When we think of shoulders, we are usually focused on building the deltoids. While this is the obvious way to develop broad shoulders, it is not a total approach to widening our upper torso frame. The traps or trapezius muscle along our neck is also a muscle that we must develop in conjunction with our deltoids to get really strong looking shoulders. Exercise for traps are often neglected since this muscle is not one of those priority areas that we devote a lot of time to develop. It would be fine to incorporate exercise for traps and delts together since these two muscle groups are beside each other, and complement each other visually. Build huge shoulders with these exercises for traps to really get good upper torso development with a nice V-contour. The trapezius is essentially divided into three areas. The upper fibers, middle fibers and lower fibers. It also has several key functions as outlined in backandneck.about.com, such as,
• to move the shoulder blade in toward the spine
• to rotate the shoulder blade so that the topmost part of the upper arm faces up
• to move the shoulder blade up and down
• to bring the head and neck in a backward direction
• to rotate and side bend the neck
• to assist in breathing
Lets us look at some of the best exercise for traps, considering their importance and how we can also get creative by doing some exercise for traps without weights for starters.
This exercise makes you strike a pose as if you were flying like the man of steel does. It is unassumingly difficult, even though the range of motion is very little. Nevertheless, it is a highly effective exercise for traps without weights. Azcentral.com narrates how to do this simple but useful move you can do anywhere.
“Supermans target your trapezius muscle in combination with your back and buttocks. To do the move, lie on your stomach with your arms extended above your head, palms facing each other, and legs straight, toes pointed. Engage your core muscles and lift your arms and legs several inches into the air. Keep your neck stable and straight. Hold the move for a second or two and lower your arms and legs to the starting position to complete one repetition.”
2. Arm circles
Arm circles are reminiscent of the calisthenics we were all made to do in grade school. They are, however, also highly useful for keeping our traps toned. To remind us of this old but apparently practical movement, livestrong.com runs us through the fundamentals.
“This basic arm circle exercise will strengthen your forearms, shoulders and trapezius muscles. Stand up straight with your knees slightly bent and arms at your sides. From here, extend your arms out to your sides at shoulder height. While holding this position, rotate your arms in a clockwise motion, trying to keep an even tempo and speed. After 20 rotations, reverse directions and perform 20 more rotations. If you want to increase the difficulty of the exercise, increase the individual speed of the rotations.”
While these two basic movements, supermans and arm circles, can surely keep your traps in shape, you might be hard-pressed just doing these if you wanted to build size. Here are some hardcore exercise for traps with weights that will stimulate growth and mass.
3. Shoulder shrug
The shrug to the trapezius is what the bench press is to the chest. Shrugs are the Holy Grail for essential trapezius stimulation. It is an exercise that is hard to beat when bringing on the weight, while not risking any kind of injury. The movement is also ridiculously easy and you can either use a barbell or a pair of dumbbells for resistance. Here is the barbell version from bodybuilding.com.
“Hold a barbell with both hands in front of you with your hands a little wider than shoulder width apart. Keep your feet at shoulder width. Stand straight up with the bar hanging at arms length. Droop shoulders down as much as possible to start. Raise your shoulders up as far as you can go. You can also rotate your shoulders as you go up, going in a semicircular motion from front to rear. Then slowly return to the starting position.”
4. Upright rows
This workout is great for hitting the upper part of the trapezius. A word of caution, though, to those not used to this exercise: Go easy on the weights as shoulder injury is commonly experienced by those who rush to pack on the resistance immediately. Fitness model Scott Herman is seen in this demonstration video holding a pair of relatively light dumbbells (15 pounds) inspite of his fitness level. Remember it is form and technique that count more than anything else as you will see here.
5. Reverse dumbbell flyes
With this movement you will be targeting the lower region of the trapezius muscle. Try your best not to swing this movement, as there is a tendency to go from one rep to another using momentum. Here is a step-by-step instructional from musclandstrength.com.
1. Set up for the exercise by grasping a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip (palms facing each other) and standing with your feet around shoulder width apart.
2. Bend slightly at the knees and bring your torso forward by bending at the waist.
3. Keep your head up and your eyes facing forward. Each elbow should be slightly bent and the dumbbells should be directly under your chest. The dumbbells should not be touching. This is the starting position.
4. Moving only at the shoulders, raise your arms in a semi-circular motion out to your sides until your arms are parallel to the floor. Keep the slight bend in your elbows throughout the movement.
5. Squeeze your shoulder blades at the height of the movement and then begin slowly lowering the dumbbells back to the starting position.
6. This is one rep. Repeat for desired reps.
Whether or not you are using weights to build your traps, all the above exercises are guaranteed to help develop this muscle group. Use the weight routines for building serious mass and strength, and use the no weights exercises as basic toning movements when you are away from the gym. Either way, your traps will always be in tip top form.