Excessively training a certain body part without fully understanding the way it is designed to function seems to be one of the most popular guilty pleasures among modern bodybuilders. And this is perhaps nowhere as evident as it is in the case of trap training.
Effective trap training, as you can imagine, is based on acknowledging the way this muscle was built to work and training it accordingly. However, most guys out there focus on largely futile exercises such as shrugs in the hope of developing “boulders on the shoulders”.
Why do we say this? Because according to the basics of the biomechanics of human movement, shrugs miss the mark terribly when it comes to engaging the traps in a productive way. Moreover, if you’re performing the bulk of compound barbell lifts, your traps are bound to get plenty of stimulation and won’t be in need of much direct work.
So let’s take a look at how the traps are meant to function and what’s the best way to achieve well-balanced trap growth.
The Case Against Shrugs
Like we mentioned above, doing plenty of deadlift variations, rows, pull-downs and overhead presses will give your traps just the right amount of work needed to stimulate growth and even the majority of dumbbell exercises for the shoulders or back will activate the traps to a certain degree.
Therefore, spending time and energy on isolation work for the traps is kind of pointless for most gym goers, mostly because that amount of time and energy can be better spent on multi-joint functional movements that ensure increased anabolism and better overall growth. Of course, once you have built the muscle mass you’ve set out to build, you could target the traps with direct work in order to improve definition, but in most cases, there’s simply no need for that.
Yet a lot of bodybuilders who are focused on upper body mass tend to overstimulate their traps with high-volume, high-frequency shrug sessions which eventually prove to be inefficient. But even when it’s effective, too much direct trap training has its flaws. Namely, overdeveloped traps can easily steal the show from the shoulders, de-emphasizing their width and giving you that sloped-shoulder look when viewed from the back.
Having huge traps may sound like a great thing, but over-active traps also tend to fire whenever you’re working the back and shoulders, thereby interfering with their optimal growth. Even further, over-active traps can contribute to one of the four components of the “upper cross syndrome” which causes back pain, posture problems and upper body mobility issues.
So although big traps are cool, they alone don’t make for an aesthetically appealing build and could potentially harm your performance – if you’re looking to build a well-balanced and proportional physique, you’d want to limit trap development instead of accentuating it even further.
Truth be told, those monsters with enormous traps you see at your gym have probably built them with the help of the exercises you’re not doing while preoccupied with endless series of shrugs.
Continues on next page (Trap Function 101) …