Do you ever take time to think about your poor, under-loved trapezius? If you don’t – or even if you do – these trap excercises from some of London’s finest minds could be perfect for you

So you’ve got your arm day, your leg day, maybe even a day for lats or quads, biceps and triceps, but what about your traps? It’s probably not worth giving up your Sunday just so you can get on the gym floor to spend 45 minutes working on your trapezius, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important to include in your weekly regimen.

“Nothing quite shows off how big you are like your traps,” says Will McAuley, strength and conditioning coach at PerformancePro. It’s true: seeing those muscles by your neck bulging up from under your T-shirt… we truly do love to see it. “The traps have a relatively even distribution of type-one (slow-twitch) and type-two (fast-twitch) muscle fibres, so it’s best to use light weights and heavy weights to ensure maximum growth.”

Once again, we tracked down some of the finest minds in British fitness to give your traps a good going over. Not in need of a rethink of your trap workout? Totally fine! We’ve also got recommendations for your glutes, chest, back and shoulders.



An excellent pulling exercise for the traps that also works on scapula stability to help prevent injury and gain better posture. 

Lay face down on an incline bench. Ensure your chest is at the top of the bench and head off. Simultaneously perform a dumbbell row with both arms, drawing the dumbbells as high as is comfortable and keeping the elbows close to your sides throughout. Ensure you fully stretch and contract the back muscles. 

Again, the cable will match our strength profile perfectly, which means more tension on the muscles, which will simulate hypertrophy. In a seated position, position the cables at shoulder height and attach a D handle. Use an overhand grip to hold the cables in the opposite hand. Keeping your elbows up and inline with your shoulders, pull the cables towards your chest. Think about driving your elbows back while keeping your chest proud. 

These are one of our top trapezius isolation exercises. Begin by standing in an upright stance with your core engaged and holding a pair of dumbbells in a side rack position. Keeping your arms straight, raise your shoulders to your highest point of elevation insuring you maintain a neutral spine. Hold at the top for one second, and then in a controlled manor lower back down to your starting position, making sure not to swing your dumbbells and keep the arms relaxed throughout the movement to keep the focus in your traps.

This highly explosive move is a favourite when using kettlebells. With it being a combination exercise, not only is it great for trap muscle growth, but it also targets the hamstrings and upper back. Four sets of 8-12 reps will do the trick.Position the kettlebell between your legs and take feet just wider than shoulder-width apart. Push your hips back and hinge forward to bring your torso almost parallel with the floor. Reaching down, grab the handle of the bell with both hands, palms facing towards you. Inhale, drop your hips and drive through the whole foot, focusing on pushing the floor away while keeping the chest up tall. As the kettlebell passes your hips, lock your legs out, shrug the shoulders and then pull aggressively with the arms. The kettlebell should rise to chest level (thumbs to chin, elbows above ears). As the kettlebell returns to the hip position, reverse the movement by pushing the hips back and hinging forward. Kettlebell returns to the floor before you reset and repeat the movement.

Starting off with a classic. Shrugs work on the traps’ main function, scapular elevation, and so the shrug is a perfect exercise to develop them. Grab a pair of dumbbells, hold them by your sides and lift your shoulders up towards your ears. Hold at the top for a second and let your shoulders relax before beginning the next rep.

For shrugs you should keep the weight relatively light, focus on a strong contraction in the muscle and keep the volume high: four sets of 15-20 reps with 60-90 seconds’ rest. This will keep tension on the traps, develop the large number of type-one fibres and build strength endurance.

Farmer’s walks hold the traps in an isometric contraction – meaning that, although the muscle doesn’t shorten and lengthen the way it does in a shrug, it still gets a tremendous amount of activity. Research has shown that weighted stretching can give a huge growth stimulus to a muscle, which is exactly what happens to the traps during a heavy farmer’s walk. Farmer’s walks are dead simple: grab some heavy dumbbells or farmers handles if your gym has them, stand up with them in your hands and walk.

Go nice and heavy for these and focus on time or distance rather than reps. Start with 3-4 sets of 40 metres, going as heavy as you can hold on to, and from there increase the weight, distance and/or time. Rest up to two minutes to let your grip recover, or even longer when you start going really heavy. If you’re purely interested in building your traps, don’t be afraid to use straps, but you’ll miss out on the amazing grip development from the exercise.

While usually performed as an assistance exercise for Olympic weightlifting, the clean pull is amazing at building traps as it uses very heavy weights for maximum explosiveness so really develops the type-two fibres in the muscle.

Don’t get too technical on this movement if you’re just using it for muscular development: take the bar out of the rack like an RDL, bring it down to just above the knee, and as you bring the bar back up your thighs, try to jump, shrug and pull the bar up to your chin while keeping it close to your body. The weight should be heavy enough that you don’t actually jump, and the weight shouldn’t get much higher than your belly button. As the weight is heavier, go lower on reps but higher on sets to get enough volume in. Five sets of 3-5 reps with two minutes of rest will make sure the weight is heavy and ensure you’re getting lots of trapezius activation. Again, you can use straps to help hold on to the bar, as the main focus here should be your traps, not your grip.

Upright rows are most commonly performed for the lateral deltoid but provide an excellent stimulus for the traps as well. The top of the movement requires the shoulder blades to rotate and elevate, and the elbows start adducting, or moving towards the midline of the body, all of which require a contraction from the traps.

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Grab a barbell or dumbbells and keep your grip quite narrow. Lift your elbows up towards the ceiling, keeping your wrists straight and lower than your elbows. As the weight gets close to your chin, shrug your shoulders and squeeze your traps. Similar to shrugs, stay relatively light with these, focusing on the movement and muscular contraction. Aim for four sets of 10-15 reps with 90 seconds’ rest in between each set.

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