Middle/Upper Traps Tie-In


Flash back to the mid- to late-1980s, when Georgia-based bodybuilder Lee Haney was an unbeatable force on the Olympia stage.

His traps were one of his many standout muscle groups. Not only for the way they popped up on his shoulders, but also for the way the complete traps upper, middle and lower looked when Haney turned his back to the crowd. If you want a set of traps that are as impressive from the front as they are from the back, take a tip from Haney and try his signature exercise: behind-the-back shrugs. But we’ll improve this tip by telling you to do behind-the-back Smith machine shrugs. Using a Smith machine allows you to stand further in front of the bar than you can with a free-weight barbell.

This means that you can get your well-developed glutes out of the way of the bar as you shrug it up behind you, allowing you to pull the bar higher to really build up the middle traps and the bottom part of the upper traps. Alternatives Behind-the-back barbell shrugs, behind-the-back dumbbell shrugs

When To Go Behind

Start your shrug workout (either following your normal delt workout or back workout) with standard barbell shrugs, while your traps are at their strongest. This allows you to go as heavy as possible, which places the greatest overload on the traps for better overall muscle growth. Finish with behind-the-back Smith machine shrugs. Go lighter and focus on shrugging the bar as high as possible, flexing your traps at the top as you hold the weight for a second in the highest position.

Form & Function

The trapezius starts on the back of the skull and attaches to the spinous process of the vertebrae, traveling all the way down to the last thoracic vertebra in the upper back. In other words, it runs down the middle of the spine from the back of the skull to the middle of the back. From there, it fans out and connects to the scapulas (shoulder blades) and clavicle (collar bone). The upper traps work mainly to elevate the scapulas, such as when you do shrugs.

The middle traps retract the scapulas (pulling them together toward the spine), such as in the end position of a seated cable row, when you squeeze your shoulder blades together. The lower traps work to depress (pull down) the scapulas, such as what happens to your scapulas when you do front raises.

Trap Workout

  • Barbell shrugs  —  3 Sets   6-8 Reps
  • Behind-the-back-Smith machine shrugs —  3 Sets    10-12  Reps

Author: Jim Stoppani, PhD
COPYRIGHT 2009 Weider Publications
COPYRIGHT 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning