When Should You Work Your Traps? Back Day, Shoulder Day Or Both?

by 4 years ago

One of the best compliments that a guy can get is that he looks as if he has no neck. To the average person, that would seem like some kind of insult, but meatheads know the difference. And to get to that point where you take it as a positive remark, you need to build up your trapezius muscles.

Getting these muscles that surround your neck grow as high as possible until they are nearly touching your earlobes is the goal. That much is a given, but where the debate lies is when to train your traps. There is a contingent that believes you should include them in your shoulder workout, while others will scoff at that and say you need to do them on back day.

You can make a good case for either and this decision is not unlike many others when it comes to weight training – do what works best for you and don’t worry about what that asshole wanna-be “expert” in your gym says.

But here’s a great suggestion that will satisfy both camps and you will also benefit the most from – train your traps on both your shoulder and back days. There are enough exercises that hit all three parts of your traps (yeah, there are more than one and we’ll get to that in a moment) that you are better off splitting them up on the days where they are being used as secondary muscles for delt and lat compound movements.


You know that part of your traps that are visible from the front and crushed in a ‘most muscular’ pose? They are the upper traps and should be worked on shoulder day after you have already hit delts, when they are already warmed up from doing side lateral raises and behind-the-neck presses.

So this is the perfect time to train your upper traps with a shrug exercise and you can choose between using a barbell, dumbbells, low cable pulley or Hammer Strength machine. All are good and you can switch it around from week-to-week by doing them in a Round Robin format.

Looking for something out of the ordinary? Try doing shrugs on a standing calf raise machine by leaving your arms down at your sides instead of holding the handles and lifting your shoulders instead of your calves.

Another go-to exercise for the upper traps is upright rows, and you can do these with a barbell, dumbbells or a low cable pulley. Use a shoulder width grip and keep the bar close to your torso and as you raise it to your clavicle.


Your middle and lower traps are worked with many back exercises, so it makes sense to implement these movements so that you are killing two birds with one stone. The best examples for the middle traps are:

*Bent Over Rows


*Wide Overhand Grip Seated Rows

You can also hit the middle traps from a different angle with rear shrugs on a Hammer Strength machine. Use the grip where your palms are facing in and bend your elbows slightly. By using a moderate weight, you can really control it and feel the squeeze towards the middle of your upper back.

The lower traps are the most difficult of the trio to isolate, but there are a few movements that will allow you to work them the right way. For example, the one-armed dumbbell row is a popular back exercise that also engages the lower traps. Make sure that you use a full range of motion and not to swing the weight.

You probably already do bent over rows for lats (and if you’re not, you should be), but can alter them a little bit so your lower traps are also invited to the party. Next time you’re at the gym, give the Yates Row a shot and it is named after the six-time Mr. Olympia who invented them. Dorian Yates would take an underhand grip and lean forward in a 30-degree angle instead of the usual parallel, pull the bar to his stomach, pause and go back down.

Although not the most comfortable of exercises, Y-raises do work the lower traps in a fashion that none of the other movements can. Lie facedown on a 45-degree incline bench and raise a pair of dumbbells in front of you as high as you can.

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