Trapezius & Bodybuilding: Explore Traps Muscle Function with Exercises

Traps Exercises

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Bodybuilders have one primary goal in weight training: to build muscle mass. Not surprisingly, the favorite pose of nearly all competitors is the most-muscular. In this pose, also known as the crab shot, your chest and arms are clearly displayed, and the judges get a look at your abs as well. What really makes this pose impressive, however, is a pair of terrifyingly huge traps-big, rounded, massive traps starting so high that when you hit a crab shot, they seem to grow right out of your head; long thick extended traps that defy gravity until they plunge at a ski-slope angle into the striated delts below. There's no question that superior traps define the advanced bodybuilder. Not only are they a major factor in an awe-inspiring most-muscular pose but they're also on display during the double-biceps shot and the lat spread. As a result, physique athletes can ignore trap development only at their peril.

While the trapezius is recruited during many back and shoulder exercises, the days arc long gone when the traps you get from indirect training are sufficient to keep you in the running for that trophy you covet. You traps need the same specialized attention you give every other muscle group on your body.

The Function of the Trapezius The trapezius is a broad, flat, triangular muscle that covers the rear portion of the neck and the upper part of the back. Its one of four muscles in the upper-back region and is the closest to the skin.

The trapezius originates on the vertebrae all the way from the base of the skull to the bottom of the rib cage. It inserts on the scapula and the clavicle in the shoulder region. Due to the extended points of origin, some muscle fibers run tip and down diagonally, while the fibers nearest the shoulders run horizontally, parallel to the shoulders, across the width of your back.

The trapezius has several functions. When the shoulder bones are fixed, it extends the neck, bending it backward. It also permits the elevation, depression, adduction and upward rotation of the scapula, depending on which trapezius fibers arc recruited. This is important, since many bodybuilders think that the traps only let you lift your shoulders. The upper fibers do in deed elevate the shoulder as well as allowing upward rotation. The lower fibers by themselves, however, act to depress the scapula. Simultaneous contraction of all trapezius fibers adducts the scapula; that is, brings the two scapulae toward each other. This produces a trap crunch, which is every bit as growth-stimulating as the better-known ab and pec crunches.

The other muscles in the upper back are the levator anguli scapulae and the rhomboideus major and minor. These three muscles assist the trapezius in its functions, so they're also worked in your trap program. The levator anguli scapulae helps the trapezius to bear weight or shrug the shoulders. The rhomboideus major and minor draw the scapula directly backward toward the spine and cooperate with the levator anguli scapulae in the downward rotation of the scapula.

Novice Workout

Dumbbell shrugs 3 x 6-10

Since the traps are also involved in the execution of several back and shoulder exercises, it's easy to overtrain them. To make sure that doesn't happen, you perform only one exercise in the novice workout.

Always start with a warmup on every exercise using 40 percent of the weight you'll lift on your three work sets This is important because each exercise works the muscles differently. Try to do at least six reps per set, and focus on progressive resistance. When you can perform 10 reps with a given weight, increase the weight.

This will temporarily lower the number of reps you can do, but over time you'll gain strength and get up to 10 reps again. Keep repeating the process, and watch as your traps explode with new shape and mass.

Dumbbell shrugs Select a pair of moderately heavy dumbbells and grip them with your palms facing your sides. (In time, as your poundages increase, you will need to use wrist straps to hold onto the dumbbells.) Stand in front of a mirror so you can watch your technique. Your feet should be close together in order to facilitate the movement of the dumbbells.

Begin with the weights in front of your legs and your palms facing each other. Keeping the rest of your body stationary, slowly lift your shoulders in a shrug. Hold this position for a second, then return to the starting position. Do two to three repetitions.

Next, while the dumbbells are at the bottom of the movement, move them to where they're near the outer sweep of your thighs. Perform two to three reps at this location, then bring the dumbbells to the sides of your thighs and do two to three more.

Using the three positions will recruit more of the trapezius muscle fibers than would be possible with only one position. Remember, however, that only the dumbbell moves while you reposition it; your shoulders stay down. Avoid rotating them, since it's hard on your rotator-cuff muscles.

Intermediate Workout

Dumbbell shrugs 3-4 x 6-10

Seated trap machine 3-4 x 6-10

Seated trap machine. Many gyms are equipped with this apparatus nowadays or at least they have standing trap machines. The advantage of the seated machine is that your body is always stationary from the hips down, so there's no possibility of swinging. That minimizes the potential for injury. If your gym only has the standing variety, you can use it as long as you're careful to avoid rocking back and forth.

Grab the handles of the machine with your palms facing inward. Slowly raise the weight as high as possible, being careful not to move the rest of your body in an at- tempt to lift more weight. While progressive resistance is good, cheating is not.

You want to isolate your traps as much as possible on this exercise, so try to imagine your body as an inflexible piece of iron. Nothing can bend it out of shape. Focus on the target muscles throughout the entire range of motion. This will lead to the greatest growth.

Advanced Workout

Dumbbell shrugs 4 x 6-10

Seated trap machine 4x6 - 10

Barbell shrugs 4x6 - 10

Barbell shrugs. Select a moderately heavy barbell and take a slightly wider-than-shoulder-width overhand grip. This positions your hands outside your thighs so your legs won't get in the way during the exercise.

This advanced movement is a bit different from the other exercises discussed in this article. In this case you want to recruit the muscle fibers on the central and lower portions of the trap muscle as well as the upper fibers, which are generally used in shrugging motions. The difference is that you incorporate a trap crunch into the movement.

Slowly raise your shoulders as you did previously, but now, at the same time, move your two scapulae together until the muscles are fully contracted. This up-and-back motion really forces your traps into a growth mode, so be sure to use it. Hold for a second, then return to the starting position and repeat.

Huge Traps Can Be Yours

The terrifying traps program will definitely add mass to your back. Soon you'll be walking around with awe-inspiring trapezius muscles that enhance your V-taper and give your upper body an exciting diamond shape-which will definitely set you apart from the crowd.

It's up to you now. Establish your goal to build superior traps, and then do what it takes to achieve it. What are you waiting for?

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