Build Your Traps. Ditch the Shrugs.
“Every skinny, weak guy has abs. Traps are the true sign of strength.“Paul Carter
I’d like to help save the weight-lifting world from the over-reliance on shrugs to build your traps and upper back.
Aside from the fact that half aren’t even shrugging properly, there are far more effective methods that can be utilized to build thick, powerful traps and a powerful looking back.
3 Moves to Build Your Traps
I want to give you 3 movements you can integrate into your training to really build your Traps and look YOKED.
Nothing screams strength and power like a set of big, thick Traps and a big upper back.
At the end of the article, I’m including a sample training session you can try out if you want a fresh approach to Back training with an emphasis on building bigger, thicker Traps.
All of these methods and more are included in my programming, SWOLE TOWN, available through the TrainHeroic app. Check it out for free here.
The Snatch Grip High Pull
This movement is hands down the number one most effective way to build your upper back and traps quickly.
The trap muscles are busy all day being utilized in a support capacity, and then we normally work them by shrugging… a slow movement done usually for medium to high reps.
Maybe it’s time to ditch the shrugs.
The High Pull is at the opposite end of the spectrum.
The explosive nature of the movement targets and stimulates the fast twitch muscle fibers of the upper back, which are far more capable of explosive growth.
I have witnessed growth in the traps and upper back after just a handful of sessions, and that’s no BS!
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How To Perform
I first learned this movement by reading an article on T-Nation.com by Christian Thibaudeau many years ago. I’ll post a link to that article at the bottom of this post.
My goal is to help you, the reader… not make myself out to be some sort of guru.
The article is fantastic, and worth reading after this one if you’re serious about taking your back training to the next level.
I normally prefer to perform the movement from a standing position (hang position), as I am looking to target the upper back/Traps and not necessarily accrue the fatigue from pulling from the floor.
Be sure to really focus on the explosive pull of the traps, and keep the bar close to your body, elbows high (higher than the wrists).
When your traps are sorer than you thought possible the following day, you will know I wasn’t kidding!
Try 3 sets of 5-7 reps to start. Use straps, and use a weight where you can be explosive with proper form, yet still challenged.
The bar should reach at least to your lower chest on each pull.
When you’re pulling some decent weight in the high pull, you will be amazed at the results. It’s a game changer.
There are plenty of other ways to build up the traps and upper back, but I like this movement so much and I’ve seen such great results from it that it is definitely number one on the list of Trap Builders.
#2 – Hise Shrug
Ok, ok… I know I said ditch the shrugs.
But this is not the typical shrug most people are performing in the gym.
Hise shrugs put the weight on top of the Traps.
This can be accomplished with a barbell on your back, or by using the calf raise machine.
How To Perform
Put a barbell on your back, right on top of the traps.
Brace your trunk and Flex the Glutes for stability..
Shrug up, hold, and back down nice and slow.
In my opinion, it is better to do these with the calf raise machine. It’s far more comfortable.
Why are They So Good?
Hise Shrugs load the Traps and Upper back directly, and in a unique way that they are likely not used to.
The feeling of fatigue in the Traps from performing these is much different than traditional shrugs.
The new stimulus these can provide can be a solid way to induce some additional growth.
#3 – Farmer Carries
Farmer carries are one of the absolute best, and least utilized builders of the Traps and Back.
The key word here again is TENSION.
Holding onto heavy implements and walking for an extended period of time (20-60 seconds) puts tremendous tension on the Traps, Back, Arms and Trunk.
That tension will lead to muscle growth, improved grip strength, improved Core strength and stability, and for sure some thick ass Traps.
How to Perform
To perform Farmer Carries, simply grab 2 heavy implements (Dumbbells, Kettlebells, Farmer Carry handles, etc..) and walk.
Be sure to:
- Keep the chest up and stay upright. Do not hunch forward. If you can’t keep your posture in line, the weight is too heavy.
- Challenge yourself. Like any other lift, you want to use progressive overload on these. Always look to get stronger and challenge the body by increasing weight, reps, distance, or all of the above.
- Take small, choppy steps. Taking long strides will increase the risk of injury by putting one limb at a time under a heavy load.
Sample Workout For a Big Back and Huge Traps.
*Using this style of training, I would typically hit Back twice in the training week. This session would be one, and the other would be more traditional back training, comprised of Rows, Chin ups, etc.
|SG High Pull||3-4||5-7||2-3 Mins|
|2-3 mins |
|Rear Delt Partials||1-2||Max Reps||As needed|
*See video below for Rear Delt Partials if you aren’t familiar.
There’s a lot more to building up that YOKE than just shrugging yourself to death.
Shrugs can be effective, but you need a lot more variety than that to really build an impressive upper back and to really make your Traps look scary big.
The three movements I’ve listed here are the ones I believe to be the absolute best bang for your buck when it comes to building thick, strong Traps. I hope you’ll give them a try.
As always, I hope this article helps get you one step closer to your best self. Keep pushing!
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