Check out a list of 17 trap exercises ranked from best to worse.
Embarking on a fitness journey involves not just sweat and determination but also a keen understanding of the exercises that contribute to targeted muscle growth. When it comes to sculpting an impressive set of traps, knowing which exercises to include in your regimen can make a significant impact. Let’s delve into the world of trap exercises, unravelling the mystery behind their effectiveness and identifying the ones that stand out from the rest.
The trapezius muscles, commonly known as the traps, play a crucial role in the aesthetics of the upper body. A well-developed set of traps not only enhances the overall symmetry of the physique but also contributes to functional strength, especially in movements involving the shoulders and upper back.
And to explain and rank these trap exercises, we leaned into the expertise from Jeff Cavaliere.
Jeff Cavaliere is a fitness trainer, physical therapist, and the creator of the popular fitness YouTube channel called ATHLEAN-X. He is known for his expertise in strength training, conditioning, and sports medicine. Jeff Cavaliere served as the Head Physical Therapist and Assistant Strength Coach for the New York Mets in Major League Baseball from 2006 to 2009.
As we navigate through the myriad of trap exercises, the goal is not just to list them but to guide you towards the ones that promise maximum gains.
Trap Exercises Ranked (Best to Worse)
To discern the best trap exercises, it’s essential to establish clear criteria for evaluation. The selected exercises must go beyond aesthetics, aiming to build muscle across the entire trap region, including the often-neglected lower traps.
Safety is a non-negotiable factor, ensuring that each exercise promotes well-being and minimizes the risk of injuries. With these criteria in mind, we embark on a journey through the world of trap exercises, separating the mediocre from the exceptional.
- Upright Row:
Despite its popularity, the upright row takes the bottom spot due to its potential to cause shoulder issues and impingement.
- Rolling Shrug:
This variation of the shrug adds unnecessary stress to the shoulders, potentially leading to thoracic outlet syndrome.
- Above the Knee Rack Pull:
Placing excessive weight in front of the body during this exercise can lead to thoracic outlet issues, earning it a spot in the worst category.
- Incline Y Raises:
Focusing on the lower traps, this exercise provides a unique angle for trap development, especially in often-neglected areas.
While effective for overall shoulder health, it falls short in fully targeting the upper traps.
A corrective exercise that incorporates rotator cuff work while targeting the upper traps.
- Trap Pulldown:
A narrow grip on the cable machine engages the upper traps in a stabilizing manner during a pull-down.
- Farmer’s Carry:
This isometric-based exercise not only targets traps but also enhances grip strength and forearms.
- Below the Knee Rack Pull:
Modifying the rack pull by starting from below the knee helps avoid shoulder issues and allows for better trap engagement.
- Plate Trap Raise:
By shifting the focus to the lower traps, this exercise offers a unique way to build strength with good shoulder biomechanics.
- Dumbbell High Pull:
A superior alternative to the upright row, it targets multiple muscle groups, including the traps, with less risk of injury.
- Haney Shrug:
“Haney shrugs are just the behind the back variation of the classic shrug. While you can’t handle as much weight, you are hitting the traps from a different angle to allow a different stimulus.”
- Face Pull with Overhead Extension:
Adding an extension at the end of each repetition enhances the benefits of the face pull, engaging lower traps and improving overall shoulder health.
- Wraparound Row:
A crossover grip intensifies the engagement of middle traps, providing a focused contraction.
- Dumbbell/Barbell Shrug
This exercise is not placed higher up because, if you are already deadlifting heavy and regularly, you won’t benefit that much from the barbell shrug. However, you could begin using dumbbell shrug instead.
But, if you are not doing deadlift at the moment, then definitely add barbell shrug to increase your traps’ strength and size.
- Cable Angled Shrug:
By adjusting the angle of the cable, this exercise optimally aligns trap fibers for a powerful contraction.
- Trap Bar Shrug:
Taking the crown as the best trap exercise, the trap bar shrug allows for heavy loading and optimal upper trap engagement with a neutral grip, minimizing shoulder stress.
As we reflect on a year of fitness exploration and share in the joy of celebrating gains and milestones, it’s fitting to conclude our journey through trap exercises with a resounding commitment to continued growth and well-being. The path from the worst to the best has been an enlightening one, offering insights into the intricacies of effective trap training. Now, armed with a comprehensive understanding of the best exercises, it’s time to translate knowledge into action and witness the transformation of your traps into a powerhouse of strength and aesthetics.
The journey through various trap exercises has not only been about building muscle but also about fostering a mindset of informed and purposeful training. The criteria set for evaluation—efficacy in muscle development, safety, and a focus on all trap regions—serve as a blueprint for designing a workout routine that aligns with your fitness goals. It’s not just about what exercises to do but understanding why they are the best choices for your overall well-being.
In the fitness world, every milestone is a stepping stone towards new heights. As we embrace the best of the best—symbolized by the trap bar shrug—let this be a reminder that excellence in training is a dynamic journey, not a static destination. The trap bar shrug, with its ability to handle heavy loads while prioritizing safety, symbolizes the synergy of strength and intelligence in fitness.
Moving forward, the commitment to growth remains unwavering. Incorporate these top-tier trap exercises into your routine consistently, adjusting and optimizing as needed. Celebrate the victories, both big and small, and view challenges as opportunities for growth. Fitness is not just about the physical; it’s a holistic journey that encompasses mental resilience, discipline, and a passion for self-improvement.
May the journey be as rewarding as the destination, and may the lessons learned guide us towards a future filled with strength, health, and unwavering determination.
Watch the video from Cavaliere to see each exercise explained, why they are ranked where they are and how to perform each of them.
Check out more ranked exercises below: