The Best Traps Exercises

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To build a bigger back, target the trapezius. The large, trapezium-shaped muscle takes up the bulk of your upper back: it’s made up of three parts, and extends from the base of your skull down to the middle of your back.

It’s a muscle that’s essential in a range of movements and increasing the strength of your traps will help you out with any number of big lifts. To help you work on the muscle, here are five top traps moves from Tom Kemp, personal trainer and ambassador for PhD Nutrition, which has recently launched its Life Range of supplements.

Kemp has put his selected exercises together into a traps workout you can do, or you can pick out your preferred moves and add them into your general gym routine.

Farmer’s walk


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Reps 4 Distance 20m

Use heavy weights for this move. Many gyms will have a farmer’s walk bar, or you can hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand. Deadlift the weights off the floor and walk the distance, keeping your arms fully extended, shoulders retracted, core engaged and chest up, with tension in your traps throughout.

2 Dumbbell shrug

arm workout

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Sets 3 Reps 12-15

Stand holding heavy dumbbells by your sides. Keeping your arms straight and your shoulders retracted, bring your shoulders up as close to your ears as you can. Lower back to the start under control.

3 Farmer’s handle static holds

Sets 3 Time 1min

Hold a heavy set of handles or dumbbells, and stand with your back flat, core tight, shoulders retracted and chest up. Hold the position for the time indicated. This exercise will test your grip strength and your traps will be screaming by the end.

4 Incline dumbbell shrug

Sets 3 Reps 12-15

Face a weight bench set on an incline and lie chest-down on it, with your feet on the floor. Let the dumbbells hang, then raise them by shrugging your shoulders. Squeeze your shoulder blades for two seconds at the top of the rep, then slowly return to the starting position under control.

Trap bar deadlift


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Sets 4 Reps 6

Sit your hips back and grasp the bar with your arms extended. Keep your chest up and imagine pulling your lats down, as if you’re putting them into your back pockets. Engage your core and drive your feet into the floor as you lift the bar to standing. Keep tension in your traps throughout the lift.

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.