You’re not alone if you’ve been searching for information on how to build traps at home. In this article I’ll be showing you how you can beef up your trapezius muscles without leaving your home.
The trapezius muscles, covering the upper back, can contribute to the look of a thicker neck, rounder shoulders, and overall a more balanced frame. These muscles support the arms and shoulders and are used in many upper body movements and exercises. With the right knowledge, equipment, and exercises, you can build larger traps at home.
Trapezius Muscle Anatomy
The traps range from the back of the skull and dip well into the back. We usually talk about traps by dividing them into three major groups: The upper, middle, and lower fibers.
These originate from the base of the skull and travel down the cervical spine. They then insert on the outer 1/3 of the collarbone. They provide support to both the shoulders and the collarbone.
The middle fibers travel along the cervical and upper thoracic spine, inserting in the shoulder blades. These are the muscles used to retract and rotate your shoulder blades.
The lower fibers travel from the lower thoracic spine and insert on the lower part of your shoulder blades. They rotate and pull down shoulder blades.
The Key to Building Traps
You could go out and start doing 100 shrugs a day to build your traps, but if you aren’t careful, you may not like your results and could even risk injury. You need to train all three groups of traps equally in order to obtain optimum development and the functional strength you need. If you work your middle trapezius without also working the upper and lower muscles, you may not have the strength that would otherwise be used to support the middle traps as you work them and you could risk injury or overcompensation.
Best Exercise Equipment for Building Traps
While there are some bodyweight exercises that you can do to build traps, you will likely find some exercise equipment to be useful during this process. In particular, adjustable dumbbells and closed resistance bands will be your best bet to get the traps you want.
Especially for a home gym, adjustable dumbbells are some of the most useful pieces of equipment out there. As you build strength, you can select more weight, pushing your muscles further and encouraging them to develop. Adjustable dumbbells will conveniently allow you to target all three traps with different exercises using different poundages, especially if you can pair them with a weight bench.
Closed Resistance Bands
Pull-ups are one of the most effective exercises to work your traps, but they often require some degree of work up to be able to complete them. Closed resistance bands can be used on their own or as a way to help with pull-up progression while building the strength necessary to perform them unassisted. If you have a pull-up bar, this could be a useful tool for you as well. Even without a pull-up bar, you can exercise the traps with band pulls, shrugs, and cross rows can be done with closed resistance bands.
Exercising Your Traps
Most exercises that you choose can be modified to some degree for wherever you are on your own fitness journey. To get sculpted traps, you will need to prioritize each of the three groups with at least one or two exercises. Remember, you should always be exercising each of the three groups with the same amount of training volume.
Upper Trapezius Exercises
Deadlifts are good for both the upper and middle traps when done correctly. The upper traps need to be strong and work hard to help stabilize the shoulders and scapula during the lift.
To begin, stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Firmly grasp the bar. Your hands should be just slightly further apart than your feet. Then lift while driving the hips forward with a flat back. Maintain control while returning the bar to the start position.
Remember that when deadlifting for trap development, you don’t need to deadlift your max weight, but rather be aiming for around 12-15 reps to really get those muscle fibers in your traps burning!
In the home gym setting, it is possible to get adjustable dumbbells as heavy as 40kg per dumbbell, which will be sufficient for dumbbell deadlifts for most people in terms of deadlifting at high reps for trapezius development.
Shrugs are simple exercises, but they shouldn’t be overlooked. This upper trap exercise can be done without any tools, or using dumbbells, a barbell, or resistance bands.
Keeping the neck neutral and arms straight and at the side, stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend the knees slightly. As you inhale, raise the shoulders up toward your ears slowly, then lower them back down again, utilizing any of the exercise equipment you choose.
In order of effectiveness: bodyweight shrugs are the least effective, but extremely high reps will yield some modest result; closed resistance bands can be quite effective, but adjustable dumbbells will be extremely effective.
Middle Trapezius Exercises
Bent Over Row
The dumbbell bent over row works well for the upper and middle traps. To complete this exercise, you will kneel on a bench with one foot on the ground. One hand should also be on the bench while the other grasps the dumbbell.
Then, keeping your back straight, pull the barbell up toward the side of your chest. Focus on trying to make the back of you elbow touch the ceiling! This will help you to squeeze the middle traps.
Adjust the weight to your own strength as you grow stronger. Be prepared for rapid improvements after just a few weeks of training.
Because this is one of my favourite exercises, here’s a demo of how it should be performed, courtesy of Jeff Nippard:
You can perform an alternative to this exercise by standing on your closed resistance band, bending over and performing slow controlled repetitions using the band. This variation is surprisingly effective!
Dumbbell flyes, especially the reverse dumbbell fly, can help to isolate the middle trap more than you would in a barbell or dumbbell row. To do these, you will need dumbbells. Then, standing with feet shoulder-width apart and leaning over, back straight, grasp the dumbbells. Extend your arms out to the side, squeezing the shoulder blades together. Then, control them as you drop them back to feet-width apart.
Again, you can perform this exercise using the resistance band as before. Simple stand on the band, hold each end and bend over and perform the flyes.
Lower Trapezius Exercises
The pull-up is one of the best exercises for training the lower traps, biceps, and lats, but it’s also one of the hardest. Grasp the bars at shoulder-width and slowly pull yourself up and down. The shoulder blades should move during this process, sliding up and rotating outward at the lowest positions. Pull back and down to pull up.
Pulldowns work well for lower traps, especially if you can’t yet complete pull-ups. However, it does require you to have access to a hanging bar. If you don’t have a hanging bar, you can use resistance bands. Secure the band overhead in a door or an anchor. Then, kneel while facing the door, keeping your chest up. Hold the resistance band end or handle in each hand and pull downward. Release slowly and repeat.
So there you have it – all the exercises you need to build some bulky trapezius muscles at home!
If you’ve been wondering how to build traps at home, now you know that with the right equipment and some hard work it’s entirely possible.
Make sure that you’re eating plenty of good quality whole foods to fuel your muscle growth and you’ll be bursting out of your shirts in no time.
You may also want to learn how to turbo-charge your muscle growth by reducing your myostatin levels.