If you’re trying to get your body looking solid and bulging with muscles, you've probably already wondered how to make your trapezius bigger. This is one of the most noticeable muscles in the top half of the body. The "traps" run from the base of the skull to between the shoulder blades, and nothing can make you look as powerful as thick and solid traps rising from your t-shirt collar. However, aesthetics is not the only reason to build your trapezius muscle, as it supports your arms and moves the scapula, and it plays an important part in posture. There are only a few exercises that can build the trapezius muscles, but with the right form and some variations, you can make your traps bigger and therefore improve the way you look and feel, both inside and out.
- Front shrugs. Because the trapezius is an endurance muscle—it holds up the arms all day—it is more efficient to use a higher rep count to build it. Use a weight that will allow you to do eight to ten reps where you are fully contracting the muscle at the top of the movement. The front shrug is performed by holding a barbell in front of you with a shoulder-width overhand grip and arms extended. Shrug or raise your shoulders as if you were trying to touch them to your ears until you cannot raise them any higher and squeeze the muscle, thereby achieving full contraction of the traps. Proceed to slowly lower your shoulders until the bar is at the starting position, always keeping your arms extended and head facing forward. Do three sets of eight to ten reps for best results in making your trapezius bigger.
- As a variation, you can also do behind-the-back shrugs, which are done in the same way except for holding the barbell behind your back with an underhand grip. Just make sure to use a lighter weight for this exercise until you get used to the feel of it, as it can feel a bit awkward to do at first.
- Dumbbell shrugs. This is another variation on the shrug that will help make your traps bigger. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides with your palms facing each other and arms extended, then shrug your shoulders towards your ears, again using the appropriate weight so that you can do eight to ten reps while fully contracting the muscle at the top of the movement.
- One-arm dumbbell or cable shrug. Same principle as with the other shrugs, but lifting just one side at a time. One-arm shrugs will allow you to focus on the trapezius muscle as you contract it at the peak of the movement, helping develop the size of your traps.
- Upright rows. This is another good exercise for making your trapezius muscle bigger. Start out by holding a barbell with an overhand and a little wider-than-shoulder grip. The bar will be hanging in front of you with arms extended. Then, lift the bar until it is below and near your chin, keeping the bar close to your body and your elbows pointing outwards and a bit above the bar. After you’ve contracted the traps at the top of the movement, slowly lower the bar to the starting point. As with shrugs, remember to use an amount of weight that will allow you to do sets of eight to ten reps.
Making your trapezius bigger can be tricky because it is difficult to feel the muscle working, unlike muscles such as the biceps or quads. Even so, if you focus on maintaining good form throughout each rep, especially doing the full contraction at the peak of the movement, you will begin to get a better feel of this elusive but very important muscle. You will soon be on your way to traps that will be busting out of the top of your shirt, rock-solid and powerful.