T Nation

Beefing Up My Back & Upper Chest


Guys and Gals: I am tall (6'2") and naturally thin especially lacking in depth in the upper body - I am talking about traps and the very upper chest. I need some mass to get the look of power that I think is so impressive with well built traps and thick upper chest - you know "The Kaz Look" (yeah, I wish!).

I have tried shrugs for traps in the past but did not have much success with them and I have read that some trainers say shrugs are not the best exercise for traps - but perhaps I was not doing them for enough volume? If shrugs ARE a good exercise then should they be worked for high volume?

Lately I have been concentrating on pulls such as hang cleans and presses, dumbbell snatches, etc in an attempt to focus on this area. Yes, I also squat and deadlift at least twice/week and my workouts consist of other compound exercises - chins, rows, presses, sometimes bench press for high volume, usually either EDT or 20+ single reps, sometimes 5x5, or 3 reps x 8 sets and other set/rep patterns. Yes, I am eating lots of food and its a real balancing act between gaining muscle or fat.

Will overhead presses build up the upper chest or would incline pressing be better (my home gym is not really conducive to incline pressing safely) - or is there a way to flat bench that will target the very upper chest? To be honest I have been avoiding the flat bench because my lower pecs are out of proportion with the rest of my body -and flat benches don't seem to develop the upper pecs for me.

I love the OH Press but I am not real strong in it - I can only press 135# - maybe I just need to work at getting alot stronger in the OH Press? Would specializing in the OH Press do the job for this area?

I would like to specialize on this area until I bring it up to par with the rest of my body - any exercise/set/rep suggestions are welcome.

Thanks in advance!


For traps my suggestion is to add 100+ lbs to your dead lift over time. Your traps will grow whether you want them to or not. Also try dead lifts out of a rack from just below the knees.

For upper chest because of the number your gave for overhead presses I'm going to assume you just aren't very large in general. The bigger you get overall the more filled in the upper chest will be. Incline pressing will be effective, but until you add significant amounts of meat onto your chest(and the rest of you) you won't have a good upper chest.


I have noticed large amounts of improvement in my traps and shoulders since I began focusing on adding weight to my rack deadlift and barbell row.

I dont think specializing in any one thing is going to get you looking yoked. If you want to look like a big strong guy, then the one thing I can 100% recommend is becoming a big strong guy.

Overhead pressing can develop your upper chest depending on how you do the motion.


It really is this simple. Just keep plugging away for a couple years, eat big and get strong on squats, deads, benches, presses, rows, and maybe cleans and snatches if you can do them right, and your physique will just kind of come together. There's no other way to explain it.

It's hard to "cheat" insofar as looking like you're strong as a bull without actually achieving it. By the same token, if you can move the weight, you'll get the look. Just be methodical and build up the big lifts over time.

Remember, scale increases plus bar weight increases equal muscle on your body. If you get stronger on all the lifts I listed above, you won't have holes in your physique, save for MAYBE calves, upper arms, quad sweep and other crap bodybuilders care about. But your traps and upper chest will be fine.

Plus you'll be strong, which I've heard some people still think is cool in its own right.


If he works up to a 405 lb ass to grass squat, he wont have to worry about quad sweep much either.


I agree with everything above. Stick to the Squats and Deads. You also can't go wrong with the olympic lifts for your traps. If size is your main concern and you are training hard, then maybe you should post up here some of your diet. After all, if you lift hard but don't eat right then you won't see a huge difference.


Or use power shrugs....load up the bar with a lot of weight and perform an explosive shrug! This is very similar to a clean pull or snatch pull movement.


Thank you all for your input. Yeah, you're right - I just need to concentrate on getting stronger in the big lifts - it always gets back to that no matter how much we want to find the "magic" formula.

Yes, I am all for being strong - although my original post made it sound like I am after the power look only - I understand that form follows function.

I am really loving the feeling in my back muscles after doing hang cleans/press in one workout and then one-arm db snatches in the next - I am going to milk these on a good cycle and see where it takes me.

After that I will give the power shrugs a go for more volume than I have used in the past - and see what happens with them.

Of course all my routines revolve around squats and deads, oh presses and/or bench, dips, chins, etc.

Thanks again for your help!


Try Christian Thibaudeau's "Look of Power" :


Yea, if you're lookin for a quick trap fix, these are it. High reps work great. You may need straps though.