It was my back workout today, and I try to learn something new everyday to share with you guys. If I don’t learn something new, I will simply share some tips or experiences. I have many of those since I have been working out consistently for over 20 years and still loving it!
The trapezius muscles, almost always called traps for short, are located high on the upper back between your neck and your shoulders. Like all muscles, they vary by genetics and how you work them. I have never had good traps and still do not. However, I have made some progress over the last couple of years with these few tweaks.
I always did dumbbell shrugs, which is one of the main staples of building traps. The problem is, that I did not do them 100% correct. You need to go reasonably heavy with the weight, but not so heavy that you are using ANYTHING else except your traps to pull the weight up. As a test, I suggest starting with a lower weight, such as fourty pound dumbbells and work your way up until you feel like you are cheating, and then you know about what weight to generally use. You should have the dumbbells at your sides, arms FULLY extended straight downward with your palms facing in. Keep your back straight and your shoulders back. Bring the weight up SLOWLY, but concentrate on only using your traps to pull the weight up. That is the key. It is so easy to bring your arms and shoulders into the exercise to help get the weight up, which is what most people do when they are doing heavy weight. Bring the weight up as high as you can, and be sure you are pulling up and slightly back with the weight, to hit the traps the most efficiently. Pause for a couple seconds at the very top of the contraction, and then SLOWLY bring the weight down to your starting position.
You also need to vary the exercises you do. If you ALWAYS do dumbbell shrugs, then you may build some big traps, but you won’t be working the full trap. Use barbell shrugs as well, with various hand positions and using the same tips I gave for the dumbbell shrugs. Be sure to do sets with the bar in front of your body, as well as sets with the bar behind you. You can also use the Smith Machine, which helps when you are doing heavier weight and your grip can’t handle it. You have a built in spotter with the Smith Machine. There is also a trap/deadlift machine that you can use as well. Heck, you can even grab a couple of 45 lb plates with each hand and do shrugs with those.
So if you are only reading the closing paragraph here, lessons learned should be to ONLY use your traps to bring the weight up, pausing and doing the repetitions slowly and controlled, as well as vary your media for shrugging using dumbbells, barbells and machines. With these tips, you should be able to grow some traps which will add a lot to your goal of looking big!