Working your traps might not feel like a lot of fun, and if you’re time poor in the gym then it’s one of those areas you tend to just hope will be affected by compound movements like deadlifts. But if you want a symmetrically sculpted upper torso and an imposing muscular look, you need to build impressive traps. Strong arms need to be connected to boulder shoulders and thick traps to really get that strong, athletic look. Tom Hardy is about 3 inches shorter than Christian Bale, but somehow he looked huge when he played Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, and before that when he was in Warrior – his apparent size was mainly due to his impressive traps. The thing with training traps is that it takes some real effort and often isn’t pleasant – but you might grow to love it just like with other challenging areas of the body.
To build up your traps need time under tension. For this reason doing heavy farmers walks are a great exercise for your upper body, including your traps. We’ve all experienced the pain from carrying heavy shopping bags home – same basic exercise at play here. If you’re not doing farmers walks with kettlebells or dumbbells, then add them to your workout regime.
Going back to the idea of keeping your traps under tension – shrugs that resemble some sort of jig aren’t going to be as productive as doing shrugs with a 5 second hold at the top of the exercise. Because the shrug only has a short range of motion you need to keep the muscle under tension for longer by contracting the traps as hard as you can and focus on using them (not your arms) to lift the dumbbells. Do sets of around 10 repetitions with the 5 second hold and your traps will be burning.
Front raises are often done as part of a shoulder workout to focus on the anterior deltoid, by lifting dumbbells or a plate up in line with your eyes. To give your your traps a great workout, try doing front raises with a plate and lifting the weight all the way up above your head. By furthering the range of motion of this exercise you will also incorporate the posterior deltoids into the movement, working both sides of your shoulders and your traps. So give these a go next time you are working your shoulders as a way to build stronger shoulders and thicker traps.
Olympic lifts and power lifts are movements that should be done with caution and only after proper instruction. It pays to get someone to show you the right technique on these because a rounded back and unstable base can lead to injuries when you are trying to throw up a power clean. Olympic lifts are great exercises for your entire body and will work your traps, but be sure to take the time to get your technique right, then start light and slowly build up the weight. And if it doesn’t quite feel right, then you’re probably not doing it right and it’s best to drop the barbell and get someone to run your through your technique. They’re not easy to get a command of, but once you do you will have added some great exercises to your arsenal.
The key to growing thick, impressive traps is time under tension. Incorporate a few of these exercise into your workout programs and remember to focus on the muscle you are trying to build and target it with time under heavy tension. Increase the limited range of movement your traps have available to them but squeezing and holding the exercise at the top. You’ll wake up sore, and sore traps can be quite uncomfortable to carry around, but it’ll be worth it for the day you wake up and can’t hear properly because your traps are smothering your ears. And the best thing is, impressive traps look good no matter what you are wearing.