Filling out your shirts which I know is important to every guy reading this requires not only a well-developed chest, back and shoulders but upper traps, too. Serious bodybuilders usually include traps exercises in their workouts, either in their shoulder or back workouts. But a lot of people don’t do enough traps work, if any. That’s a mistake.
Shrug It Off
Training traps is easier than many bodybuilders think. One major action of this muscle is simply to lift the entire shoulder girdle, which means “shrugging” the shoulders upward. The shrug is just what it sounds like lifting the shoulders toward the ears. There isn’t much more to the technique than this. Doing a shrug exercise involves holding a pair of dumbbells, a barbell or the handles of a particular machine (a shrug machine or the handles of a military press machine as you stand on the seat) to provide resistance, and lifting your shoulders as high as you can toward your ears.
Ideally, you should hold the position of full contraction and squeeze at the top, then slowly lower your shoulders to feel a stretch at the bottom. The range of motion is very short: the distance you can lift or lower your shoulders.
Keep It Simple
You often see bodybuilders making shrugs more complicated than they have to be. For example, some roll their shoulders forward and back as they do the lift. This doesn’t add any benefit to the exercise and, in fact, can be dangerous.
All that really counts is the muscular contraction that takes place directly against gravity straight up, not forward or back. And be sure to keep your head up.
More Ways Than One
While shrugs are the primary exercise for traps, this muscle is involved in a number of other movements as well. There’s a lot of traps effort in conventional deadlifts, for example. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to finish reps of deadlifts with a pronounced shrug, since the goal is to build your physique, not to develop maximum power and strength. I wouldn’t recommend that same technique to a powerlifter, for instance.
Working Traps Indirectly
Another exercise that involves the traps is the upright row. As you lift the bar to your chin, you’ll feel your traps contracting as part of the movement. And while this is an integral part of the exercise, there are other moves in which you should be careful not to involve the traps. An example of this is the dumbbell lateral raise, which is meant to isolate the middle deltoids, not the traps. The shoulders should pivot as the weight comes up, but you should try not to shrug at the same time.
No matter how far along you are in your development, you’ll find you can use quite a lot of weight with shrugs. But as with all exercises, the idea is not to work too heavy or too light.
The correct weight is one that allows you to work completely through a short range of motion using strict technique, holding and squeezing at the top, completing 10-12 reps.
The only bad thing about training your traps? Your collared shirts will no longer fit around your neck!