“I wish my traps were smaller,” said no one ever.  Let’s face it, developing strong trapezius muscles isn’t just about looking jacked and semi-godly. Increasing the mass and strength of those triangle-shaped muscles on the top of your back and shoulders can have a dramatic effect on your overall upper body strength. This means heavier lifts, better posture, and yeah, a better-looking profile, too. If you need some moves for bigger traps, check out these top favorites that are sure to help you see and feel the difference.

4 of THE Best Moves For Bigger Traps

1) The Barbell Shrug

Moves for Bigger TrapsThe gold standard of trap-building exercises, the barbell shrug zeroes in on the uppermost portion of the trapezius muscle. To perform:

  • Stand and hold a loaded barbell with your hands about shoulder-width apart and your arms straight (the bar should be hanging near the front of your hips).
  • Make sure your palms are facing in against your body with an overhanded grip.
  • Keep your back straight, lean forward slightly, and bend your knees just a little bit.
  • Then, act as if you were just asked, “Who drank all the milk?” That is, shrug your shoulders up as close to your ears as you can (keep those arms straight).
  • Pause at the top, then slowly return to the starting position.

For an easier variation, try using dumbbells instead of a barbell–this lets you keep your shoulders in a more stable position without having to rotate in as much.


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2) The Incline Dumbbell Shrug

The bottom portion of your trap muscles is often overlooked–which is too bad because an underdeveloped lower trap can lead to poor posture, shoulder issues, and other tomfoolery. To perform this exercise for bigger traps:

  • Lie chest down on a 45 degree inclined bench while holding dumbbells in your hands.
  • Let your palms face in and your arms hang straight.
  • Keeping your chin tucked so that your back is flat, shrug your shoulders up and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • Hold for a count, then relax.

3) The Barbell Row

This move targets the middle portion of your traps. To perform:

  • Start in standing while holding a barbell with an overhand grip and your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Let your arms stay straight, slightly bend your knees, and then slowly hinge forward at your hips until your flat back is almost parallel to the floor.
  • The barbell should be hanging down directly underneath your shoulders.
  • Pull the barbell up to your lower chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  • Hold for a second, then release.

4) Dumbbell Overhead Carry

Holding a weight overhead for a prolonged time forces your traps and other shoulder muscles to work hard. Even though your upper body isn’t moving, your traps have to hold tension and strength (using what’s called an “isometric contraction”) in order to keep the weights stable above you. When you add in the extra challenge of lower body movement by walking, things can get really spicy. To do:

  • Hold a pair of dumbbells with your arms straight over your head, palms facing in.
  • Hold your abs tight, look forward, and walk slowly around the room.

Just don’t bump into anyone while you perform these moves for bigger traps.