WEAK POINT WEDNESDAYS: TRAPS
Today we’re going to talk about one of my favorite body parts, the traps. Ever since I was a kid I was obsessed with sporting a pair of cobra traps, so I never ditched their training. In fact, I’d train them at every opportunity I had.
The trapezius is a large postural trapezoid-shaped superficial muscle, that extends longitudinally from the occipital bone to the lower thoracic vertebrae of the spine and laterally to the spine of the scapula.
It is divided into three parts: descending (superior), ascending (inferior), and middle.
Descending part: elevates pectoral girdle
Middle part: retracts scapula
Ascending part: depresses shoulders
Descending and ascending together: rotates scapula upwards
Bilateral contraction: extends neck
Unilateral contraction: Ipsilateral side flexion of neck
Middle part: assists with ipsilateral side flexion and contralateral axial rotation of upper thoracic region
For the traps, just like every other muscle, weighted stretching is key if you wish to turn them into your best bodypart. Although the rack pull above the knee became a meme on YouTube fitness during the past couple years, the truth is that it fucking works.
You get to go ultra heavy and get an extreme stretch on the traps, and even though some people might be pulled away by that fact, because they’re scared they might get injured, getting a trap tear is extremely uncommon. In fact I haven’t seen anybody tearing a trap, ever.
The Joel Waldman Rack Pull, another favorite of mine, is named after, you guessed it, Joel Waldman, a freakishly strong powerlifter of the 1980s that won the Neck of the Year award in 1994 with his 22 3/4″ neck!
Joel attributes his neck and trap size to manual resistance neck movements with a training partner, 1-2 times per week and no more than 1 set of 7-10 reps. Heavy deadlifts and Shrugs are also his favorite for neck size.
Preferably performed with a trap bar inside the power rack, or even with a straight bar, set up just like you’re going to perform a Rack Pull ATK. However, before you perform the Pull, you shrug your traps and hold that shrug throughout the Pull.
Eventually gravity will drop your shoulders to their starting position. The key is to resist that for a count of 5 seconds. As soon as your shoulders drop, the bar should be resting on top of the safety pins. Then you simply shrug again and perform the same movement 4 more times.
I prefer to limit this exercise to only 1 or two at the very most, sets for 5 reps, after I’ve done a few sets of Rack Pulls ATK or before my Power Shrugs.
Here is a video by the Man himself on how to perform them:
Another favorite exercise of mine, is the Panda/Speed Pulls. Used primarily by the Chinese Olympic Weightlifting team, I personally believe it’s a better variation than upright rows. In fact, I dont do upright rows at all. I do however rack pull extremely heavy, as well as Panda Pull. Obviously if you’re going to attempt them, make sure you’ve used a lacrosse ball on your pecs and shoulders as well as done a couple band pull aparts. If your shoulder mobility is hindered, aim to address the issue first, then panda pull.
Here’s a video to see how it’s done:
My favorite trap exercise is the Power Shrug. Instead of regular Barbell Shrugs, using your legs will greatly increase the amount of weight you can lift, therefore increasing the weighted stretch as well. I prefer to use a power rack or blocks instead of pulling the bar off the floor.
That being said, another amazing way to increase your shrugging tonnage/volume is to perform a shrug or two every time you deadlift or rack pull. This will not only increase the total volume, but will also act as a Nucleus Overload protocol and you already know that it’s one of my favorite ways to increase muscle mass. If you’re an Olympic Weightlifting connoisseur, you’ve definitely seen the Chinese do the same thing when they perform clean pulls.
Farmers walks are another amazing way to use weighted stretching to your advantage, whether you use a trap bar, dumbells or farmers walk handles. Not only that, but you’ll gain functional, real-life strength that can be used in order to dominate on every sport.
Aim for sets of 3-5 heavy reps on your shrugs, with the occasional heavy singles and ultra high reps, as well as alternate between heavy farmers walks for a short distance and a moderate/lighter weight for longer distances/durations.
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