If you’re trying to grow your traps with just a barbell as your tool, you’re in luck. Some of the most effective muscle building exercises for the traps are done with the deadlift. There are very few isolation exercises for the traps, that being said, many of the compound lifts, especially of the hinge variety, are excellent at building the traps.
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No, beginner and intermediate lifters do not need direct trap work in order to see some growth in their traps. They need however to be doing compound lifts and pulling work, these are included in the exercises provided for trap growth.
The deadlift is one of the best ways to increase the muscle mass of the traps. It is a highly technical movement that requires a great deal of skill development, but once it is learnt correctly is is one of the best exercises for full body strength development. As the upper back plays such a key role in the deadlift, it will stimulate muscle growth in the traps.
Sumo Deadlift plays a similar role as the deadlift in developing the trap muscles. It is by no means isolated to growing the traps, but every repetition requires very large amounts of activation from the traps in order to maintain good posture.
The Bent Over Row is an excellent horizontal pulling variation that can be a valuable tool for growing the traps and the upper back in general. This exercise can be technically challenging as it requires you to resist the urge to use momentum to lift the wight rather than using the muscles in the back to lift the weight. Put emphasis on the mind muscle connection and moving with control.
The supinated barbell bent over row is extremely similar to the bent over row in the muscles it targets with the obvious difference being the type of grip used on the bar. It is an effective exercise to grow the muscles in the back.
The barbell upright row is one of the best isolation exercises for the trap muscles. The weight used on this exercise will be limited especially to start with as it is a challenging exercise. This is a great exercise for high amounts of volume (sets and reps) to grow the traps. We don’t have a video for the barbell upright row, so this is the kettlebell upright row, the technique is exactly the same but the hands grip a barbell instead of a kettlebell.
Bonus exercises that we do not have in our exercise library is the Barbell Shrug as performed here by the bodybuilding experts at RP Strength.
The final barbell trap isolation exercise is very similar to the barbell shrug, just done in a bent position. The barbell bent shrug is also very effective at isolating the trap muscles with a barbell.
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This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.