How to Build Big Traps

Posted by Jason Ferruggia

How to Build Big TrapsEver since I first discussed the importance of “the power look” and how important it is to earn respect and separate you from the pencil necks, I am repeatedly asked about how to build big traps.

The best trap building exercise is the deadlift. One need look no further than the massive trap development of elite powerliters to see how effective this exercise is at building these intimidating muscles.

Pussyfooting around with light weights will never get the job done. You need to deadlift heavy weights (with picture perfect form) for sets of 3-6 reps. A good goal for most lifters is to be able to pull at least double bodyweight.

For massive traps aim for 2.5 times your bodyweight. If you want traps like Goldberg make your goal to pull 2.5 times bodyweight for a set of five.

Deadlifts should be performed once or twice a week (depending on if you’re a beginner or more advanced lifter). If you’re small and weak you can deadlift three times per week. When you get strong and can move a lot of weight the deadlift will take a lot out of you and be more difficult to recover from.

If you can’t deadlift perfectly from the floor without letting your lower back round over, you should pull from rubber mats, blocks or pins in order to prevent injuries. No sense in getting hurt when you’re trying to get yoked.

Always train safely and intelligently.

Any discussion about how to build big traps would not be complete without discussing the Olympic lifts and their various pull variations.

Programming snatches, cleans, high pulls and clean pulls into your workouts regularly is another great way to build huge traps.

If you could only choose one of these I’d recommend the snatch grip high pull. It’s the easiest on the wrists and elbows. Unlike deadlifts, Olympic lifts can be done with high frequency. Olympic lifters train these lifts every day. But they drop the bar which makes a huge difference.

If you don’t have the luxury of dropping the bar then try snatch grip high pulls 1-3 times per week for an average of five sets of 3-6 reps.

The hang clean and press is another awesome trap building exercise and a big favorite or Arnold’s. This exercise not only builds the traps but almost every other muscle in the body as well. These can be done with a bar, log, keg or dumbbells.

Shrugs are another weapon you can use in your trap building arsenal. Some people like heavy partial range shrugs, and others like lighter full range shrugs. I say do both. Load up a bar and do a few sets of 6-10 cheat shrugs one day and grab some dumbbells and do 2-4 sets of 12-15 full range reps with a 2-3 second hold at the top of each rep on another day.

Incline shrugs are another good option and these can hit the mid traps a bit better. Alternate between standing and incline for full trap development.

Finally, there’s the farmers walk. This is an essential staple exercise in all Renegade programs and will pack meat on your traps in a big way. I’d recommend doing them once or twice per week for 3-5 sets of 60 seconds. You could go heavier for shorter duration if your main goal is strength, but for hypertrophy the longer duration sets tend to work better.

Below is an example of how you can incorporate all of these trap building exercises into a four way upper/lower split:

Day 1
Snatch Grip High Pull- 5 x 5
Upper body pressing and pulling

Day 2
Squat- 3 x 5
Rack Deads- 1 x 6
Lower body assistance work
DB Shrug w/ Hold- 2 x 10-12

Day 3
Hang Clean & Press
Upper body pressing and pulling

Day 4
Lower body assistance work
Farmers Walk- 4 x 60 sec

To cap off the yoke you’re gonna want to throw in some neck work. Get a harness and do one set of extensions, flexion and lateral flexion for 20-50 reps two or three times per week.

For a complete 12 week trap and upper back specialization program download Yoked right now by clicking HERE.