Trap muscles aren’t talked about often enough, especially for what they do. Trap muscles are designed to help with postural integrity, supporting the weight of your bicep and tricep muscles, and overall just help your upper body.
That’s why big traps aren’t just admirable, they’re necessary to maintain a bodybuilder-like physique.
So how do you get big traps? There are a few ways, but they’re not all going to be the most star-studded, most amazing-looking workouts you’ve ever seen.
The trap muscles are important and difficult to exercise, so let’s help you get better spinal stabilization, posture, and improve that upper body bulk at the same time.
What are Traps?
Trap muscles are a shortened way to say trapezius muscle, which is a muscle that controls how you turn your head left and right. It helps you move your neck, your shoulders, your arms, and basically controls the movement of much of your torso.
So why aren’t people exercising their traps more often? Why don’t we hear about it in mainstream fitness?
It’s because it’s a difficult muscle to work out, and sometimes people just don’t know how to. It doesn’t pose a simple exercise, so it doesn’t resonate with mainstream fitness as much.
The reason they’re called traps instead of just “the trap muscle” is because you have your left trapezius, and your right trapezius.
If they were all one muscle, you would be nearly immobilized across your entire body when you felt a tear. They separate to allow for the spine’s positioning without interrupting it.
Movement and posture are the two main ways that your traps help you. These are critical to train.
Why is it Important to Have Big and Strong Traps?
Having big and strong traps is excellent for a multitude of reasons, but we’re also going to talk about where they’re not important, and that will depend on your specific fitness and athletic goals.
For now, let’s talk about why they’re important.
Stabilization: Your trap muscles stabilize your spine, your shoulders, shoulder blades, and other muscles that they surround. They’re responsible for effortlessly proper posture, and keeping your neck and spine neutral while you perform exercises like dumbbell rows and deadlifts.
Rotation: When you rotate your neck or turn your body, your traps are activated. Because the average person isn’t constantly turning (it’s easier to turn your entire body), you don’t train your traps just by using them. They’re a priority muscle so they don’t need to be worked out as often as many assume for them to function well.
Posture: Strong traps mean great posture. It’s not just about keeping a neutral neck and spine, but about keeping your shoulders back and your chest forward, which your traps help with. When you enlarge your traps, good posture becomes almost effortless.
Exercises for Building Big Traps
There are a lot of exercises you can do, each engaging your traps in a slightly different way. This is how you achieve trap dominance.
Face Pulls: They could have come up with a better name for this exercise, but it’s right on the money. A face pull is when you use a resistance band, preferably one with handles, and tie or secure one end to an immovable structure. The best thing for this is a smith machine that’s bolted to the floor, or a support beam. You walk backwards until the band begins to give resistance, and then pull the resistance band towards your face. You want your arms up near your neck, and your elbows to bend in when you pull to really engage those traps.
Military Press: Two dumbbells, two trap muscles, one amazing workout. Sounds like a movie trailer, doesn’t it? Military press dumbbell raises require you to put your dumbbells in a horizontal position, so the end of either dumbbell is parallel with your shoulders, and raise them up until your arms are nearly fully extended. When you lower them, you return them to a parallel-to-shoulder position nice and slow so you can engage your traps, then raise again. Get ready to see some bigger shoulders and biceps, too.
Dumbbell Snatches: These ones really engage your biceps, glutes, and most importantly your traps. In a squatting position, you’re going to lower your body down and lift up a dumbbell in a horizontal position. Stand explosively, and as the dumbbell hangs in your hand, you’re going to raise it up aggressively, going upward until you meet your shoulder. It’s okay if the motion comes out from your chest a little bit, but you want to keep it as close to your chest as possible. We don’t want a major arm rotation that could lead to an injury.
Barbell Shrugs: Get ready at the squat machine, and hold onto the barbell. While holding it, you only want to lift with your shoulders, not with your arms. Your arms are simply stabilizing the weight to avoid sudden jerks and tearing. Shrug and engage your traps and shoulders, pulling the barbell up with you. Lower gently to avoid sudden movements, and that’s it—it doesn’t look that impressive, but it’s how you build up your trap muscles effectively with weights.
Kettlebell Shrugs: Not keen on using the barbell, or want to do it at home without a squat machine? (I mean, how many of us own an at-home squat machine, right?) Use kettlebells instead. Start off small, but just like the barbell shrugs, you want to hold onto the kettlebells and only lift with your shoulders. Stand straight with your neck and back neutral and have the kettlebells by your side, and then lift up just using your shoulders.
There are dozens and dozens of trap muscle exercises out there, and even more iterations of each exercise for you to mess around with. The point is to find an exercise routine that works for you and that you enjoy doing.
How Does Nutrition Help Traps?
Your traps are muscles that aren’t so different from other muscles in your body. They require protein, complex vitamins, and of course a way to refuel your glycogen supply so that you can actually exercise them.
Even though your traps are essential muscles, they still need nutrition if you want them to function properly.
Water: This isn’t a joke—dehydration is one of the main reasons that you can tear or pull your traps. Hydrate before you work them out, or you’ll be increasing your risks.
Protein: Whether you get it solely from diet or you’re supplementing with pre-workout shakes (or why not both?) you need to get steady protein if you want to actually build your traps
Vitamin D: If you want your muscles to actually function properly, you’ll need to bulk up on vitamin D. This is critical for maintaining gained muscle mass and reduces your risk of losing muscle over time if you’re not getting it from your diet. Finding supplements that include vitamin D is extremely important.
Vitamin A: Protein synthesis is the name of the game, and vitamin A is what makes it happen. Also, if you’re a male and reading this, it’s important to know that vitamin A is great to maintain high levels of testosterone. For women, this is important to build up enough testosterone to make better gains without having to put in a crazy amount of extra effort.
Vitamin E: You may just know this like that thing they add into your multivitamin supplement, but vitamin E plays a serious role in the plasma membranes of the cells in your muscles. You’re tearing the membranes of your muscles when you grow them, so in order to make them grow back properly and expand, you need vitamin E, full stop.
Vitamin C: It’s not just for fueling your immune system—vitamin C also helps with antioxidants, helps protect your skin through collagen production (which helps prevent stretch marks), but it also comes into play for muscle growth and health.
Vitamin B (Complex): Vitamin B12 makes up nerve cells, blood cells, and so many other cells in the body. This directly helps with replenishing muscle cells but also helps with the metabolization of protein. If you can’t properly metabolize protein, it goes into waste and in turn ends up as wasted nutritional potential that your muscles could be gaining from.
Bigger and Better than Ever Before
Your traps are vitally important to every element of how you exercise. Without stable and strong traps, you stand the risk of injury, lack of control, lack of stability, and more.
Follow these exercises to build them up and improve your overall physical fitness.
If you’re serious about doing more for your body, your traps are the perfect place to start.
This strengthens everything and makes it easier to transition to other workout types, all while supporting your upper body to do whatever it is that you want to achieve with fitness.
Justin Rodriguez has spent most of his adult life inspiring people to take their fitness more seriously. He is not new to the business of providing practical solutions for those looking to set and smash their fitness goals. From sharing professional tips and tricks to recommending awesome products, Justin Rodriguez helps just about anyone who wants to get the best out of their workout routines.Having gathered a lot of experience both in and outside the gym, Justin Rodriguez uses DSW Fitness as a medium to show you exactly how to get that great-looking body with toned muscles you’ve always wanted.