|Not relevant to the article. Just one of the top rated google image results to 'baby got trap'|
I'm hardly alone on this, but upper traps are my favorite God damned muscle. They are fun to train, they look amazing (on men and women*)-
*A few weeks before I left Atlanta, I saw a metal show with a female guitar/vocal lead. She had curly hair, long dark legs, JEW nose, and strong sloped upper traps. I think I fell slightly in love. My friend asked me what I was staring at. 'Dem...dem traps man.' We don't talk anymore.
- they have real world functionality, and (this is especially nice if you are coming off of an injury) they grow like weeds with the right stimulus. BRIDGE TIME.
The Right Stimulus
If there is a body part, there is an unnatural amount of internet bitching over what works over what definitively doesn't.
@Fam1LYGyeLvar82: Hey brahs and bros, just lettin you know that high rep DB Shrugs are the only thing that traps respond to. Anything else is an exercise in loser faggitronics. Fact.
@GreeSeChamp!: My brother's friend is huge (benches in the low 800's) and he says behind the neck carlson shrugs are the only thing that worked for him. Fag kill yourself.
Thrilling? Hardly (even if this type of conversation blazed the path to such gems as Dreamer Bulk). Let's move along into our next section.
Movements I Have Used That Work
Clean Variations: Hang Cleans/Cleans/Powercleans/High Pulls
- Incredibly easy to learn and execute without a coach. Experience and frequency will be your guide
- Hit the entire body (side delts on high pulls, bonus)
- Allow you to work an explosive pull variation without excessive fatigue
- Very easy to cheat at higher weights. Part of my disc injury a few years back was from pulling heavy with shitty form. Retarded.
- I generally keep these variations to 1-5 reps. Anything over this starts to look like Gary Busey. Ugly. They look ugly.
- Whether done from a sumo or conventional stance, these are pretty hard to fuck up.
- Combines a rack pull with a shrug. Easy extra pulling volume.
- Weightlifter, powerlifter, want to look awesome in sweaters? Shrugs. Shrugs 4 life.
- If you do the power version of these (using momentum, which I highly recommend), do not overextend your hips or knees or you may open yourself up for injury.
- High or low reps work fine here. I've had great results with a few sets of 'as many as possible' as well as many sets of 3's and 5's. Pick one or mix it up.
- I currently prefer low sets/high reps because it allows me to combine shrugs with another heavy pull (i.e. High Pulls followed by Shrugs). Low reps/high sets with a higher weight usually ends up becoming it's own day.
Deadlifts: Sumo and Conventional
- Work your traps isometrically
- Stronger traps will also equal a stronger pull
- Case in point: powerlifters/weightlifters/strongmen all have giant traps. They deadlift, so should you.
Partial Deadlifts: Sumo and Conventional Rack Pulls/Static Holds
- Work the same muscles as a deadlift at a supramaximal load
- Wonderful movement for 'feeling' stronger. You will feel like you are carved out of stone the day after partial pulls
- By no means mimics an actual deadlift movement patter. Unless you pull below the knee, this will likely not carry to your pull from the floor
- Take care of the callouses on your hands or expect to have them ripped off
- Same as shrugs (low reps/high sets or high reps/low sets).
- If pulling from the knee or above, this allows you to strengthen your entire mid/upper back by pulling with weights at or above your max deadlift
Pressing Overhead: Behind the Neck Push Press/Overhead Press
- Easy to perform with high frequency
- Work the entire body via leg drive, abdominal stabilization, creating a lat shelf, and the pressing power from the traps/shoulders/triceps
- I've injured my neck 5 times pressing overhead. Awesome movement, I suck balls at it.
- Injury potential from pressing behind the neck (although personally I've had nothing but great experiences with pressing behind the neck)
- I prefer lower reps (<=5/set) with pressing overhead. This goes double for behind the neck push press.
- For behind the neck push press only: Get the bar overhead as fast as possible, lower under control using your triceps/traps/shoulders. If you are not used to lowering the bar slowly, you will find that you will need to initially lower the weight before it feels natural. A slower eccentric will assist in building muscle and greatly reduce the potential for injury (the bar's destination is easier to set, higher weights will not feel like they are crushing you on the descent).
Movements I Have Not Used (but the weightlifting population loves)
Snatch Grip Pulls: Snatch Deadlift/Hang Snatch/Snatch/Power Snatch/Snatch High Pull/Rack Snatch
I have 0 experience with Snatch pulls beyond the occasional snatch grip deadlift or power snatch. It's a shame really. Decades ago, weightlifters used to compete (and win) in Mr. Olympia contests. The back development of a weightlifter can be highly correlated to the amount of pulls they do, but specifically their snatch (or wider grip) variations.
I'm just gonna leave these sources here...
Ben Bruno: Rack Snatch Pull
TNation: Snatch High Pull
Bill Starr: Widen Your Wingspan
Stone loading, yoke walks, farmers walks. Doesn't matter, good for traps.
Dumbbell Shrugs (seated or standing):
I can't give less than 2 shits about DB Shrugs. They have done nothing for me, but there are a metric shit-ton of strong people who have mile high traps in part from DB Shrugs (when treated entirely as an assistance movement).
This is kind of like a mini hang clean grip high pull which pauses at the navel before releasing downwards. I have used these before, but not with any type of weight that has induced a strength/size gain.
Loading Parameters (Not Upper Trap Specific)
There is never any solidified set x rep structure that will guarantee results. Part of this is because we are all bio mechanically snowflakes, and variety is a spice everyone should try (lookin at you Texas). That is the God damned answer. The bulk of your work may be done as singles, doubles, triples, 5's, 20's, whatever, but at least some facet of your training should include a different rep range for the same muscle group.
This does NOT, however, mean that you have to do the same movement pattern to train the same muscle. I.E. Just because low rep deadlifts are the centerpiece of my training session does not mean I have to do 10rep backoff sets in order to train the same muscles at a higher rep range (I'm not shitting on backoff sets here, just indicating they are not the only option available). This is specifically what accessory work exists for. Accessory lifts build the main lift either by strengthening and/or inducing hypertrophy to the same working muscles as your main movement.
When choosing an exercise and corresponding loading parameter, look at how far you can potentially progress with a given weight x reps. For example, DB Shrugs would be a poor exercise choice for low reps because it is easy to max out the weight you can use (even if you intensify the movement through static holds, isometric contractions, and slow eccentrics).
That's it fuckers. I'm gonna inject some frog tech and play Settlers of Catan over a glass of gin.