Best Trap Exercises

By Jason Ferruggia

DeadliftThe best trap exercises to build muscle are the deadlift, the hang clean and the shrug. If you had to pick only one the deadlift would be the one to pick. The deadlift packs meat on your upper back and traps like no other exercise in existence. It is also the most basic exercise there is and the one that trains more muscle groups than just about any other movement. When you deadlift heavy on a regular basis you are bound to end up with some big traps. It’s almost unavoidable.

As a beginner you should deadlift two to three times per week and keep the reps at an average of five per set until you are confident that your form is picture perfect. Intermediates can deadlift once every five to seven days and advanced lifters are better off pulling once every seven to fourteen days. When you get more advanced you can deadlift for slightly more reps but going above twelve to fifteen usually isn’t recommended. This is because it can be very difficult to maintain perfect form for that many reps and the risk of injury becomes very high. I recommend working up to a couple heavy sets of four to six reps followed by a lighter back off set of ten to twelve reps. This will definitely get your traps to grow, big time.

Next on the list of the best trap exercises is the hang clean. Take one look at the trap development on Olympic lifters and you will instantly see what an effective trap builder the hang clean is. Olympic lifters; even the light ones, always have great trap development due to years of cleans and snatches. Since the clean from the floor is harder to teach and more technical I prefer to stick with the hang clean. Most somewhat coordinated lifters can learn to hang clean with decent form in just a few workouts. And since we are training for trap size and not the Olympics, the form does not have to be text book. It just has to be “good enough” to get the job done. As long as you can pull efficiently and safely you’re good to go.

Hang cleans can be done two to three times per week no matter what level lifter you are. If you are training for speed the recommendation is to keep the reps at six or less, but since we are only using them for increased trap size you can feel free to go as high as twenty reps on these. It really doesn’t matter. Just do them. Some days you can go heavy for five sets of six, other days you can go lighter for one to three sets of ten to twenty reps. Mix it up.

Last on the list of the best trap exercises is the shrug. Since just about anyone can learn how to shrug properly in two seconds I am not going to spend a lot of time on this one. Grab a heavy barbell or a pair of dumbbells and shrug your shoulders straight up as high as you can trying to touch your ears. Do two to five sets of six to twenty reps once or twice per week.

Now go get your yoke on!

Jason Ferruggia


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