Probably the most misunderstood group of muscles of the entire male body are the trapezius, or 'traps'. Very, very rarely indeed do modern day bodybuilders include much direct trap training in their workouts. This is quite remarkable when you consider that the most popular, and most impressive contest pose of them all is the trap-over or most muscular. Yet, somewhere along the line someone said that direct trapezius work would make your shoulder width look narrower!
This is quite ironic when you consider that competitive weightlifters, who have incidentally the greatest trap development of all athletes, look anything but narrow, and often look more powerfully impressive than most bodybuilders when dressed. The reason for this being that the weightlifters are constantly using heavy basic pressing and pulling exercises in their workouts.
It is true, however, that some bodybuilders do not need to include much direct trap work in their training. These are the born lucky guys who get direct trap stimulation from their general shoulder and back training. These men are naturals, and probably even had good trap development before taking up lifting.
This routine is not for those guys. It is for us, the not so lucky fellows who have to fight for every inch of muscular growth, and who lack good trap development, giving our physiques a much weaker and less impressive looking appearance.
How To Get The Best Out Of A Trap Specialization Routine
There are not really too many direct trap exercises. The main direct movements are shrugging and pulling exercises, so the best way to organize a trap specialization routine is to include some really heavy direct work for the shoulders and upper back which will in turn activate your traps very strongly. Back these up with the very best direct trap exercises, and you are well on your way to superior trapezius development.
It is best to train four times per week on a split routine when doing this, training your traps at every workout. The first part of the split routine will be a very heavy day, and the second part a much faster, burning and pumping day.
You must still, of course, include sufficient exercises for the rest of your physique, but this will be kept to a limited nature while you specialize on your trapezius.
Spend a good two weeks getting familiar with the movements, and also build your poundages and number of sets up slowly, and don't overwork during this two week period. After the two week break-in period is up, do the following:
Monday and Friday
Standing Press Behind Neck - 5 x 5
This will primarily take care of your shoulders while on this trapezius specialization routine, but it will also give you some indirect work for your traps and upper back muscles. Work it hard!
Do a slow warmup set of 8 reps with a poundage of 50% of your best 5 rep poundage. Rest one minute, and do a set of 5 reps with a poundage about 75% of your best 5 rep weight.
Now load the bar with all the weight you can, so that you have to fight to get 5 hard reps in real good style. Don't be afraid to use a lot of weight, and really pound out those reps.
Reduce the bar by 5 pounds and then do another set of 5 reps, after resting only 60 seconds.
Rest another 60 seconds and do a final set of 5 reps, again with another 5 pound weight reduction.
When you find that you can do all three heavy sets for a full 5 reps, then you should increase the weight by 5 pounds the next workout.
2) Chin Behind Neck - 4 sets
This is your back exercise, but it is also a fantastic upper back and trap movement when worked very hard. Not many bodybuilders like to do chins because, like squats, they are very hard work, but believe me they will give you results like nothing else, so learn to like them.
Strap your hands to a chinning bar, using a fairly wide grip. Pull up behind your neck as far as you can.
Do a bodyweight only set for about 6 reps to loosen you up.
Then go all out to get a good 10 reps using all the weight attached to a your waist you can.
Do another 2 sets reducing the weight slightly each set.
3) Heavy Barbell Shrugs
The is the number one exercise for great trapezius development. It is best to use hand straps for this exercise so that you can comfortably strap yourself to the bar and have no worry at all that your grip might give out. You can then concentrate all your attention on the action of the traps.
Do a fairly light set of 10 to 12 reps and then load as much weight on the bar so that you can just do a nice strict, all out set of 12 reps.
Increase the weight be 10 pounds each set, and try to do the following pattern - 12/10/8/6.
Do a fifth set by reducing the weight back again so that you can do 12 reps.
Performance: slowly raise your shoulders as high as possible, keeping your arms tucked into your sides and your elbows firmly locked. At the highest point try to hold and tense your traps for a count of two. Slowly lower downwards and repeat.
4) Close Grip Upright Rowing 4 sets
Once again strap your hands to the bar, this time with a hand-spacing of only 6 inches. Hold the bar at your thighs with the knuckles front. Slowly pull up till the bar grazes your chin. Hold for a second, squeezing the traps. Slowly lower again feeling your traps all the way. Do not quite lock out the elbows at the bottom.
Do 12 all out reps on the first set and another three sets with only 30 seconds rest between each set. Reduce the weight slightly if the reps fall below 8.
5) Dead Hang Cleans 5 sets
Here is an exercise that will allow you to handle large weights in working the traps. Strap your hands to a bar with a shoulder width grip, arms straight and the bar to the front of your thighs. Without leaning backwards or bending your knees, clean the weight to your shoulders. Very slowly return the weight to your thighs, NOT THE FLOOR.
Do 2 sets of 5 reps using 50% and 75% of your best 5 rep weight.
Now load the bar right up, and do 3 sets of 5 reps with all the weight you can handle and your workout is over.
Wednesday and Saturday
1) Front Squat - 3 sets
Use a two inch block under your heels and concentrate on keeping your back nice and flat throughout the exercise. Do the squats 'non-lock' at the top, resting only one minute between each set.
Do your first set with 75% of your best weight for 12 reps.
Go to your best weight for 12 reps and do another set.
Reduce the weight by 10 pounds and do a final set for as many reps as you can.
2) Donkey Calf Raise - 3 x 20
3) Bench Press - 3 x 12
Do these nice and strict, touching the bar fairly high on your chest. Do the same set and rep pattern as the front squat, but rest only 30 seconds between each set, and do not quite lock out your elbows at the top.
4) Preacher Bench Curl - 4 x 10 supersetted with -
5) Lying Triceps Extension
Do a warmup set of each exercise with a moderate weight. Go to your best weight on each exercise for 10 reps, and do another 3 sets of each with no rest between each set.
Do the preacher curl as follows: Take a slightly wider than shoulder width grip on the bar, and the lean over the bench so that the top of it touches your body about 3 inches below pectoral level.
With your arms outstretched, slowly curl the bar up to your chin trying to keep your elbows in as close as possible. Give your biceps a good squeeze at the top, and then slowly lower again. As soon as you can't do another rep go right into the lying triceps extension as follows:
Lie flat on the bench holding a straight bar at arms' length above your chest, with a grip at least two inches wider than the bench. This is so that your hands will be clear of the bench when the bar touches it. Keeping your upper arms stationary slowly lower the bar down behind your head until it just grazes the bench behind you. With triceps power only push the bar back to full lockout.
Rest now for five minutes before hitting your traps.
6) Dumbbell Shrugs - 5 x 12 supersetted with -
7) Close Grip Upright Row
This is a classic pre-exhaust duo that should make your traps feel as if they are growing up to your ears!
Do a warmup set of each exercise with a moderate weight for 12 reps, and then go to the heaviest weight possible for 12 reps on each exercise.
Do another 3 sets using the same weights, resting only 30 seconds between each duo, and do all the reps you can.
Do the dumbbell shrugs as follows: Hold two heavy dumbbells at the sides of your body as if you were going to do thumbs-up (hammer) curls. Your palms should be facing the sides of your body and your thumbs will be facing the front.
Keeping your arms rigidly locked, and into your sides, raise both shoulders as high as you can. Hold them for a second or two at the top position and tense your traps as hard as possible. Slowly lower again to starting position.
As soon as you cannot do another rep in good style go immediately to a set of close grip upright rowing as previously described. The dumbbell shrugs are the isolation part of this pre-exhaustion set, and the upright rows are the compound part, using the strength of the biceps and deltoids to further stimulate the traps.
As soon as you finish all 6 sets pre-exhaust sets go straight into the final exercise which is:
8) Down-the-Rack Dumbbell Shrugs
Start out with the heaviest pair of dumbbells you can and then work down the rack doing as many reps as you can each time. The weight of the dumbbells should be spaced about 10 lbs. apart, so that you can go from one pair to the next.
Try to do at least 5 or 6 sets as quickly as possible and your workout is over.
Stay with the routine for a good eight weeks and always try to increase your training poundages as soon as you can do the full amount of recommended reps.