I’m going to discuss a subject where, in terms of genetics for size and development, I had the most luck. Since I can remember, I’ve had a large neck. This often lead to me questioning, why are my traps so big?
When I want to wear a tie to a formal event, I can never get my top button to close. My neck and traps appeared to develop more quickly and easily than any other muscle group as I went through puberty and beyond.
Granted, I spent a lot of those years actively interested in wrestling, which undoubtedly helped this region develop.
Being the fitness geek that I am, even though I haven’t had to put nearly as much direct effort into it as in some other areas, I have learned several ways to maximize growth.
I can’t recall how many times people have observed my physique and then said, “I bet you do a lot of shrugs!”
Actually, I’ve never really liked shrugs as a training exercise. Other movements, in my opinion, provide greater growth for the trapezius muscle.
There are three options available that affect your Trapezius muscle. As with any muscle, genetics play a major role, adding to that direct and indirect stimulation that will cause hypertrophy.
Trapezius Muscle Anatomy
The trapezius muscle is a large shallow back muscle that looks like a trapezoid It extends laterally to the spine of the scapula and downward from the occipital (cranial) bone to the lower thoracic vertebrae.
Upper, middle, and lower fiber groups make up the trapezius. (Ourieff et al., 2022)
The scapula is stabilized and moved by the trapezius muscle. The upper fibers have the ability to stretch the neck and raise and rotate the scapula upward.
The scapula is adducted (retracted) by the middle fibers. The lower fibers depress the scapula and help the top fibers rotate it upward. For throwing items, this rotation is crucial in addition to the deltoid muscle.
The upper trapezius muscle emerges from the skull and neck bones, wraps around the neck, and then travels roughly parallel to the shoulders before joining the lateral third of the collarbone (clavicle), or the outer part of the collarbone.
In some persons, the upper bundle of trapezius fibers have a distinct attachment site and tendon located higher on the collarbone. Due to the shorter and more bunched-up muscle fibers, this would undoubtedly result in a larger-looking trapezius. (Kwak et al., 2003)
Having a narrower collarbone or a higher attachment point on the collarbone would also make the trapezius look larger for the same reason, even if the attachment point is in the usual place. (Kwak et al., 2003)
Stimulation of Trapezius Muscle
1. OVERHEAD PRESS
Any variant of the overhead press is one of the movements that is most undervalued for trap development.
Everyone is aware of their benefits for developing the shoulders and triceps, but many are unaware of how good they are for developing the traps, particularly the upper traps that link to the neck (Selemin, n.d.).
Keep in mind that the purpose of the traps is to raise and lower the shoulders, thus any action involving this part will also involve the traps.
The part of the traps that are targeted varies depend on the movement’s direction; for example, overhead presses raise the shoulders upward and vertically and thus work the upper traps, whereas barbell rows bring the shoulders back and focus on the lower part of the traps (Selemin, n.d.).
2. LATERAL RAISES
Lateral raises, which also involve elevating the shoulders, are an excellent and underappreciated trap builder.
I prefer cable lateral raises over dumbbells because they provide constant tension over a wider range of motion. (How to Do Lateral Raises, n.d.)
Personally, my favorite back exercise are Rows. It’s one of the best movements for building a strong back. Also It works a few muscles called agonist, stabilizer, and synergist muscles like the trapezius muscle (Whitten, n.d.)
Kirk Rows, named after the legendary powerlifter Kirk Karwoski, are a third movement I like for building my traps.
“Captain Kirk” is best known for being one of the greatest squatters of all time, but he also had a phenomenal physique, as evidenced by an epic photo of him performing what appears to be a hybrid of a power shrug and a partial upright row.
I used to do a lot of strict upright rows when I was younger, but they can be hard on the shoulders at the top of the movement. In this version, I stop pulling when the bar reaches the middle of my torso.
This relieves shoulder strain and allows you to use a little more weight while engaging more muscles and utilizing a greater range of motion than simple shrugs.
I recommend deadlifting because it puts a lot of isometric tension on the area and, anecdotally, it appears that nearly all big dead lifters have well developed traps/neck. (What Muscles Does Deadlift Work?, 2022)
5. DIRECT TRAINING
Usually boxers perform direct training to the neck in order to support any impact to the face There are some good machines and devices for this but in my experience they are not commonly found. (Mehta, n.d.)
Anybody can strengthen their neck muscles by lying on their back and raising their chin to their chest for a lot of repetitions (think 50 or more), as well as by keeping their head off the ground and rotating from side to side (so they are facing the right, then the left, and so on, also for a lot of repetitions).
A little extra range of motion can be added by lying on a bench or bed with your head hanging over the edge. Simply wrap a towel on your forehead, set a weight plate against it (start small with a 10lb plate), then elevate and lower your head while holding it in place.
6. Indirect Stimulation
What sports do you do or have done in the past? Swimming or sports with throwing like baseball, boxing, baseball, and many others work the trapezius. Do you walk around with a heavy backpack a lot? This can also work your trapezius muscles.
The trapezius muscles is a supportive muscle of the spine and posture. It is effected by multiple factors including genetic placement of the muscle’s fibers adding to that multiple direct and indirect exercises and sports which can lead to hypertrophy of the muscle.
Where is the trapezius muscle?
What is the function of trapezius muscle?
Trapezius muscle function has mainly postural attributes supporting the spinal column to remain erect when the person is standing.
Also it is used for active movements like side bending and turning the head, elevating and depressing the shoulders, and internally rotating the arm
How trapezius muscles grow?
Trapezius muscle size is effected by a person’s genetic predisposition and by stimulation triggering this muscle directly as in weight lifting exercises, or indirectly like sports mainly swimming and boxing.
- How to Do Lateral Raises. (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/how-to-do-lateral-raises
- Kwak, H. H., Kim, H. J., Youn, K. H., Park, H. D., & Chung, I. H. (2003). An anatomic variation of the trapezius muscle in a Korean: The cleido-occipitalis cervicalis. 44(6), 1098–1100.
- Mehta, P. (n.d.). What to Know About Training Like a Boxer. WebMD. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/what-to-know-training-like-boxer
- Ourieff, J., Scheckel, B., & Agarwal, A. (2022). Anatomy, Back, Trapezius. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK518994/
- Selemin, J. (n.d.). How to Do a Shoulder Press. WebMD. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/how-to-shoulder-press
- What muscles does deadlift work? How-to, variations, and more. (2022, October 27). https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/what-muscles-does-deadlift-work
- Whitten, C. (n.d.). How to Do a Barbell Row. WebMD. Retrieved February 12, 2023, from https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/how-to-do-barbell-row
Nicolas Abdallah a Lebanese 6th year medical student at the university of balamand lebanon, with a background of more than 10 years in the fitness and health world. My goal is to become an orthopedic sports medicine doctor.