Big Traps

Ok guys, what workouts would you say gave you the most growth in your traps? Obviously genetics play a part, but has anyone really found something that blew their traps up?


Power cleans and deadlifts have always been my mainstays. Snatch deadlifts are especially good (for a description with pictures, check out Strength Training, Bodybuilding & Online Supplement Store - T NATION)

Also, Haney Shrugs (barbell behind the back) are fantastic. I know Poliquin also recommends one arm dumbbell shrugs on a steep incline bench because they allow for greater ROM and neuromuscular facilitation. Also, you’ll be hitting them pretty hard with back and delt work, so be sure not to overtrain them. You could even pair back and delts together (e.g.: start with power cleans, then superset db military presses with chins, then superset upright rows with bentover rows, etc.) to assist in recovery.

Just add a couple of sets of power snatches to your back chain days (I would do them first) and wait two months. (3-4 sets of 3-8 reps).

Heavy partial deadlifts with a shrug. Pull from around knee level.

3 things: deadlifts, kettlebell lifts,
olympic style lifting. End of story.
Dumbbell shrugs never did a thing for me.

I’ve found that to shred your back and get big traps, power cleans (yes, power cleans, but I would use them sparingly if you just want to focus on your traps), standing rows, and bent over rows all work pretty well. If your talking your upper traps focus on the upright rows… my workout partner likes shrugs but they never did much for me. Also military press. Btw, the big shoulder look is in despite popular belief.

I swear by the deadlift…my traps grew quite significantly from them. To the point where I now avoid trap exercises because they are now somewhat overdeveloped as compared to my shoulders. You will need some shrug movement for complete development though.

Besides the basics - deadlifts, shrugs, I’ve gotten great results in both my traps and upper back from doing power shrugs. Set the pins at slightly higher than knee height in the rack and use your hips and calves to help pull the weight up and back. Reset before each rep. These will allow you to use a good 100 lbs more than your strict shrug weight.

I remembered a thread from last summer, which might be of some interest to you. Some dude named John modified Poliquin’s calf routine. Here it is:

John 2001-05-31 04:08:34
Here it is: Day 1: High-Volume Exercise A: Trap Superset
A1) Seated Dumbbell Shrug: 3 x 10-5-5 (one set of 10 reps, followed by two of 5 reps) at a 101 tempo A2) Upright Row: 3 x 20-30 at a 101 tempo

Exercise B: Barbell Shrug B1) Barbell Shrug: 10 x 10-30 at a 111 tempo, ten seconds rest between eat set

Day 2: Low-Volume Exercise A: Triple Drop Dumbbell Shrug (or Hammer Strength, I guess)

A1) Triple Drop Dumbbell Shrug 3 x 10-10-10 (in other words, three drop sets) at a 121 tempo, resting 90 seconds between sets. Get a good stretch at the bottom.

If you want to see the full thread, put ‘luke sauder traps’ into the subject field of the forum search engine. Also, hopefully Monkeyboy chimes in as he is hardcore into trap training, if I remember correctly.


Powercleans and shrugs are the two movements I would focus on (some people would include deads, you should be doing these anyway). For shrugs, mix up DB’s and a trap bar, and go as heavy as you can while still getting a full ROM. Try to stuff your shoulders into your ears without “hunching” your neck down to meet them (a common mistake). Good luck!

I don’t directly train my traps and they are still my best body part. I’m still doing deads and rows that involve the traps, but no shrugging or cleans. When I did train my traps I found that I saw the best results from giant setting shrugs: 10 reps wide grip overhand, 10 reps narrow grip overhand and 10 reps narrow grip underhand. I think this is an Ian King thing. Hurts bad, works good.

Try this one. Set the pins on a squat rack at about knee level. Slap a few 45 on the bar and do kind of a half dead lift but add a shrug at the top of the movement. It seems to get mine sore. Superset with db shrugs for added burn. B Chief

Any pulling movement like deadlifts, olympic lifts & pulls work really well. I can remember the first time I did clean pulls my traps were inbelievably sore the next day. Shrugs & Hise shrugs are good too.

I like what some of the oldtimers used to call “heaves.” It’s a shrug, but you start the bar’s upward travel with a bit of leg drive. I went for years doing strict shrugs and saw little development. Added these a few years back and couldn’t believe the difference. I imagine that the bigger weights it allows creates the growth, particularly if you strive to control the bar’s descent after each rep.

Hise (sp?) breathing shrugs worked great for me. It takes the grip out of the factor by placing the bar over your shoulders like you’re squatting. Therefore, it allows you to use a greater amount of weight. It also built a lot of thickness in my upper back. Do a search on T-Mag and it will give you all the details.

Cleans and deads.

Cleans, snatches, deadlifts and heavy shrugs.