Maybe you’ve seen him. He’s the guy in the gym whose neck looks more like a triangular muscle fortress. His shoulders connect to his ears with big, meaty lines.
Those impressive beef wings just above the collarbones? Those are the trapezius muscles, or “traps,” and they’re among the most impressive “mirror muscles" out there. You’re excused for staring. (Find out how to strengthen all areas of the traps.)
But traps aren’t just about looks. Having a well-developed set can help you be a better competitor, especially if you play a sport in which you throw a ball or shoot a puck. Ever notice how hockey players have pretty thick necklines? That’s because stickhandling, passing, and shooting all work a chain of musculature that starts at the hands and wrists, moves up the arms to the shoulders, and on to the traps.
The traps also play an important role in injury prevention. Strong traps better absorb blows to the shoulder area, and they also secure the neck during contact, reducing the potential for neck injuries and even concussions. (Learn more about concussions.)
To build bigger, stronger traps, try the following three exercises. They’ll challenge the muscles in and around your neck and upper back, so you'll be better conditioned on the field and better looking off of it. So go on and get lifting—and be that guy.
This signature lower-body exercise engages the traps during the latter stage of the lift. After you reach the top of the movement, pause for a second or two to feel your traps fighting to hold the weight.
If you want to focus on the traps and use heavier weight, try Rack Deadlifts, where you elevate the bar to knee level and lift from there. Learn 3 other Deadlift Variations.
Shrugs are as simple an exercise as you’ll find. They target the traps only, making it possible to lift a heavier weight load than you would in other, more full-body moves.
Watch Antonio Gates perform the Power Shrug.
Upright Rows challenge the traps across a greater range of motion, because they require you to pull the bar to your face. When performing the lift, use an E-Z bar or dumbbells to avoid shoulder pain.
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