How Bigger, Stronger Traps Make You a Better Athlete

November 11, 2012 | Mitch Calvert

Must See Strength Training Videos

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.

Deadlift

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.

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and barbell resting against shins
  • Squat down and grasp bar with slightly-wider-than-shoulder-width grip
  • Fully extend elbows, stick chest out and look straight ahead
  • Simultaneously extend hips and knees to stand up; keep back straight and bar close to body
  • Squeeze glutes to complete movement; hold for second or two at top
  • Lower bar to ground and repeat

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.

Sets/Reps: 3-5x4-6

Shrugs

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.

  • Assume athletic stance holding bar at thigh-level with shoulder-width grip
  • Lift the weight by shrugging shoulders up as high as possible
  • Hold for a one-count
  • Lower weight with control, returning to starting position and repeat

Sets/Reps: 3-5x4-6

Watch Antonio Gates perform the Power Shrug.

Upright Rows

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.

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart holding bar or dumbbells at thigh-level with palms facing body
  • Pull weight up toward chin, leading with elbows and keeping bar close to body
  • Lower bar with control, returning to start position and repeat

Sets/Reps: 3x6-8

Topics: BACK
Mitch Calvert
- Mitch Calvert, born and raised in Canada, chose a life of health and fitness eight years ago, transforming himself from a severely overweight teenager to...
Mitch Calvert
- Mitch Calvert, born and raised in Canada, chose a life of health and fitness eight years ago, transforming himself from a severely overweight teenager to...
Must See
Antonio Brown Juggles 3 Footballs
Views: 1,205,750
Jadeveon Clowney on Making Big Hits
Views: 5,073,746
Why You Should Never Doubt Colin Kaepernick
Views: 20,641,762

Featured Videos

Abby Wambach's Med Ball Core Workout Views: 187,099
Kevin Love's Cone Hop Basketball Shooting Drill Views: 12,178
Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 5: Fundamentals Training Views: 220,234
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Charging Ground Balls With Skip Schumaker
Views: 29,842
Yoga for Athletes: Crow Pose
Views: 3,539,378
Robert Griffin III Pocket Presence QB Drill
Views: 6,865,919
Evan Longoria's Hitting Drills
Views: 9,798,784
Johny Hendricks Workout Overview
Views: 822,554

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

3 Tips to Blast Through Training Plateaus

Beginners to resistance training can perform almost any form of resistance exercise and still make significant gains. However for the immediate and...

Train Like a Pro: James Harden's Basketball Maintenance Workout

Speed Drill of the Day: Reverse Lunges

Tobin Heath's Powerful Leg Workout

Train Like a Pro: Dustin Pedroia's Baseball Power Workout

Build a Strong Upper Body With These Landmine Exercises

Bicep Curl Grip Guide: How Hand Placement Changes the Exercise

How You Can Olympic Lift With an Injury

Train Like a Pro: Henrik Zetterberg's Hockey Strength Workout

Train Like a Pro: Julio Jones 3-Day Sandbag Strength Program

3 Keys to a Solid Squat Setup

The 4 Best and Worst Cable Machine Exercises

The Un-Liftable Inch Dumbbell: Can You Handle Its Challenge?

Jump Higher After a Month With These 3 Exercises

Build Muscle With the 2-Second Pause Workout Program

Abby Wambach's Strength and Speed Workout

How to Use the Pallof Press for an Iron Core

3 Habits of Highly Successful Coaches

Use Sled Pushes to Increase Speed, Strength and Power

Build Bulletproof Chest Strength With This Unconventional Method

The Top 10 Mistakes Athletes Make in the Weight Room

3 Keys to Better Softball Workouts

Build Athletic Strength with the Playground Sandbag Workout

3 Reasons Why You Should Do Full-Body Workouts

Todd Durkin's Complete Football Strength Training Program

Get Faster With This Weightlifting Technique

Paul Rabil's Powerful Rotational Strength Workout

How to Recover From a Soccer Game or Workout

Get Faster to Pitch Harder

Not Making Bench Press Gains? Try These Strategies

5 Quick Workout Fixes for Faster Muscle Growth

Build Strong Legs with the Leg Press Lockdown Workout

2 Brutal 10-Minute Workouts That Deliver Serious Results

Train Like a Pro: Los Angeles Lakers Strength Training Program

Add Surprise Sets for a Great Workout Finisher

Increase Athletic Strength with Rotational Bodyweight Training

Train Like a Pro: MLS Soccer Strength Program

Train Like a Pro: Baseball Strength Workout Program

Abby Wambach's Soccer Power Workout

Use Wave Loading to Take Your Strength to the Next Level

4 Tips for Reducing Deadlift Back Pain

Is It Too Soon for Olympic Lifts?

Kevin Love's In-Season Workout

Speed Drill of the Day: Weighted Arm Swings

8-Exercise Advanced Chest and Back Workout