𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙏𝙧𝙖𝙥𝙚𝙯𝙞𝙪𝙨 𝙈𝙪𝙨𝙘𝙡𝙚 𝙤𝙧 "𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙏𝙧𝙖𝙥𝙨"
This is a short article geared towards bodybuilding style training, so that means anyone who is training to add muscle and improve shape.
Even if you are a strength athlete who doesn't follow a typical bodybuilding type plan, I would still argue that the imbalances talked about in this article are important to watch for as overdevelopment of upper traps is not uncommon in strength type training.
When we see big traps they can either look quite impressive or look so big that they make everything else appear small and narrow..... and can quite frankly look a bit ridiculous.
Not only that, over development of the upper traps can lead to unnecessary recruitment during many exercises plus a constant hunching of the shoulders.
Let's take a look at anatomy :
The muscle itself is split into 3 parts (see picture) upper, middle and lower.
1️. Upper trap and usually the most visible - this lifts the shoulder girdle
2️. Lower trap - antagonist (works in opposition) to the upper trap and lowers the shoulder girdle
3️. Middle trap - which in unison with the rhomboid (which partially lies underneath) , brings the shoulder blades together.
As with any body part we want to avoid imbalances and the same goes for the trapezius.
An imbalance between upper and lower traps will leave you more prone to injuries as there will be less ability to stabilise and move the shoulder girdle properly. It can also lead to poor posture and possible weakening of the other parts of the traps and back muscles.
💡 Take home tip: "Good balance of the traps is important for maximum back and shoulder performance."
𝙎𝙤 𝙬𝙝𝙚𝙣 𝙨𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙡𝙙 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙞𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙥𝙨?
Most people tend to train them with delts which is fine as the main function of the trapezius is to control movement of and stabilise the shoulder girdle. You can keep training them with delts if they are under developed and pose no risk of negatively interfering with delts during shoulder exercises. I would be inclined to train them at the end of the workout.
If we actually look at the muscle, it makes up a large proportion of the upper back so the other option is to train traps with back, which is what we do at the end of our workout.
We can avoid over development of the upper traps in comparison to the lower traps by training them at the end of the back workout after we have already prioritised movements for the lower and mid traps. Not only this, back tends to be a more taxing workout compared to delts so in theory you will have less energy to put into them.
We literally go straight in with a heavy drop set or rest pause for one exercise specifically for traps.
The more I think about our back workout the more I realise they get hit a lot more than you'd think.
For example, at the moment our third to last exercise is a shrug type movement (normally this is very last). After this, we do heavy rack pulls, then seated high cable face pulls which also get mid/lower. So the need for more trap specific movements really isn't there.
I would also put them at the end of back if you are someone who has an easy time developing traps, already have overdeveloped traps or if you are female.
Now this doesn't mean that if you are lady that you are not meant to go "heavy", it just means that in order to develop a nice balanced shape we don't want to prioritise upper traps. We could perhaps stick some extra work for mid and upper traps here rather than just upper.
Even as a higher level and more muscular female athlete I still take this approach with training traps as Chris does't want me to develop bulky upper traps to avoid making my shoulders have the illusion of narrowness..."it's all about the width".
𝙒𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙚𝙭𝙚𝙧𝙘𝙞𝙨𝙚𝙨 𝙨𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙡𝙙 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙙𝙤 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙥𝙨?
Many trap exercises mainly recruit the upper traps as do upright rows which most people tend to do as a delt/trap exercise.
I'll outline some exercises which will hit every part of the trapezius muscle which you can put into the bulk of your back workout or add to the end of your shoulder workout. These are not conclusive and if you have any additional good exercises you can mention in the comments then please do so.
Notes for upper trap training: use lifting straps if your grip gives way before your traps. Try and keep your chin down to avoid any discomfort and/or upper spine compression.
▪️ Dumbbell shrug... These are hardest when holding behind you and get easier as we bring to the sides and then to the front. The plus side with these is that you can find that perfect sweet spot as they allow more freedom of movement. They may rub against your legs which can be irritating.
▪️ Barbell or Smith machine shrug... Allows you to move a lot more weight but you are limited with movement. Use an overgrip (pronated grip), if holding the bar in front or under grip (supinate grip), if holding the bar behind you.
💡Tip: A narrow grip gives you a better stretch but reduces the range of contraction. A wider grip gives a better contraction and also allows you to work slightly lower down towards mid trap but reduces the range of stretch.
▪️ Upright row... These hit front and side delts plus upper traps. Try performing with a narrow or wide grip to feel the difference where a wider grip gives more deltoid and upper trap involvement whereas narrower will hit the central upper and mid trap. Be careful on this exercise if you suffer from any shoulder issues or impingement as it may be painful, as well as possibly aggravating any wrist problems especially when using a narrow grip.
▪️Trap Machine... Gives you all the benefits of the both above mentioned plus there is often no need to pick up heavy weights as the handles can be set at the right height. You can also use a flat bench press machine should there be one available. Also gives a great range of motion.
▪️Trap Bar Shrugs.... Gives you many of the above benefits plus they keep the shoulders in neutral position as hands are kept by your sides when performing this exercise. The only disadvantage here is if the bar is fairly wide and you have a small structure, this exercise may not be suitable.
⚠️ Always be sure to use proper form when lifting heavy weights off the floor. ⚠️
▪️ Cable Shrugs.... These can actually hit wherever you'd prefer to target, upper or mid/lower and are one of my favourite trap exercises. Set up a double handle on a low cable pulley. Stand further away to hit lower down the trap and stand closer for upper trap. Actively split the handles apart for a better contraction.
These give a great stretch but are obviously limited in the weight you can use.
▪️ Rope Face Pulls... Great for hitting rear delts and mid trap. Make sure you don't go too heavy in order to get a good contraction.
▪️ The majority of rowing movements where the hands are either kept neutral or overhand will engage mid and lower traps. Again, try not to go too heavy so you get a good contraction in the right place. Try and place emphasis on holding the movement at the top for a second. Rows performed on an incline bench are great for hitting exactly where you need for mid/lower trap. Over hand movements will hit mid trap and neutral hands will hit lower trap.
▪️ Bent over raise with dumbbell: Another exercise which hits both rear delts and mid trap. The downside is that these are often performed incorrectly and turn into solely a trap movement, and it is difficult to get a good stretch.
▪️ Bent over raise with cables: for rear delt and mid trap. Cables can give a greater stretch and stricter movement especially for rear delts.
▪️ Incline rear dumbell raise: The incline bench allows you to stabilise your torso and recruit the desired muscles more easily.
𝙃𝙤𝙬 𝙢𝙖𝙣𝙮 𝙚𝙭𝙚𝙧𝙘𝙞𝙨𝙚𝙨 𝙨𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙡𝙙 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙙𝙤?
When we train shoulders we tend to do two movements per head, so for example:
▪️Lying Rear delt machine
▪️Rope Face pulls
▪️Side lateral machine
▪️Standing dumbell lateral raise
▪️Cable Front Raise
▪️Dumbell or machine press
If you wish to train traps at the end of delts then you can add a heavy shrug movement here, plus it's then your choice whether to also add a mid/lower movement or target during your back session.
If your traps are very underdeveloped then you can prioritise them at the start of your shoulder workout when you have most energy.
If you want to target traps during your back session, our current workout looks like this:
▪️ Straight Arm Pulldown Volume
▪️Single Arm Dumbell Row Intensity
▪️Medium Grip MAG Pulldown Intensity
▪️Close Grip MAG Pulldown Intensity
▪️Cable Shrugs Intensity
▪️Rack Pulls Straight Sets to a 10 rep max
▪️Seated Split Cable Row (much like a seated face pull but with two normal handles instead of ropes) Intensity
I hope this has been of some use to you and if you ever have any questions please feel free to drop us a message.... Or members feel free to grab myself or Chris at any time for help.
Happy training and we'll see you soon!