The Best Exercises to Build Trapezius Muscles

Your trapezius muscles — or traps — are the muscles that are between your neck and your shoulders, and they’re the muscles that will make you look very large and hulking. If size is your goal, this is the muscle you want to develop. Here are the 5 best exercises to build big traps:

Barbell Shrug

This is the first exercise that you’ll learn when exercising your traps, as it’s a very easy one that will give your muscles a very good workout. It will put a bit of a strain on your neck if you don’t maintain the proper form, so be very careful with this exercise.

Make sure to hold the bar correctly, and stand perfectly straight when you perform the shrugs. You don’t want to put the weight on your back, but just keep it all on the traps when you shrug upwards. Start out with light weight, and work up to heavier weights as you can.

Upright Cable Row

You’ll need a cable machine for this exercise, but it will be a very effective one to build those massive traps. Once again, posture is very important for this exercise. You need to ensure that your back is perfectly straight, because that is the best way to take the strain off your back and focus it on your shoulders.

Don’t lean backward to give yourself more power, and don’t lean forward either! Pause for a second as you lower the cable back down, as that will eliminate your momentum and stop you from cheating. Slowly lower the cable, and stay in the proper position.

Snatch Hang High Pull

This is a much more advanced exercise, so only do it if you are working with a trainer or are yourself an experienced bodybuilder. It’s a lot like a Power Clean, but you don’t actually return the weight to the floor — but keep it hanging.

Learn how to do this exercise correctly before trying it. Use back support if necessary, and be very careful to maintain proper posture as you bring the weight back to its original position. Even just a slight jerk of your body can throw out your back.

Overhead Barbell Shrug

Adding a variation to the shrug exercise will help to focus the workout more, and will force your muscles to push upwards rather than just pull. It will change the movement of your muscles, giving them a completely different workout.

Avoid locking your elbows when holding the weight overhead, as that can put too much pressure on your tendons and ligaments — potentially causing injuries. Tighten your core, and keep your back completely straight. Elevate your shoulders, and lift your head and chest to maintain perfect form while focusing on doing this exercise.

Seated Dumbbell Shrug

This will be the perfect exercise for those who have wrist problems. Holding a barbell over your head or letting it hang down can strain the wrists, but the dumbbells won’t place too much pressure on these joints. There’s much less risk of injury, but there’s also less focus placed on the muscle.

Sit up perfectly straight as you perform this exercise, and make sure that only your shoulders are moving with the shrug. You’ll be tempted to contract your neck muscles, but focus on isolating the traps. Tighten your core as much as possible, and keep your spine erect.



  • For strength gain, do 4 to 6 reps per set.
  • For general fitness, do 12 to 15 reps per set.
  • For endurance and weight loss, do 20 to 25 reps per set.


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