Trap Exercises Ranked (BEST TO WORST!)

There are so many trap exercises, but which ones should you be focusing your efforts on if you want to build bigger traps and increase your strength? In this video, I’m going to give you the most popular trap exercises ranked from worst to best and help you to determine which you should be doing and which you can probably ditch.

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With that said, we have to lay out the criteria for the chest exercise selections. These are in the video.

Furthermore, if there is a steep learning curve to the movement or it is too equipment reliant then it may mot rank as high as some other options that are better and also don’t require as many resources.

With that being said, we start laying out the list and work our way up the rankings from the worst trap exercise to the best trap exercise.

WORST
1. Upright Rows
2. Rolling Shrugs
3. Above the Knee Rack Pulls

The upright row is and always will be at the bottom of the list for me. Not only does it place your shoulder joint at increased risk of injury but there are simply much better and safer options. For these reasons it belongs in the worst category.

The rolling shrugs being in the worst chest exercise category might surprise some as this how they’ve always done or were taught how to do shrugs. However, the safety of the shoulders is important and that’s why rolling shrugs will always be in the worst category for me.

While the rack pull can be a great assistance exercise, especially for training the deadlift, doing it above the knee leads to potential problems that can be avoided with a better variation of the rack pull, that being below the knees.

BETTER
4. Incline Y Raises
5. Face Pulls
6. Urlachers
7. Trap Pulldowns

The incline Y press serves as a great corrective exercise and helps to hit the lower and middle traps, but not without limitations. This exercise cannot be loaded with the same intensity as other exercises that hit the same muscles.

Face pulls, while one of my favorite exercises, still acts as a corrective moreso than it does a muscle building exercise. That doesn’t mean, however, that it doesn’t still target the muscles effectively.

The urlacher continues to hit the traps with lighter weights, again limiting the amount of overload that you can place on the traps. On the other hand, you are still able to target the traps and add in the benefit of external rotation with the dumbbells, offering a good choice if you don’t have access to cables.

Trap pulldowns might look like a standard behind the neck pulldown, however it is anything but. The isometric contraction of the upper traps in the pulldown offers a unique stimulus for growth.

BETTER STILL
8. Farmer’s Carries
9. Below the Knee Rack Pulls
10. Plate Trap Raises
11. DB High Pulls
12. Haney Shrugs

Farmer’s carries are another way to isometrically overload the traps as well as add in the benefit of training the grip.

Below the knee rack pulls are the superior variation to the above the knee rack pull because it translates better to deadlifting as well as the mechanics avoiding any risk of thoracic outlet injuries.

The plate trap raise is one of my favorite ways to hammer the lower traps, a muscle that often gets overlooked and forgotten about.

DB high pulls are the anti-upright row option here, offering all the same benefits without any of the risks. Overall, it’s just a better option,

Haney shrugs are just the behind the back variation of the classic shrug. While you can’t handle as much weight, you are hitting the traps from a different angle to allow a different stimulus.

ALMOST BEST
13. Face Pulls w/ Overhead Extension
14. Wrap Around Rows
15. DB/BB Shrugs
16. Cable Angled Shrugs

These three trap exercises are at the top of the heap when it comes to the best exercises for building big traps. Watch the video to see the specific reasons why they stand alone.

BEST
17. Trap Bar Shrugs

There simply is no better trap exercise for building big traps than trap bar shrug. With the arms angled due to the grips of the trap bar, you are in the most optimal line of pull throughout the exercise along with the being able to overload the muscles with appreciable weight.

For a complete step by step workout program that was created with the same level of science behind the selection of every exercise in the plans, be sure to head to athleanx.com via the link below and check out the program selector tool. Answer just a few questions and find the plan that is best suited to your current goals.

For more videos on exercises for bigger traps and the back workouts / back exercises be sure to remember to subscribe to our channel here on youtube via the link below and remember to turn on your notifications so you never miss a new video when it’s published.


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