Here is a simple trapezius exercise for size and strength.

Even the most beginning of beginners can do this, yet the very advanced should also try this basic exercise if they want to grow their upper trapezius muscle or become stronger in that area.

All that is needed is a Smith machine or a tracked barbell apparatus.

Place the bar at a height that requires you to bend a bit at the knees for your hands to securely grasp the bar.

The grip may be overhand or underhand. However, with an overhand grip, the trainee is less likely to bend the arms while pulling at the bar.

The slight knee bend, in order to reach the bar, guarantees that the upper trapezius muscle will be under tension at the start of the exercise:

After grabbing the bar, straighten into good posture, feet shoulder width or so apart, legs straight (but do not hyperextend the knees). The bar should be pulling at the upper traps.

If it is not, the bar is too high. Lower it one notch. Now, from the start position, raise the bar by only shrugging the shoulders. Do not bend the arms.

If the arms bend, this will subtract tension off the upper traps. This is supposed to be an isolation movement, so it’s very important to keep the arms straight.

Keep the feet flat on the floor. Do not go up on the balls of the feet or lift the heels from the floor.

This should be an all-upper-traps exercise. Hold the shrug position as high as possible for one to two seconds before releasing.

Do not carelessly release just because the machine’s stops will catch the bar.

Lower the bar with control. The lowering phase is part of the exercise.

When you lower completely, the bar should not come in contact with the stops. If it does, it’s too high and needs to be set lower.

Another way to increase distance between the bar and the traps, when in the start position, is to stand on a slight platform, such as the stepper that is used in step aerobics classes.

Sometimes, lowering the bar to the next lowest notch isn’t practical. Standing on the stepper, while performing these shoulder shrugs, will solve the problem.

The weight should be heavy enough to allow 10-12 full reps. By the end of the set, the trainee should really feel exhaustion in the upper traps.

If 10 reps are not possible, lighten the weight. If more than 12, with good form, are possible, add more weight.

This exercise should not be done after a movement like deadlifts or pull-ups. It can be inserted in between leg exercises or maybe chest or shoulder exercises.

Treat the simple traps exercise for size and strength as you would the deadlift, bench press or squat—lift as heavy as possible while completing full range of motion and maintaining good form—and your traps should start growing in size and strength.

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
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