How To Build Bigger Traps And Grow Your Shoulders Fast

Often people like to focus on particular muscle groups, but they forget how vital it is to have solid and robust traps and shoulders. Getting robust traps is necessary not only for aesthetics but also because they support your upper body, especially your back and overall posture. Thus, learning how to build bigger traps and grow your shoulders fast is necessary.

When training your traps and shoulders, you should opt for isolation and compound movements to reap the best possible results. Therefore, executing exercises such as the barbell shrugs and deadlifts are vital, but so are dumbbell shrugs and pike press-ups.

How To Build Bigger Traps And Grow Your Shoulders Fast

If you want a well-rounded physique, then these two muscle groups (which make up a significant portion of your upper body) and working on them are essential to include in your overall training regime.

Below you will find tried and tested examples of some of the best exercises for shoulders and traps.

You need to read this if you hope to become bigger and stronger. If you are just getting started with shoulder workouts also see our post Shoulders And Abs Workout For Beginners

Also, many pieces of equipment can help you build the right muscles and get to your fitness goals faster. Check the table below if you are in a hurry to see our overall best workout aids.

 

 

What Are the Best Ways to Develop Your Traps and Shoulders? 🏋️‍♂️

What Are the Best Ways to Develop Your Traps and Shoulders

What must be stated early on is that there are exercises which work out both groups almost equally while being executed, and then there are those which put more focus and tension on a particular area.

However, most of them (of which you should try to master as many as possible) will aid in the development of both muscle groups.

So let us jump right in and tackle the topic at hand.

 

Barbell Shrugs

Barbell Shrugs 2

Barbell shrugs are a component of any lifter’s bread and butter in the gym, much like a few others we shall cover below.

The exercise is simple and has variations (which we will get to), but we cannot stress its benefits enough.

Primarily, this movement will target the traps or trapezius muscles, but you will find your shoulders coming into play when you load the bar.

The barbell shrug is easy to do, but mastering its intricacies sets apart the seasoned lifter from the novice.

First, you want to stand straight, with your feet shoulder-width apart, with the barbell in your hand; you want your palms facing inward at thigh level

Barbell Shrugs

Lift your shoulders and squeeze at the top briefly before gradually lowering the bar to the starting position.

You want to complete at least four sets for between 10 and 15 repetitions.

You can also perform the exercise using a Smith or shrug machine. Another variation is where you have the barbell behind your back.

See our top three recommended smith machines below if you would like to get one.

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Marcy Smith Cage Machine with Workout Bench and Weight Bar Home Gym Equipment SM-4008
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Valor Fitness BE-11 Smith Machine with Olympic Plate Storage Pegs
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IRON COMPANY Body Solid Smith Machine Powerline
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Marcy Smith Cage Machine
Valor Fitness BE-11 Smith Machine
IRON COMPANY Body Solid Smith Machine Powerline
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Steel
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80 x 12 x 10 inches
77 x 45 x 81 inches
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Marcy Smith Cage Machine with Workout Bench and Weight Bar Home Gym Equipment SM-4008
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Marcy Smith Cage Machine
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Steel
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98 x 59 inches
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131 Kilograms
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Multiple exercises, multi-functional, removable utility bench, adjustable safety stops
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Valor Fitness BE-11 Smith Machine with Olympic Plate Storage Pegs
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Valor Fitness BE-11 Smith Machine
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Heavy-duty material, safe guided motion, versatile, knurled bar
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IRON COMPANY Body Solid Smith Machine Powerline
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IRON COMPANY Body Solid Smith Machine Powerline
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Steel
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Barbell Behind-The-Back Shrug

Barbell Behind-The-Back Shrug

Image Source: The Optimal You

This movement targets your upper traps, just like the standard barbell shrug, and hits the middle traps and your levator scapulae.

The position you want to stay in is neutral and upright; you do not want your head to be stuck out in front of you or pulled back as you execute it.

Doing this exercise in the wrong position will increase your risk of injury and prevent your traps from activating correctly. 

This exercise is somewhat similar to the typical barbell shrug, but now the bar is positioned behind you.

You will likely note that you will experience the need to lessen the weight with the behind-the-back option, especially if it is your first time attempting it.

Barbell Behind-The-Back Shrug

Image Source: Fit Life Regime

To perform the movement, have your arms shoulder-width apart and use an overhand grip, and have your palms facing away from you.

It is usually best to do this movement with the weight racked and then lift it, standing facing away from the bar. 

Unrack the bar and have it hang, usually just below your glutes.

Then shrug your shoulders up toward your ears and complete the movement as seen in the previous example.

Need a barbell for your home gym? Check out our favorite products you can order online below.

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THE STEP Club Quality 4-Weight Deluxe Barbell Set (includes the bar) by Step Fitness
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Barbell Deadlifts

Barbell Deadlifts

This one may confuse you, as it utilizes other muscle groups, even including the likes of your glutes, but your posterior chain is also involved here.

Hence it has been included in the list of must-do movements. The only problem with the deadlift is that people’s egos get in the way, and they often want to opt for heavier weight before they have even come close to mastering the form.

Yes, indeed, your shoulders and traps will not be the primary target in this movement.  

Still, it will activate both muscle groups entirely and help to improve your overall bodily strength – not to mention your grip strength. 

Usually, you will find people scheduling deadlifts on leg day, but switch it up a bit and perform this at the beginning and end with shrugs, lateral raises, and front raises with a dash of pullup shrugs.

You will experience a tremendous pump in your traps and even your shoulders.

To find out how to properly perform the deadlift, see the following Youtube Video.

 

Face Pulls

Face pull workout

The face pull is an exercise you may see the odd person performing in the gym, but they are typically not going to make up the vast majority of lifters.

Most people overlook the benefits that you could gain from executing it and learning how to perform them correctly or even their purpose. 

The face pull is challenging to get the hang of and can feel awkward at first, and perhaps this is another reason that many choose not to perform them.

However, if you hope to take your traps and shoulders’ game to the next level, you should consider this movement that can offer exceptional returns.

Face pulls will help strengthen and grow the muscles and aid with your posture. 

This exercise’s primary targets are the shoulders, but it also works your traps.

You must do the movement in a slow and controlled manner, and the way you load the exercise is also essential.

This exercise is not one where we aim to overload. Instead, the technique is paramount, as you could injure your shoulders. 

We would advise you to leave these until the end of your session, once your muscles and joints are adequately warmed up and are already somewhat exhausted.

The fact that you are tired should promote a slow and fluid motion.

To see how to perform this exercise with the correct form, see the  Youtube Clip below that breaks down the basic mechanics. 

 

Upright Rows

The upright row will challenge your traps and your anterior and rear deltoids, which make up parts of your shoulder.

It is a terrific exercise that you may well want to consider including in your training program, especially if you have been shying away from them in the past.

The following Youtube Video will walk you through how to perform it correctly, though.

You need to use the correct technique and not load the bar too heavy, as this is a recipe for injury. 

One reason that causes many not to attempt the lift is shoulder impingement and general shoulder pain.

Instead, start lighter and master the exercise focusing on contracting the muscle and including higher reps in the beginning phase.

Upright Row3

If you are currently involved in doing Olympic lifting, or something like Crossfit, this movement will enable you to move more weight in the clean and press.

If you have weak shoulders prone to injury, we recommend excluding this movement.

 

Bent-Over Lateral Raise

Bent-Over Lateral Raise1

The standard lateral raise will target your shoulders far more.

Still, the bent-over version will activate both your shoulders and traps and is, therefore, a movement you can add if you wish to work for the two muscle groups simultaneously.

It is simple enough to perform, but because of the positioning of your body.

You need to be careful of going too heavy and experiencing an injury. 

Hold a dumbbell in both hands and bend slightly at your knees; bend over at the waist and arch slightly forward, but do not overextend the arch.

 Bent-Over-Lateral-Raise2.

Grip the dumbbells with your palms facing your torso, have somewhat bent elbows, and extend your arms to each side.

Your final position is when your elbows are at shoulder height and you want to squeeze here.

As the arms are raised and positioned almost parallel to the floor, squeeze your shoulder blades as comfortably as possible, then slowly lower the weights back to the starting point where they meet in line with the middle of your torso.

You want to perform this exercise between 3 and 5 sets for roughly 10-15 reps.

Check out our top three recommended adjustable dumbells below if you are interested in getting one.

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Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells (pair)
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Lifepro Adjustable Dumbbell - 5-in-1, 25lb dumbell Adjustable Free Weights Plates and Rack - Hand Weights for Women and Men - Adjustable Weights, 5lb, 10lb, 15lb, 20lb, 25lb (25 Pounds - Pair)
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Yes4All Adjustable Dumbbells - 50 lb Dumbbell Weights (Pair)
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Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells (pair)
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Bowflex SelectTech Dumbbell
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Lifepro Adjustable Dumbbell - 5-in-1, 25lb dumbell Adjustable Free Weights Plates and Rack - Hand Weights for Women and Men - Adjustable Weights, 5lb, 10lb, 15lb, 20lb, 25lb (25 Pounds - Pair)
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Exercises That Focus on the Developing the Traps

Exercises That Focus on the Developing the Traps

The upper portion of your traps not only supports your arms, but they also aid in raising your shoulder blades, and the mid to lower section of the traps aid in the motion of your scapular – those being retraction, rotation, and depression. 

When you shrug your shoulders, you activate your traps, an essential movement in developing them.

So let us examine exercises that focus primarily on working our traps and helping to develop them.

With these, you will be able to get bigger traps in 30 days.

 

Dumbbell and Kettlebell Shrugs

Dumbbell and Kettlebell Shrugs

We would not have a useful how-to guide for traps if we did not include the dumbbell and kettlebell shrugs.

You are probably already doing these exercises for your trap and shoulder training. We recommend keeping them in; if you aren’t, consider adding them. This movement helps to add mass and increases muscular endurance.

The wonderful thing about shrugs is that they are easy to do and have many variations; if you do not have a barbell, you can always use either kettlebells or dumbbells. 

If the barbells at the gym are all in use, opt for this variation, or use it for unilateral training.  

With this exercise, you need to adopt a similar stance as with the barbell shrug and now have dumbbells or kettlebells in your hands; shrug up as you would, squeeze the contraction, and lower the weights to your starting position.

You will want to repeat the exercise for three sets of 15-20 reps or 4-5 sets of 10-15 reps.

This movement will show you how to get bigger traps with dumbbells or kettlebells.

Here are our top three recommended adjustable kettlebells for you to use in your workouts.

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Yes4All 10-40lb Adjustable Kettlebell Weights/Kettlebell Weights Set – Cast Iron Kettlebell for HIIT and Cross Training Workouts
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Apex Adjustable Heavy-Duty Exercise Kettlebell Weight Set Strength Training and Weightlifting Equipment for Home Gyms APKB-5009, Grey
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Yes4All 10-40lb Adjustable Kettlebell Weights/Kettlebell Weights Set – Cast Iron Kettlebell for HIIT and Cross Training Workouts
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Titan Fitness 10 LB – 40 LB Adjustable Kettlebell Set, Cast Iron Plates, Strength Training
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Titan Fitness Adjustable Kettlebell Set
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Incline Dumbbell Shrug

Incline Dumbbell Shrug

Image Source: My Workouts

This exercise has a specific purpose, and although another variation of the previously mentioned exercise, this helps you target the often overlooked lower traps.

Your lower to mid traps are responsible for the movement of your shoulder blades and pulling them down, and working this part of your traps will certainly aid strength and help in bettering your posture.

You want to lie with your chest on an incline bench sitting at a 45-degree angle, with dumbbells in your hands to perform the movement.

Relax your arms and allow them to hang straight down on either side of the bench with your palms facing one another

You will then shrug your shoulders, squeeze your shoulder blades together, pause at the top, and take the weights to the starting position.

Do this movement for roughly three sets of 10-15 reps.

Incline benches are great for various exercises. Check out our top three recommended multipurpose workout benches below.

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Fitness Reality 1000 Super Max Weight Bench with Upgraded Wider Backrest/Seat (2019 Version), 800 lb (2804)
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obenater Exercise Bench Sit Up Bench Crunch Board Ab Bench for Toning and Strength Training with Reverse - Abdominal Exercise Equipment with 6 Adjustable Height Settings Full Body Workout
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SuperMax Adjustable Weight Bench
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Fitness Reality 1000 Super Max Weight Bench with Upgraded Wider Backrest/Seat (2019 Version), 800 lb (2804)
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SuperMax Adjustable Weight Bench
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Item Weight
35 Pounds
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59 x 23.5 x 48.5 inches
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Best For Beginners
Preview
Marcy Adjustable 6 Position Utility Bench with Leg Developer and High Density Foam Padding SB-350
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Marcy Adjustable Utility Bench
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Preview
obenater Exercise Bench Sit Up Bench Crunch Board Ab Bench for Toning and Strength Training with Reverse - Abdominal Exercise Equipment with 6 Adjustable Height Settings Full Body Workout
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Obenater Workout Bench
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Pullup Shrugs

Pullup Shrugs

This movement is excellent for various reasons as it helps develop your traps and focuses on your lats and biceps, along with other muscles.

You will also increase your potential of being able to perform the pullup with a more extraordinary form.

Because this is a bodyweight exercise, you may manage more or fewer reps, so aim for 3-4 sets or 8-10 reps.

The movement is easy, and you need nothing more than a pullup bar, which means that this is even how to get bigger traps at home.

The only critical point is that you need to keep a contracted core, and your spine must remain in proper alignment

Begin by hanging from the pullup bar and pulling your shoulder back and down so that your head moves in an upward trajectory, then lower back to the starting position, maintaining your posture. 

Check out our top three assisted pullup bars below.

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RELIFE REBUILD YOUR LIFE Power Tower Workout Dip Station for Home Gym Strength Training Fitness Equipment Newer Version
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Barbell Row

Barbell Row

Any form of rowing exercise is excellent for your mid to lower traps and your rhomboids, and these aid in stabilizing your shoulder blades, especially when you are lifting weights.

Rowing exercises are vital because if your shoulders are unstable, you limit the type of movements you can execute correctly.

You will start with the bar racked and then grasp it with an overhand grip wider than shoulder-width.

The bar should sit at about an arm’s length from your body, keeping a bend in your knees, also bend at the hips and lower your torso.

You want to reach a point where your upper body is almost parallel with the floor. Your back may well arch slightly, and this is acceptable.

Unrack the bar and have the weight hanging, but maintain a firm grip.

Then pull the bar toward your upper abdominal section and squeeze your shoulder blades toward one another.

Pause momentarily and then allow the bar to lower back down slowly and with control.

Repeat the exercise for three sets of 10-12 reps at a moderate weight.

If you are interested in more rowing exercises, check out our top three recommended rowing machines below.

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Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 Performance Monitor, Black
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FITNESS REALITY 1000 PLUS Bluetooth Magnetic Rowing Rower with Extended Optional Full Body Exercises and MyCloudFitness App
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Concept2 Model D
Fitness Reality Magnetic
Sunny Health & Fitness
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Preview
Concept2 Model D Indoor Rowing Machine with PM5 Performance Monitor, Black
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Concept2 Model D
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FITNESS REALITY 1000 PLUS Bluetooth Magnetic Rowing Rower with Extended Optional Full Body Exercises and MyCloudFitness App
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Exercises That Focus on Developing the Shoulders 🤸‍♂️

Exercises That Focus on Developing the Shoulders

See below for some exercises that will see you taking your shoulder game to the next level in no time at all.

However, you will need to be consistent and schedule your training correctly to do them as often as possible while still getting the required rest between workout days.  

Just like the traps have lower, middle, and low portions, the shoulder muscles are also grouped.

This grouping has two components: the extrinsic muscles (Trapezius, Levator Scapulae, and the Latissimus Dorsi), which help and support the shoulders, and the intrinsic muscles (Deltoids, Teres Major, and the Rotator Cuff), which connect with the shoulder joints.

 

Barbell Standing Press

Barbell Standing Press

This exercise is an excellent movement for overall mass building and works your shoulders, and incorporates so many different aspects of your body, especially in terms of stabilizing and supporting the movement.

This exercise allows some people to push immense weight while others will need to start light. 

Perform this movement for three sets and try for 8-10 reps.

To perform the exercise, take a barbell, and depending on your strength level, load it accordingly.

You want to hold the bar at shoulder height (with your hands just further than shoulder-width apart) and have your palms facing away from your body.

Your feet should have a slight bend in them, as they help initiate the lift and keep them shoulder-width apart. 

Using your legs to help drive momentum through the movement, press explosively and have the barbell landing straight above your head with your arms locked out.

Note: as you raise and lower the bar, move your head out of the bar’s path. Pause momentarily at the movement’s peak and return the bar to the initial position.

 

Dumbbell Front Raises

Front Raises

Typically, the lateral and posterior deltoids require more exercise.

Still, there are times when one may be in a situation where their front deltoids need more work.

This situation does not happen very often, especially if you are already doing many push exercises. 

Take a pair of dumbbells and have them hang at your sides with your arms fully extended.

Have your palms facing one another, and you will want a slight bend in your arms.

Then you either alternate between arms (which we recommended for most) or raise both arms simultaneously. 

You want your arms to end at a position where they are parallel to the floor and perpendicular to your upper body. 

Your thumbs should be pointing upward at about a 45-degree angle or can be straight up. 

Pause and hold the weight there before you return to the starting position.

If you cannot pause, you can assume that you are likely using very heavy weights.

You should also be able to do high reps on this exercise, so aim for three sets of 10-15 reps per arm.

 

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

adjustable dumbbells

You do the lateral raise pretty much the same way as the front raise, except now you are raising to the side and working the lateral head of your shoulder.

So once again, you will grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them at your side with your arms hanging and your feet firmly planted roughly shoulder-width apart. 

Keeping your palms facing the side of your body, raise your arms (a slight bend in your arm may be more comfortable for some), and take the dumbbells up to shoulder height, where they are parallel with the floor

Once at the top, your arms and body should form a T shape; pause momentarily at the top before lowering the weights.

Like the front raises, do three sets of 10-15 reps per arm.

 

Pike Press-ups

pike push-ups

Image Source: Pullup-Dip

Handstand press-ups or wall walks are other exercises that you may want to consider, but first, master the pike press-up; it is more challenging than it looks.

You can perform these with your feet on the ground at first, but you will want to graduate to a box, block, bench, or even a stable chair. 

Place your feet on the object you are using and hinge at the hips with your arms extended and your hands firmly planted on the ground. 

Keep your upper and lower body at almost a right angle and ensure your legs and arms are straight – your hands should sit almost underneath your shoulders. 

Then, slowly and with control (as you don’t want to knock yourself out), lower your head to the floor and push back up. 

If you will like to try shoulder workouts without weights check out our post At Home Chest And Shoulders Workout With Or Without Weights.

Also, yoga blocks are great to elevate your feet for pike push-ups. If you are interested in ordering one, check out our top three recommended blocks below.

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Gaiam Essentials Yoga Block 2 Pack & Yoga Strap Set, Deep Purple, 9"W x 6"H x 4"D
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Overmont Yoga Block 2 Pack Supportive Latex-Free EVA Foam Soft Non-Slip Surface for General Fitness Pilates Stretching and Meditation
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Gaiam Essentials Yoga Block 2 Pack & Yoga Strap Set, Deep Purple, 9"W x 6"H x 4"D
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Overmont Yoga Block 2 Pack Supportive Latex-Free EVA Foam Soft Non-Slip Surface for General Fitness Pilates Stretching and Meditation
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Frequently Asked Questions 🤔

Frequently Ask Questions

See below for answers to some questions on building traps and shoulder the right way.

What Is A Common Mistake Often Made With These Exercises?

The one biggest mistake that many lifters make is that they forget that they need to control the movement on both the concentric and eccentric movements.

If you move the weight at a decent pace on the concentric but fail to control the weight when lowering, you will lose out on the benefits of keeping the muscle under tension, and you may get injured.  

How Do You Avoid Injury When Performing These Exercises?

How Do You Avoid Injury When Performing These Exercises

Shoulders are notorious for experiencing an injury, and therefore you must be careful and adequately focused when performing movements that include this particular joint.

First, you want to ensure that you are sufficiently warmed up before you even think of going heavy; spend up to ten minutes ensuring mobility and activation, and even start each movement with a lightweight before moving up.

Shoulders are notorious for experiencing an injury, and therefore you must be careful and adequately focused when performing movements that include this particular joint.

First, you want to ensure that you are sufficiently warmed up before you even think of going heavy; spend up to ten minutes ensuring mobility and activation, and even start each movement with a lightweight before moving up.

Is Heavy Or Light Weight Better For These Movements?

If you are doing either compound or isolated movements, the first thing that many people want to do is get to a heavier weight as soon as possible; however, weight is not the main issue; it is technique. 

Get your technique down and then you can consider increasing the weight. 

Ideally, you want to warm up on low weight and then, if learning a new movement, stick to moderate and then inch toward heavier weights once you feel comfortable with the action.

It depends on the exercise; you can use deadlifts and barbells for shrugs exercise, while face pulls and upright rows should stay lighter.

Bottom Line 💪

How to build bigger shoulders

Traps and shoulders are just as crucial as having chiseled abdominal muscles, especially if you are an athlete and compete in weight lifting or other forms of sport.

They are also just as tricky to obtain, and some people neglect them because they believe it is not worth the effort. 

Therefore, if you build them, you will reap the rewards, but you will also show others that you are a serious and committed lifter who is not just playing around at the gym.

Although we would like them to grow fast, you will need to be consistent and patient when it comes to seeing the development of your traps and shoulders, but in the end, you will be happy you stuck it out. 

Last update on 2022-05-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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James Wright

James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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