For many bodybuilders, the traps are a muscle group which doesn’t require much brain power to train. There are only a few movements which specifically train them, and they are all virtually the same. Simply put, they are some variation of shrugs – front, reverse, dumbbell, and barbell – in which you move the weight about three inches, from your waistline to your belly button, using only your traps (the muscles connecting the neck to the shoulders) to move the weight.
A variety of movements is best for complete trap development, even though they are all pretty much the same. Some days, you should use Dumbbell front shrugs with barbell reverse shrugs. Other days, try front barbell shrugs with reverse machine shrugs. Keep it fresh, to keep the muscle group guessing and the boredom form setting in. Upright rows do target the traps a bit, but the risk they place on the shoulders for injury is prohibitive, and not worth any gains you will see. Keep the movement simple and direct. Lift heavy weights in the same motion, and avoid injury.
In terms of rep range, you will not be served well by using high repetition shrugs. Keep that weight heavy, and the repetitions low. You don’t want to dabble with any rep scheme below five. However, you can find some success by training in the 6 to 10 range. Any heavier than that, and you are placing the nerves in your shoulders, neck, and traps in a precarious position. A neck injury can keep you out of the gym indefinitely. Always warm up the traps, and never lift any weight well beyond your capability.
It’s not rocket science, and many bodybuilders are able to develop a serious set of traps form just pulling around a barbell. For those who are not that easy, however, some adjustments often do need to be made. Bodybuilders with very narrow frames may want to consider their goals when planning their trap training. Narrower bodybuilders tend to have trouble achieving the V-shape which is desired so much among bodybuilders. Building up the traps to a high degree can leave the narrow bodybuilder looking even narrower and bunched up. The shoulders need to look wide, and building tall traps on a narrow athlete will not do that. At that same time, however, bodybuilders who are too wide (yes, some are cursed with such a thing!) are going to have a very tough time actually feeling the traps do any work. Often, men with wide shoulders will experience difficulty feeling the shrug in their shoulder girdle. To combat this problem, the trainer should lean forward a bit, and tuck the chin into the chest. This will pull the shoulder and neck out of the equation, and move the brunt of the workload to the traps so that growth can occur.