Just as the lats determine the width of your upper back, your traps are largely responsible for the thickness (or depth). Many bodybuilders lack that thickness, because they focus too much on the lats or simply because the trapezius is genetically less well developed. And targeted stair training often only targets the upper part of the muscle. However, your traps are like a three-stage rocket. Below is an overview of the three parts of the muscle, their function and which exercises you can do for them.
1. UPPER TRAPS (UPPER MUSCLE FIBERS)
- Official name: pars descendens.
- Muscle fiber direction: obliquely downwards (outwards).
- Function: shoulder elevation, neck rotation, lateral flexion of the neck.
- Targeted exercises: shrugs (in various variants), farmer’s walk and rack pulls above the knee .
- Indirect exercises: the upper traps also act as an auxiliary muscle for the lateral raise, upright row, reverse fly, deadlift and most rowing exercises for the back.
- Tip: For standard shrugs, keep a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip. This ensures a better contraction of the upper muscle fibers, which are not vertical, but oblique.
2. MID TRAPS (MIDDLE MUSCLE FIBERS)
- Official name: pars transversus.
- Muscle fiber direction: more or less horizontal.
- Function: scapular retraction (contraction of the shoulder blades).
- Targeted exercises: face-pull, shoulder pull, dumbbell reverse fly, prone reverse fly, back widow and 45° incline shrugs.
- Indirect Exercises: The middle traps are also involved in most back exercises, including the deadlift, but maybe not enough for you for optimal development. They also do well with the rack pulls above the knee, although we mainly tip that exercise for the upper traps.
- Tip: With the dumbbell reverse fly, bring your shoulder blades back, after which you release them again when you go to the starting position. In addition to your middle trapezius, you also stimulate your rear shoulder muscles, rhomboids and teras major & minor.
3. LOWER TRAPS (LOWER MUSCLE FIBERS)
- Official name: pars ascendens.
- Muscle fiber direction: obliquely downwards (towards the middle).
- Function: scapular depression (contraction of the shoulder blades downwards).
- Targeted exercises: Y press, prone Y and 30° incline shrugs .
- Indirect Exercises: The lower traps also contribute to exercises such as the pull-up and the lat pulldown. Note that this is the opposite direction of shrugs, the basic move for boosting the upper traps.
- Tip: you cannot use heavy weights for the Y exercises. The point is that you feel this part of the muscle during the movement. A good mind-muscle connection is therefore of great importance for these kinds of ‘small’ exercises.
By including some targeted exercises for the upper, middle and lower traps in your schedule in addition to compound exercises for your entire upper back, you build a full-fledged back – one with depth.
But training your traps does not only have an aesthetic function: a well-developed trapezius is also important for good posture and healthy shoulders. Strengthening the muscle in all three regions helps prevent injuries, especially shoulder impingement.
With the collaboration of Victor Bosch, Victory Coaching.