Ain’t no mice on these shoulders…there are too many traps.
Cringey joke aside, the traps are an incredibly important muscle group on the body. The traps support our upper back, shoulders, and provide us with strength to stabilize presses overhead, keep the bar close in pulls, and maintain form to lockout deadlifts. In fact, in nearly every movement we perform that includes the middle and upper back — the traps are typically at work in some degree.
What’s potentially so great about the traps is that they can be directly and indirectly trained.
For example, you can perform isolated movements like shoulder shrugs, or bigger compounds such as deadlifts to strengthen and build the traps.
No matter your strength sport, lifting style, or fitness level, the traps should be a muscle that receive some attention in your workout program. If you want traps like Bane in Batman, then some direct training can be beneficial, and if you want to improve your deadlift 1-RM , then get to training. Below we’ve included our favorite four favorite trap exercises.
The shrug is a trap building staple. This movement tops our list because it provides a direct training stimulus for the traps and can be performed in energy conserving manners. What do you mean by that? Well, if you’re performing barbell shrugs, then you can grab the weight from a rack to save yourself energy from pulling the weight from the floor. If your goal is loading the traps exclusively, then shrugs are one of your best bets.
Simple, yet effective. Learn how to properly perform shrugs with our barbell and dumbbell shrugs guide!
2. Farmer’s Walk
Farmer carries make our number two spot for our favorite trap exercises for three distinct reasons. First, farmer carries are an awesome exercise that train the traps, along with the core, grip, and work the body as a whole, so they’re a great move to also perform for conditioning. Second, farmer carries can be performed with multiple implements such as barbells, dumbbells, or farmer carry bars, which make them easy to use in every gym setting.
Lastly, farmer carries require little to no previous exercise knowledge, which make them an awesome lift for every level athlete and offer a lot of benefit. If you’re interested in improving your body’s overall strength and improving your conditioning, then farmer carries are a great bet.
Check out our farmer carry guide for an in-depth how-to!
3. Suitcase Deadlift
The final movement on our favorite trap exercise list is the suitcase deadlift, aka one of the most functional movements one can perform. The suitcase deadlift is great for building trap strength and size, along with providing a heavy focus on the core.
On top of building the traps, this movement is fantastic for the obliques and the torso’s deeper stabilizer muscles. And if you want extra conditioning, then you can add a walk after the deadlift to turn this movement into a suitcase carry.
Check out why the suitcase deadlift is so great!
4. Overhead Carries
Overhead carries could be used as a staple in every athlete’s program. This movement not only improves stabilization of weight overhead, but it helps condition the smaller musculature of the upper back, along with the traps. If your traps are lagging or weak, then more than likely it will be very apparent after performing this exercise for a few sets.
Typically, overhead carries are performed with dumbbells, but barbells could also work if the goal is solely overhead barbell lockout and stabilization.
Read how to perform overhead carries!