How to Build Trap Muscles

how to build trap muscles to relieve neck pain

As we continue to work out and maximize the health of our bodies, we should try to focus on muscles that don’t often get thought of as much as the muscles that everybody thinks of.  Biceps are sexy, right?  What about learning how to build trap muscles?  Some of you might be asking what trap muscles are and others are rolling their eyes because they know how annoying it is to have to work out the trapezius.  If you didn’t know what they were, you’re about to.  If you know what they were and you rolled your eyes, you need to pay extra close attention!  You can’t bring your muscles to the next level without the trapezius muscles because they support many other workouts you do, preventing injury!

What is the Trapezius?

The trapezius muscles make up ½ of your shoulder muscle.  They stretch from your neck, halfway down your back on the inside of your shoulder blade.  Maybe you don’t realize it, but you put stress on your trapezius muscle every time you pick something up, push against something, or pull something.  It may not be the primary muscle doing the work, but the trap muscle always supports the other muscles, providing some support [1].

Secondarily, the trap muscles support your neck.  Damage to the trap muscles can often result in extended neck or spine damage over time because the weight of the head is no longer getting the support it needs.  This can result in severe neck pain and in the most sever cases, Kyphosis. (Hunchback disease)  To prevent the extreme, we need to consciously exercise our trap muscles and remember ergonomics, especially at work [2].

5 Best Trap Muscle Exercises

5.) Pullups.  If you’re doing your pullups correctly, your trap muscles will hold you vertically.  They provide the support needed for the rest of the arm muscles to complete the pullup.  Do as many pullups as you can while remaining as vertically straight as possible to get the most out of the trap muscles.

4.) Chin-ups.  The dreaded chin-up is a modification of the pullup.  The idea is that you don’t fully extend your arms downward, resulting in a faster and more intense exercise.  Chin-ups, if performed properly, require more support from the trap muscles… and every other muscle, for that matter.

3.) Up-row with resistance bands.  Pulling up to your chin while standing on the resistance bands will definitely benefit your trap muscles.  In fact, you’ll likely start to feel the burn in your traps before you feel it anywhere else.

2.) Dumbbell shrugs.  Exactly what it sounds like, grab a pair of dumbbells that you think is adequate for you.  Rest your arms, letting the dumbbells drop to your sides.  Shrug.  It’s that simple.  Raising the dumbbells by just a few inches will work out your shoulder muscles almost exclusively.  Once you find a weight comfortable for you, do three sets of 20 shrugs.  By the time you do the last few shrugs, you should really be struggling.

1.) Smith machine shrug.  A machine you’ll find in most public gyms, the smith machine was created to work out your trap muscles perfectly.  The Smith machine takes the effective dumbbell shrug idea, applies it to a set of bar weights in the front of your body that will not move side to side like dumbbells might as you get tired.  The same set and rep rules apply from the dumbbell shrugs.


  1. Jared Ourieff; Amit Agarwal.
    Anatomy, Back, Trapezius
    Jared Ourieff; Amit Agarwal.
  2. Mikkel Brandt, 1 Emil Sundstrup, 1 Markus D. Jakobsen, 1 Kenneth Jay, 1 Juan C. Colado, 2 Yuling Wang, 3 Mette K. Zebis, 4 and Lars L. Andersen 1 ,*
    Association between Neck/Shoulder Pain and Trapezius Muscle Tenderness in Office Workers
    Pain Res Treat. 2014; 2014: 352735. Published online 2014 Mar 27. doi: 10.1155/2014/352735 PMCID: PMC3985383 PMID: 24800070
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