When you ask the question of how to build big traps, the discussion usually starts and finishes with dead lifts. This is the number 1 mass builder, and it will pack huge slabs of beef on your traps faster than any other exercise there is. Take a look at power lifters, and you will see that you cannot avoid building huge traps when you do a lot of dead lifts.
While the dead lift is definitely the king of all trap building exercises, an argument could also be made that Olympic lifts are equally as effective. I would tend to agree with this, if it were not for the fact that Olympic lifts are much harder to teach and learn than dead lifts are, which moves them down to second place on the list. Just about everyone can do at least a partial range dead-lift properly. Not everyone is able to clean or snatch properly.
Finally, you have shrugs. While it’s supposed to be a very simple and straight forward movement there is actually a great deal of confusion over how to build big traps with shrugs. Can you believe that few people seem to be able to agree on how they should be done. On the one hand you have the camp that says you need to go as heavy as possible, and do partial reps, just by heaving the weight up. Of course there’s the camp that says you need to go light, by getting a full range of motion, try to get your shoulders as close to touching your ears as possible, and hold it for at least a second.
So who is right and who is wrong? – they both are!.
To try and understand where the answer lies lets take a look at the athletes with the biggest traps: power lifters and Olympic lifters
Power lifters have huge traps because of all the dead-lifts they do. Dead-lifts are heavy duty. There is no shrugging movement at all. Olympic lifters usually lift relatively lighter weights explosively, and with a range of motion that does indeed have them bringing their traps to their ears.
Looking at these two groups, what does this tell us about shrugs and the proper way to do them?
What it tells us is, the best way to get huge traps is to dead lift and also Olympic lift.
BUT… what if you can not do either of those exercises due to back or shoulder problems, or you just want more to have more variety in your trap training routine? Then you have little or no choice but to shrug. Traps are the most important, the most intimidating, and the impressive body part there is and you can’t walk around with none.
So then, exactly how do you do shrugs and which camp is right? To a certain extent they both are. Occasionally you should try going heavy for low reps, cheat the weight up. Then on another day of the week go lighter for higher reps with a complete range of motion and exaggerated contraction and hold at the top.
I suppose another option is to do both variations in one workout. You could always start with a lighter weight, doing about 10-12 reps, bringing your shoulders as high as they can comfortably go. With each set add extra weight, and work your way down to the point where you can only get five partial reps, with a little cheat at the end. You could start with the heavier sets first, and lighten them as you go.
Dead lifts and Olympic lifts should always be your first answer to the question of how to build big traps. But sometimes shrugs can be very effective as well. Be sure to go straight up and down, and don’t roll your shoulders back and forth. That’s for idiots who don’t have a full understanding of how gravity works.
Jason Ferruggia is a world famous fitness expert who is world renowned for his ability to help people build muscle as fast as possible. He is the head training adviser for Men’s Fitness Magazine where he has his own monthly column dedicated to muscle building. For much more info on How to Build Muscle Fast, check out muscle gaining secrets.