You can have the greatest arms in the world, but if your shoulder development is far than satisfying, you’re not going to impress anybody. Huge guns are impressive, but huge traps scream “hard work” a lot louder – these small muscles are far more complex than you think they are and making them grow isn’t such an easy task. Especially if you’re hoping that your regular back workout will get the job done so that you don’t have to waste time on additional trap training when you’re already tired and hungry.
Newsflash: while it’s true that these muscles get activated to some extent by most upper body movements, building great traps takes real effort. The trapezius is more than a chunk of muscle between your neck and shoulders – it actually originates at the base of the skull, runs down to the upper and mid-back area and covers both scapulae (shoulder blades). Strong traps are pretty much essential for improving overall performance, maintaining good posture and excellent shoulder health and building powerful appearance.
So how should you train your traps? The problem is, only a small number of bodybuilders would answer this question correctly, while the rest would simply shrug (pun intended). Yes, most guys are guilty of leaving the biggest part of their trap-growth potential untapped by performing countless sets of barbell shrugs and calling it a day.
Effective trap training is all about training this muscle with respect for the way it was built to function. And there is one exercise which can help you do that.
Meet the face pull
The lower traps are often neglected in favor of the upper traps. This is a really bad trend, because the lower traps are as equally important as the upper ones for achieving a strong, well-balanced physique. Exercises that employ the vertical plane of motion primarily hit the upper traps, while the lower traps need to be trained with movement patterns in the horizontal plane.
Improving scapular movement and increasing trap strength are the two most important reasons why we recommend face pulls to anyone who’s looking to grow bigger and healthier traps. The face pull involves a horizontal pulling movement and not only does it complement all the pressing you’re doing in the gym and help you build static strength and endurance, it will also strengthen correct posture and improve shoulder stability.
For this exercise you can use many different pieces of equipment, but ideally, face pulls are performed with a pulley machine with the fulcrum at upper-chest height.
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- To get the most of this exercise, set the pulley at eye-level or a bit higher so that the movement is slightly downwards
- Grab the rope with both hands using a pronated or supinated grip
- Choose a weight that will allow you to complete three sets consisting of 8-10 reps each with a relatively slow tempo
- Keep the elbows higher than the shoulders all through the movement
- When you pull the rope toward your face, pull it as far apart as you can by increasing the distance between your hands
- Exaggerate the movement of the scapulae during the stretch and hold the peak contraction for 3-5 seconds
- For best results, perform 3 sets of 8-10 reps of face pulls at the beginning of every back and shoulder workout for at least two months
That’s pretty much it.
Now get off the internet and go build some monster traps!