How do you structure your training? More specifically, how do you structure your trap training? If your goal is bigger traps, there are some simple ways you can modify you existing programme to stimulate growth.
Frequency is key. Loading the spine on a regular basis will force the body into adaptation. These adaptations will be in the form of muscle hypertrophy around typically vulnerable areas of the spine, i.e. the cervical spine (neck) and the lumber spine (lower back). The by-product of this is well developed traps and spinal erectors.
Outside of the strongman world, you seldom see regular punters focusing on mastering the compound lifts. I’d say that 80% of typical gym goers will focus more on the aesthetically building the Biceps and Pecs rather than honing their lifting skills. In my opinion, if you want to put on muscle all over the body, there is no quicker way than heavy lifts that tax the spine.
Baring this in mind, you’ll quickly see that these muscles can be developed with virtually no direct work at all. Consider the training split I’ve been using for the best part of 3 years now.
1 – Overhead press variation
2 – Squat
3 – Overhead variation and Remedials
4 – Deadlift and events work
What do you notice about this split? Spinal loading, spinal loading and spinal loading, zero upper trap isolation work. If you frequently include exercises that put weight on the spine, trap training will take care of itself. If you’d like ideas on how to design your own training programme, I’d recommend reading this article.
Grip & Tempo
From experience, the traps respond well to time under tension. As well as this, changing your grip can have huge affects as well. Remember this rule, if it’s challenging the grip, it’s challenging the traps. Using a “snatch grip” or wide grip on deadlifts has worked very well for me. You have to reduce the amount you lift, but it’s fantastic for developing the traps, grip, shoulders and lats. Furthermore, you can also change the bar you train with to an thick grip or “Axle” bar. This has a similar affect in addition with slow tempo and/or high reps.
If you want to add muscle to your frame whilst simultaneously burning fat, loaded carries are the way to go. Trap training and moving heavy implements from A to B go hand in hand. My personal favourites are farmers walks and keg runs. These type of exercises are great for building strength but also equally good for conditioning due to the enormous strain they have on the body.
I like to programme farmers walks in after either deadlift or shoulder pressing sessions. I would go heavy on farmers after a deadlift session because of the neural activation caused by the earlier deadlift work. If it were a shoulder press session, I would go lighter and for further distances focusing on scapula retraction more than anything.
To add some major muscle to your neck and shoulders, re-evaluate your training split and assess whether you are astutely placing enough compound lifts into your regime. Remember, only go as heavy as your technique allows you and always use basic progressive overload as a measurement for improvement.
Want more info on Strongman training? You can listen to my interview with u90kg multiple strongman champion Tom Hibbert