The trapezius is a favorite muscle of many lifters. They give you a strong appearance and many of the shrug variations used to train them allow for heavy weight to be used. However, they are also a vital muscle for shoulder health and stabilization. However, many lifters train the trapezius incorrectly by doing only heavy shrugs with a short range of motion.
The traps are actually made of three distinct areas: upper fibers, middle fibers, and lower fibers. The upper fibers are responsible for shrugging the shoulders up towards the ears, as with a traditional shrug exercise. The middle fibers help to retract the scapulae during rowing movements. The lower fibers are responsible for pulling the scapulae downward, like in a pullup.
As you can see, to train the entire trapezius muscle will require a multitude of movements, as simply doing shrugs will not suffice. So let’s look at sample workout designed to hit all of the areas of the traps.
Explosive Barbell Shrugs
This is a variation of an exercise done by Olympic lifters. However, it seems to be a favorite of just about everyone who wants to use as much weight as possible on their shrugs. Perform this exercise just as you would a regular shrug, except that at the beginning you will bend slightly at the hips and explosively thrust the hips forward to get the bar moving. This creates momentum that will allow you to carry heavy weight through to the top of your shrug.
This exercise will target the upper traps. Most bodybuilding exercises are typically done more slowly, so this explosive movement will complement your other training and really help to blast your traps into new growth.
Start out with 4 sets of 4-6 reps.
Band Face Pulls
Band exercises aren’t just for old! That said, you are going to need to make sure you find a band that is strong enough to provide you adequate resistance. To do this exercise wrap the band around a stable post at eye level. Face towards the post and grab an end of the band in each hand. Step back away from the post so that when your arms are extended there is tension in the band. From this position you are going to do a rowing motion, bringing your hands towards your face. Concentrate on squeezing the scapulae together and downwards as you do this.
This exercise is great for the middle traps and can result in a great pump if done for high repetitions.
Do 3 sets of 15-20 reps.
Lower Trap Raises
This is a seldom-seen exercise that is great for the lower traps. To do this exercise lay face down on a 30-degree inclined bench. Hold a plate in your hands at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions. A 10 or 25 pound plate (5 or 10 kilos) is adequate for most lifters. With your elbows straight begin to raise the plate up, just as you would with a standing front raise.
The first half of the movement is easy due to your position on the bench. However, it is important to avoid using momentum to complete the more difficult second half of the movement. You should also use a slow eccentric tempo, especially in the top half.
Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
So that’s how you do smart trapezius training. Replace the typical meathead workouts of barbell shrugs, dumbbell shrugs, and machine shrugs with this more balanced workout and you will be rewarded with better development and a healthier shoulder joint.