The bench press must be the most sought after movement to increase, so this…
Nothing says “I’m a badass” more than having large traps. Large traps/neck muscles are possibly the most intimidating on the body. Never mind the beach body/club muscles – arms, abs etc. as although they are nice, they aren’t particularly masculine.
Big traps are great, and they’re an area I’ve had a natural tendency to struggle with over the years, being a mild ectomorph, genetically. However I’ve noticed a substantial increase in their size over the past 4-5 months or so. Today, Im going to share with you what I’ve done in this area to grow them.
Before I begin, it should go without saying that in order to grow your traps, you need plenty of food. Those cobra’s aren’t going to grow on 1700 calories. This calorie surplus also needs to be consistent over time. There’s a reason so many Bodybuilders recommend taking multiple year off-seasons – building muscle takes a long damn time. It also requires a long-term consistent calorie surplus.
How To Build Bigger Traps
Assuming you’re in a calorie surplus and have been for an extended period of time, we can now focus on training. Personally, I believe most of my trap growth came from the Big Daddy Deadlift, the best movement ever. On top of this I also performed quite a bit of rows and heavy dumbbell shrugs. I think these things helped but didn’t necessarily cause most of my gains. They topped it off rather.
Rows aren’t normally associated with massive trap development, but they definitely thicken up the lower trap area, and I think they’re a useful addition. Shrugs obviously target the traps directly, and a nice side benefit is that if you’re using heavy weight, they can also target your grip strength effectively, especially when somewhat fatigued after doing deadlifts themselves.
All in all, those assistance exercises have been helpful. But I think deadlifts created most of the growth, and guys who spend hours doing shrugs are just wasting their time. You don’t need many sets when they’re already fatigued from deads. If you can deadlift 500 pounds, you won’t have small traps. It’s similar to the concept that biceps are obviously targeted by curls, but you could get 80% of the total possible growth (from one session) by doing 3 sets of weighted pull-ups, for example. Deadlifts are always performed first – massive time saving benefits.
In terms of total weekly volume and crucially, how this changed over time, it looked like this:
Week 1 – 5 sets of deadlifts, 6 sets of rows and 6 sets of shrugs
Week 2 – 7 sets of deadlifts, 6 sets of rows and 6 sets of shrugs
Week 3 – 9 sets of deadlifts, 6 sets of rows and 6 sets of shrugs
Week 4 – Same as week 1
This cycle continued on a monthly basis.
This weekly volume was performed over two sessions – Mondays & (usually, depending on my schedule) Thursdays. Monday was heavy(ish) deadlifts and Thursday was a lighter stiff-legged deadlifts day. Both days had three sets of rows and shrugs after whatever type of deadlifts. Both days had plenty of trap and grip action overall, and my traps and forearms were always being pushed recovery-wise.
As you can see from the above weekly volume progression, you can see that there were changes every week. But how did I progress from month to month?
The last deadlift set of each Monday session was an optional AMRAP (as many reps as possible), so if I was feeling good, I would test my performance in the deadlift. If everything felt really light and relatively easy, I would incresae the weight on the bar until the next time everything started to feel too easy again. This happened every 2-3 weeks, being an upper-intermediate in a modest calorie surplus. The less experienced you are, the faster you can progress. The larger your food intake, the faster you can progress.
So the fact that the weight on the bar was increasing every 2-3 weeks ensured that I was progressing on a monthly basis. In fact, the sheer level of volume will stimulate plenty of growth itself, and it will take a while to adapt to. 9 sets of deadlifts per week is actually a lot, and admittedly, may not even be ideal for bulking. I talked about this a bit here. I think the reason I got away with it is becaust the majority of them were lighter, stiff-leg variations, rather than super-taxing heavy sumos.
Remember That Food Is Always Paramount
If you don’t eat enough, you aren’t going to grow. Just like if you’re failing to be in a caloric deficit, you ain’t losing that fat. Simple concept yet so many people seemingly don’t understand. Just like with Big Daddy Government – spend less than you earn, and you avoid creating world-wide financial problems (yes, despite their claims of innocence over the pond, it was the government’s fault). Simple, yet people’s short-term desires are all too appealing, it seems.
Eat a calorie surplus.
Furthermore, remember that your food intake will need to increase over time, gradually. 2700 calories may be a calorie surplus for you now, but it might be maintenance in another 4 months. Don’t forget this.
The more food you eat, the faster you will able to build your traps (with diminishing returns obviously). You’re always going to gain some fat so don’t worry about it, you can always cut it away later on once you have already built some cobra’s.
Train hard, and eat plenty. Get to work.