell exclusively, because many gyms don’t have dumbbells that go any higher than 120lbs or so.

 

When preparing for a set of barbell shrugs you should ALWAYS load the bar while it’s suspended just above knee height by resting it on a power rack’s safety rails or on platforms.

 

Unless you have no other option, you never want to dead lift the bar from the floor to perform a set of shrugs!

 

After gripping the bar you’ll pull it upward using proper form (i.e. tightened core, chin up, chest out, concave back, using your posterior chain to pull) until you’re nearly fully erect.

 

At this point, your arms should be near full extension and holding the bar in front of your body. The bar should be touching your upper thighs or barely out in front of them.

 

You will then bring the bar upward as far as possible by shrugging your shoulders as high up as you can before allowing the bar to return to its starting position. You should hold the bar at the apex of the movement for a slight moment to maximize the tension on the upper trap muscles.

 

While shrugs are by far the most effective trap-stacking lift, the traps also receive tertiary stimulation from lifts like the shoulder press, dead lift, rack pull, power clean and snatch. So be sure to include a few of these options in your weekly training as well.

 

A Few Final Shrugging Tips for Building Bigger Traps

Build Bigger Traps Using Mixed GripAs with the dead lift, it isn’t uncommon to struggle with maintaining your grip for a full set of shrugs when using a challenging amount of weight.

 

The best way to mitigate this problem is to simply use a mixed grip, where one hand is pronated and the other is supinated.

 

The second best way to work around grip limitations is to use wrist wraps or hooks. This will take away from your grip strength development, though, so you’ll want to complete as many raw sets as possible before resorting to using wraps.

 

Otherwise you’ll become dependent on the use of wraps and will never develop the grip strength and forearm fortitude required to hold the bar without assistance.

 

Finally, it’s important that you train your traps with a good mix of high rep and low rep work in order to maximize both muscle growth and volume (click the link to learn how this works, as I won’t be covering it here).

 

Don’t be a putz like I was, ignoring directly training my traps for my first half-decade pumping iron.

 

Having a proportional set of traps will accentuate your entire upper body and enhance the strength of your appearance several times over.

 

If you want a full 12-week training plan that is specialized for bringing your upper back and traps up to snuff, while building and strengthening your body as a whole, I recommend grabbing a copy of Jason Ferruggia’s Yoked program.

 

You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

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