This post was last updated on February 23rd, 2017
So I’ve just finished watching ‘Warrior’ where I’ve been ‘mirin Tom Hardy’s cobra traps HARD for the last 2 hours (no homo).
And I’ve come to the conclusion that traps are the only muscles that now matter.
Tom Hardy is actually a great example of how having huge traps can make you look extremely muscular, even if your other muscle groups aren’t that big.
After all when you’re looking at someone, you’re mainly looking at their face. And with your traps only located a few inches away, it’s a great opportunity to show off your muscularity.
Also not many weight lifters, or even PRO bodybuilders, have GREAT traps (with 90% of them always training chest and arms). So if you do develop monster traps, you’ll really stand out from the crowd.
Traps are actually quite an intimidating muscle group too, as they resemble the same shape of a cobra when it spreads its ‘hood’ – done as a defence mechanism. This can be translated as a polite “Don’t f*ck with me”.
Big traps will make you look ready to pounce on any prey that gets in your way.
…That kid curling it the squat rack comes to mind.
Best Workout for Traps
I don’t usually prioritise my traps because I’m so focused on getting other muscle groups as jacked as possible. But I designed a workout a couple of years ago and in the space of a couple of months my traps blew up.
- Farmers Walks – 10 minutes
- Dumbbell Shoulder Press – 10 minutes
- Dumbbell Shrugs – 10 minutes
See how I haven’t listed how many sets or reps to do. I literally did as many reps as I could in this time period, resting for as little as possible in between sets (no longer than 30 seconds).
30 minutes of pure trap work is high volume. I’ll explain shortly why such high volume is a must if you want massive traps.
Note: I did this workout 5x per week. If you can manage to fit in the time to do it this often, get ready for some insane growth.
If not, do this workout at least 3x per week, which will still produce good size gains.
1. Farmers Walks
Have you ever seen strong men’s traps? HUGE.
And one of their most-performed exercises are farmers walks. This involves gripping 2 handles down by your sides and walking with them. For this exercise you can use a trap/hex bar, dumbbells, kettlebells or you can be creative and use 4 gallon bottles of water.
Although your traps aren’t moving up and down during this exercise like they would be during shrugs, they’re still getting a great workout because they’re working as stabilizer muscles. Meaning they’re stopping your arms from swaying during the exercise. The same way that gymnast’s biceps are acting as stabilizer muscles on the rings.
As you can see below, his biceps aren’t flexed during this movement, like during a bicep curl, but they’re still under enormous tension. And these guys have some huge-as* biceps.
The Boy From Thailand
TeamThreeD Alpha did a video on youtube where he talks about a kid from Thailand who trained for Muay Thai but he wasn’t happy with his skinny build, as it made it more difficult for him to defend himself from kicks and punches. So his master ordered him to carry water for 3 hours each day, watering the plants and vegetables.
He was essentially doing farmers walks.
As a result of doing farmers walks combined with a crazy amount of volume, the boy’s traps literally grew out of proportion to the rest of his body – they got huge! (see below).
As he was doing this for hours every day, he wasn’t carrying a very heavy weight, proving you don’t need to lift heavy for explosive muscle growth. I typically use really light weights for all traps exercises because this way I can increase the time under tension, by doing a lot more reps. The rule of: ‘You gotta lift heavy to build muscle’ is evidently a myth.
In my workout I use 7kg in each hand. With this really light weight I can keep constant tension on my traps for the whole 10 minutes, without needing to rest.
Other benefits to doing farmers walks:
- They’re a great grip/forearm exercise
- Good exercise for cardio. If you do decide to lift heavier to challenge yourself – carrying 35kg in each hand and walking 100 metres a good few times will get you blowing!
2. Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Any overhead movement will also work your traps, but the dumbbell shoulder press is my favourite exercise which gives the traps a thick look.
Shoulder presses aren’t an orthodox ‘traps exercise’, but it’s given me some of the best gains; thus it’s very underrated.
As well as farmers walks, overhead movements are often performed by strong men. In training they regularly perform the clean and jerk and during competition their traps get annihilated during ‘loading’ events. By loading I’m referring to those those huge-ass stones that they lift from the floor onto upward platforms.
I genuinely start to pant from watching this event (sat on my sofa).
All shoulder exercises also stimulate the traps, including lateral raises, front raises and shoulder presses.
In fact, Tom Hardy’s main exercise for getting insane traps for Warrior were lateral raises (1).
Because shoulder exercises also work your traps, you’ll often find guys that have awesome shoulders also have really developed/thick traps.
A prime example of this is Phil Heath. Phil has boulder shoulders AND monstrous traps.
To emphasize the traps even more on shoulder day; on the dumbbell press you can lock your elbows out, giving you a full extension at the top of the movement. For lateral and front raises simply raise your arms as high as possible.
Phil Heath is known to perform/recommend a full range of movement on shoulder exercises (2), which can help explain his superior trap development, compared to his fellow Mr Olympia counterparts.
Shrugs, the only exercise that ever existed for working traps (apparently).
Johnny Jackson had some of the greatest traps bodybuilding’s ever seen.
So, how did he get them so big?
Johnny, in his teen years, would do endless amounts of shrugs after every workout (3). Ironically he didn’t even care about getting big traps, he was merely showing off because of how much weight he could lift during the exercise (honest of him!).
If you’re wondering whether doing this amount of volume is overtraining, then read my post here which puts the myth to bed.
They became so big that he couldn’t even squat properly because the bar would sit too high up (resting on his traps). And he doesn’t even train them anymore because he doesn’t want them to be out of proportion compared to the rest of his body.
…Wish I had that problem!
Johnny Jackson as a boy worked on a farm and would repeatedly lift heavy boxes above his head onto pallets as part of his job description. Thus replicating the ‘loading’ movements of strongmen (4).
Best Practices When Doing Shrugs
Hold onto plates or dumbbells by your side – don’t do barbell shrugs. The problem with barbell shrugs is that your quads limit your range of motion, making it more awkward to perform and stopping you from hitting the back of your traps.
The same applies to barbell shrugs from behind, where your hamstrings/bum are in the way. This will lead to a weaker contraction of the traps at the top of the movement.
Higher Testosterone = Huge Traps
If you had a natural guy with 19 inch arms and another guy with 19 inch arms (who was on steroids); the brah on steroids will have much bigger traps.
This is because the trapazius muscles contain a lot of androgen receptors compared to other muscle groups (5). Which is why they respond so well when someone decides to hop on the anabolic steroid train. The result: you turn into a human cobra.
The picture below of Phil Heath and Shane Raymond is a good example of this scenario. You’ve got Phil who’s admitted to taking steroids (6), then you’ve got Shane Raymond, a natural bodybuilder.
Yes, Shane really is natural!
He’s got freakish genetics and only competes in natural bodybuilding competitions, being put under rigorous and strict drug tests, including polygraphs (lie detectors). He’s also sponsored by Grenade who are known to only sponsor natural athletes.
In this picture they look similar in size, but if you compare their traps, Phil’s dwarf Shane’s. This is a good example of how your traps can balloon when taking steroids. It’s almost like a before and after.
I can’t personally relate to this because I’m natty, but one time I took a natural testosterone booster called Testosterone Max from CrazyBulk (contains tribulus terrestris). I’ve read that some people who take this herb don’t notice a thing and they ridicule it as a placebo. But for me it was the closest thing to taking steroids.
My muscles literally blew up and my traps became HUGE.
Despite experiencing amazing gains I stopped taking this shortly after, because tribulus is a stimulant and I realised that I’m really sensitive to stimulants…
Towards the end of my cycle I was experiencing severe anxiety/depression (which I never previously had before).
Throw in farmers walks, shoulder presses and shrugs into your workouts and do these exercises as often as possible. For fast results perform this workout (lasting 30 mins) 3-5 times a week minimum.
Nothing shows off a man’s natural masculine design than a sweet set of traps.
If you follow all these tips, it’ll only be a matter of time until you transform into a real-life Bane.