17 Best Trap Exercises for Strength and Size

If you’re not making quality trap exercises part of your overall workout regimen, then your overall workout regimen isn’t complete. After all, by targeting the trapezius muscles—which go from the base of your neck down to your mid-back—you’ll be distinguishing yourself from all the bobbleheads (i.e. those who focus on their core and arms while ignoring their trap muscles).

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Enter the best trap exercises for men, which will help round out your healthy muscle portfolio. Yes, it means adding yet one more workout into an already intensive routine, but we never said this was going to be easy. As a direct result, you’ll be boosting your trap muscles and improving upon things like posture, definition, movement, mass, and strength.

Here is a list of the 17 best trap exercises for men.

1. Farmer’s Walk

There’s a good chance you’re already performing weight carries as part of your regular strength-building routine. That probably means you’re at least vaguely familiar with one of the best trapezius muscle exercises, also known as the farmer’s carry. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell (or weight of your choosing) in each hand on either side of your body
  2. Maintain a firm and upright posture as you engage your core and back
  3. Take measured steps while maintaining proper posture

Distance: 40-60m using a lighter weight, or 20-30m using a middle weight, or 10-15m using a heavy weight
Number of sets: 2-3
Recovery: 2-3 minutes between each set

2. Single-Arm Dumbbell Upright Row

While performing this trap exercise, remember that the movement starts and ends at the elbow. This will help you maintain proper form. Here’s how to execute:

  1. Grab a dumbbell in one hand using the overhand grip and keep it in front of your body
  2. Raising your elbow up and to the side, bring the weight toward your chin
  3. Carefully return to the starting position and repeat
  4. Perform all your reps on one arm before switching to the other arm

Reps: 10-12 per arm per set
Sets: 3-5
Rest: 45-60 seconds between each set

3. Face Pull

This oft-overlooked exercise is one of the best trap workouts for mass. It tends to build strength in the lower trap muscles and can be performed on either a cable machine or with a resistance band. Here we go:

  1. Set the cable around eye-level
  2. In each hand, grip the rope handles using an overhand grip
  3. Squeeze your shoulder blades as you pull the cable toward your face, keeping your elbows high and your back straight
  4. Bring the cable as close to your face as you can, hold for a moment, and then slowly return to the starting position
  5. Repeat

Reps: 8-12 per set
Sets: 3-4
Rest: 45-60 seconds between each set

4. Bent Over Y

Here’s another exercise that primarily targets the lower trapezius muscles. Remember to keep the weight light as you perform the following actions:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
  2. Hold a light dumbbell in either hand, thumbs facing up
  3. Bend at the hip and maintain the position
  4. Lift both arms in front of you so that your body forms a Y
  5. Hold the Y formation and then return to the starting position
  6. Repeat

Reps: 10-12 per set
Sets: 2-3
Rest: 45-60 seconds between each set

5. Pullup Shrug

A terrific warmup exercise, the mighty shrug targets more than one muscle group and also helps you fine-tune your regular pull-up skills. What’s there not to love? Let’s get into it:

  1. Hang from the pullup bar, keeping your spine straight and core tight
  2. Lift slightly so that your shoulders move back and down as your head and neck move upward
  3. Tighten your abs, hold for a count, and then return to the starting position
  4. Repeat

Reps: 10 per minute for 10 straight minutes
Sets: 1
Rest: 1-2 minutes

6. Barbell Shrug

Another one of the best trap workouts for mass, barbell shrugs target the upper trap muscles, thereby improving upon shoulder movement and strength. Perform these steps:

  1. Pick up a barbell using the overhand grip, keeping your hands just a little more than shoulder-width apart
  2. Let the bar hang at arm’s length in front of your waist
  3. With your back slightly arched, lean forward about 10 degrees at the hips
  4. Bend your knees slightly and keep your arms straight as you shrug your shoulders upward, taking them as high as you can
  5. Hold for a moment before returning to the starting position
  6. Repeat

Reps: 3-5 per set
Sets: 2-3
Rest: 1-2 minutes between each set

7. Rack Pull

You’re giving more than just the trapezius muscles a workout with this popular exercise, which builds strength and improves formation. Here’s how to execute:

  1. Position a rack so that the barbell is just above shin level
  2. Grab the bar using an overhand grip, keeping your hands around shoulder-width apart
  3. Hinge at the waist as you push your hips back and your feet through the floor, pulling the bar upward and keeping your back straight
  4. Hold for a count and carefully return to the starting position
  5. Repeat

Reps: 3-5 per set with a heavier load, then lighten the load and perform 1 set of 10-12 reps
Sets: 4-6 with a heavier load, 1 with a lighter load
Rest: 3-5 minutes between each heavier set

8. Dumbbell Shrug

A less intensive cousin to the barbell shrug, this classic trap exercise improves shoulder stability and movement, amongst other things. Do the following:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in either hand
  2. Hang your arms at either side of your body, with your palms facing one another
  3. Shrug your shoulders as high as you can and pause for a count in the top position
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat

Reps: 8-12 per set
Sets: 3-5
Rest: 45-60 seconds between each set

9. Incline Dumbbell Shrug

If regular dumbbell shrugs work the shoulder area, this less popular variant targets the (commonly neglected) lower trapezius muscles. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in either hand as you lie chest-down on an incline bench at a 45-degree angle
  2. Hang each arm straight down on either side, palms facing each other
  3. Shrug your shoulders upward so that your shoulder blades pull together
  4. Hold at the top, reverse, and repeat

Reps: 8-12 per set
Sets: 3-5
Rest: 45-60 seconds between each set

10. Dumbbell Jump Shrug

In case you haven’t noticed, quality trap workouts entail a lot of shrugging. Each rep for this particular exercise should be performed quickly, so as to help you build explosive movement and power. Just remember to maintain absolute control over the weights in the process. Here we go:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and bend at your hips and knees
  2. Hang your arms so that the weights are just below your knees, with your palms facing your sides and your back at a straight angle
  3. In one motion, thrust your hips forward, perform a powerful shoulder shrug, and jump as high as you can
  4. Land, reset, and repeat

Reps: 4-6 per set
Sets: 3-4
Rest: 1-2 minutes between each set

11. Barbell Behind-the-Back Shrug

What, you thought we were done shrugging? Like a number of trap exercises, this one targets multiple muscle groups. When executing, make sure you refrain from moving your head forward or downward. Here’s how to get it done:

  1. Grab the bar with an overhand grip, keeping your hands shoulder-width apart
  2. Hang the bar behind you at arm’s length so that it’s hovering around your glutes
  3. Shrug your shoulders as high as you can, hold, and return to the starting position
  4. Repeat

Reps: 3-5 per set
Sets: 3-5
Rest: 1-2 minutes between each set

12. Barbell Row

Give your rhomboids, middle, and lower trapezius muscles a proper workout with the following exercise, which improves stability and strength. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Grab the barbell using an overhand grip, with your hands just past shoulder-width apart
  2. Hold the barbell at arm’s length in front of you
  3. Bend at the hips and knees until your upper torso is almost parallel to the floor, all while keeping your back naturally arched
  4. Pull the bar toward your upper abs and squeeze your shoulders, holding at the top
  5. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat

Reps: 3-5 per set
Sets: 2-4
Rest: 1-2 minutes between each set

13. Dumbbell Lateral Raise

This common exercise—which targets the deltoids—is probably part of your regular workout routine. That means you’ve been strengthening your upper trap muscles without even knowing it. Remember to keep the palms facing forward and the weights straight up and down as you do the following:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and hang your arms next to your sides
  2. Stand straight and keep your feet shoulder-width apart
  3. Turn your arms until your palms are facing forward, then bend slightly at the elbows
  4. Maintaining the slight bend in your elbows, bring your arms straight out to shoulder level on both sides so that your body achieves a T-like formation
  5. Hold for one second and then slowly return to the starting position
  6. Repeat

Reps: 10-20 per set
Sets: 3-5
Rest: 30-90 seconds between each set

14. Overhead Barbell Shrug

We now present: more shrugs! Here’s one that can improve posture. Perform the following steps:

  1. Raise a barbell above your head using an underhand grip, keeping your hands about twice shoulder-width apart, your arms straight, and your feet shoulder-width apart
  2. Lock your elbows and maintain the lock as you shrug your shoulders upward, bringing them as high as you can
  3. Hold at the top, return to the starting position, and repeat

Reps: 4-6 per set
Sets: 3-5
Rest: 1-2 minutes between each set

15. Snatch-Grip Barbell High Pull

If you’re prone to shoulder injury, then this trap exercise makes for a sound alternative to the upright row. Consisting of a fast power movement, it works a full host of important muscles. Use lighter weights when doing the following:

  1. Put light weights on the barbell and then grab the bar using a wide overhand grip, with your hands being just a few inches from the weights
  2. Hang the barbell at arm’s length in front of you
  3. Bend at your hips and knees into the squat position, with your lower back naturally arched
  4. Bend at your elbows and raise your upper arms as you stand explosively, rising onto your toes and pulling the bar as high as you can
  5. Reverse the movement and repeat

Reps: 8-10 per set
Sets: 3-5
Rest: 1-2 minutes between each set

16. Dumbbell Overhead Carry

This trapezius muscle exercise utilises the upper back and body as a support system of sorts, inspiring growth through sustained tension. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and hold them over your head, palms facing one another
  2. Keeping your upper arms straight next to your ears, walk forward
  3. Use your trap muscles to keep the weights from moving as you walk

Reps: 20-45 seconds
Sets: 3-4
Rest: 30-45 seconds between each set

17. Scaption

Yet again, your trap muscles provide a support network during this common exercise, which helps with posture and shoulder strength. Perform the following steps:

  1. Grab a dumbbell in either hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
  2. Place the dummbells at arm’s length next to either side, with your palms facing each other and your elbows slightly bent
  3. Stand straight and tall and maintain the bend in your elbows as you raise your arms about 30 degrees in front of you, creating a Y-like formation
  4. Bring the dumbbells to shoulder level, hold, and then return to the starting position
  5. Repeat

Reps: 10-20 per set
Sets: 3-5
Rest: 30-45 seconds between each set

Adjustable Dumbells

These adjustable dumbbells from Bowflex are ideal for those looking to boost their trap sizes from home. You can set the dumbbells to your preferred weight and incrementally increase them as you strengthen your muscles.

Buy it here (US) Buy it here (AU)

Kettlebells

Kettlebells should really be a staple of any gym, home or otherwise. The versatile and compact weights are designed to be challenging without being uncomfrtable. Once you’ve built up a bit of a strength portfolio, you can start customising your collection with some cool, innovative additions.

Buy it here (AU) Buy it here (US)

Training Apparel

If you want to fit the ground running, you need to look the part. Nike is perhaps the most recognisable sports and fitness apparel brand in the world, and for good reason. The range of lightweight, durable and comfortable clothing is perfect for when you are hitting those trap exercises hard.

Buy it here (US) Buy it here (AU)

General FAQ

How many exercises should I do for traps?

A proper trap workout consists of anywhere between 10 and 15 exercises. It should be performed about 2-3 times a week, with at least 2-3 days of rest between each workout.

How do you get big traps fast?

The fastest way to big trap muscles is an intensive workout routine, which consists of about 12-15 exercises, including the farmer's carry and barbell shrugs. Perform the workout twice a week and take at least 3 days of rest between each workout.

Do shrugs build neck muscles?

Shoulder shrugs commonly target the upper trapezius muscles, which are located on either side of the neck. In short, shrugs will help work the neck muscles.

Do shrugs work?

When executed properly, shrugs will strengthen muscles in the shoulder, neck, and upper back areas.

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