If you want bigger traps, then you will want to watch this video as it will guide you to more growth in every area of your trapezius muscles – upper, middle and lower. Many people are not aware that the fibers of the traps are divided into these three main zones. The effect of this is that this allows us to more favorably strengthen or develop these areas by choosing trap exercises that better match the function of the fibers.
FOLLOWING THE FIBERS: UPPER TRAPS
As always, it helps to start with the anatomy of the trap muscles in order to better understand how to train them. As noted, the three regions of this muscle are the upper fibers, middle fibers and lower fibers. The orientation of the muscle fibers in each area changes. In the upper traps, the muscle runs down and out. With an origin at the base of the skull and a downward direction out to the end of your shoulder, the main function of these fibers is to help to elevate the shoulder towards the ears.
Interestingly, since this area is the one most opposed to the forces of gravity, it is the zone that is most capable of high tension and strength. Choosing trap exercises that better build your strength here is something that you will definitely want to include in a complete trap workout plan. That said, as with all of the areas of the trapezius muscle, long duration endurance capacity is something that you will want to develop as well and we will choose the best exercises for upper traps that achieve this down below.
FOLLOWING THE FIBERS: MIDDLE TRAPS
Next, the middle fibers of the traps run more east to west or parallel to the ground. This is once again an indicator of their function. Rather than focusing on pulling the shoulders up, this area of the muscle is more responsible for retracting the shoulder blades and pinching them together. As a hybrid between the upper and lower traps however, this zone is capable of both high tension under heavier loads and focused tension under lighter loads. Exercises for both are chosen as a result.
FOLLOWING THE FIBERS: LOWER TRAPS
Finally, the lower traps have a down and in muscle fiber orientation. Once again, the direction reveals the function. Their job is to assist in the rotation of the shoulder blade while providing the stability to the shoulder girdle during overhead pressing. The importance of the lower traps cannot be understated when it comes to preserving the health of the shoulder during heavier compound lifts performed with the arms overhead.
THE BEST EXERCISES FOR EACH REGION
Regarding the best exercise choices for each zone, as covered in this video, we have:
UPPER TRAPS EXERCISES
– Long Duration = Carries with Dumbbells, Trap Bar (shoutout to Chris Duffin of Kabuki Strength for the amazing bar) Kettlebells, Farmer’s Bars, OR Cable Hercules Hold (not shown but on IG) provides better angle of action for the upper traps.
– Short Duration = DB Shrugs, Barbell Shrugs, Trap Bar Shrugs, Cable Angled Trap Shrug
MIDDLE TRAPS EXERCISES
– Long Duration = Back Widow Holds for time, Wrap Around Holds for time
– Short Duration = Wrap Around Rows for reps, Back Widows for reps
LOWER TRAPS EXERCISES
– Long Duration = Y Press, Prone Press
– Short Duration = Plate Raises, Overhead Face Pull
The key to building big traps is to have an understanding of their anatomy and function, and most importantly, an attack plan for getting them to grow. In this growth guide, you now have a trap workout that will hit every portion of the muscle from every angle. No stone left unturned on your way to building big thick traps.
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Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS
Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.