8 Best Dumbbell Exercises For Growing Traps

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Last Updated on December 18, 2022 by admin

When it comes to building the back, the trapezius muscles, or the traps, is what gives you that strong defined back. Basically, they need to be worked alongside other muscle groups to give you the result you want. 

Now, this doesn’t mean that you need the latest equipment in order to perform the necessary exercises. A pair of dumbbells will do the job nicely. 

Below are the best dumbbell exercises for growing traps. These exercises focus on growing the muscle mass and on gaining strength.

Your posture will improve as a result of dumbbell trap exercises, and you’ll gain strength for Olympic weightlifting movements like deadlifts.

So, let’s get into it!

What Are The Traps?

Large and superficial in the back, the trapezius muscle has a trapezoid-like shape. It extends laterally to the spine of the scapula and downward from the external protuberance of the occipital bone to the lower thoracic vertebrae.

Upper, middle, and lower groupings of fibers form the trapezius.

In addition to being used for active movements like elevating and lowering the shoulders and internally twisting the arm, the trapezius muscle is primarily used for postural support.

The scapula is raised, lowered, and retracted by the trapezius. The arms are internally rotated by the descending muscular fibers of the trapezius muscle.

The ascending muscle fibers medially rotate the scapula while the transverse muscle fibers retract them.

Essentially the traps are extremely important for almost every movement involving the arms, back, and head. Training the traps is beneficial for everyone and can help strengthen the entire upper body

1. Dumbbell Upright Row 

One of the best middle and upper trap workouts with dumbbells to develop massive trapezius muscles and the deltopectoral separation is the heavy upright row.

This exercise targets the lateral deltoid, trapezius, anterior deltoid, teres minor, among other muscles. The wider grasp targets the entire shoulder girdle whereas the narrower hold targets the trapezius.

A wider grip should be avoided as it permits some cheating motion, which lets you lift more weight.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells that can be lifted comfortably while still challenging the muscles
  2. Have a narrow, overhand grip allowing them to hang in front of the torso. 
  3. Squeeze your trapezius muscles by raising your shoulders and lifting the dumbbell as close to your chin as you can.
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbell in a controlled motion until it is resting in the starting position. 
  5. Repeat for desired reps. 

This exercise is great for working out various muscle groups with a focus on the traps. However, it is important to maintain a straight posture while performing the movement to prevent injury

2. Dumbbell Farmers Walk 

Also known as the farmers carry, the farmers walk exercise is one of the most well known exercises for building strength.

Replicating walking backwards and forwards with heavy objects across the field this exercise is great for building muscle and grip strength throughout the body. 

The dumbbell farmers walk targets the traps, rhomboids, core, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and the levator scapulae. 

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Standing shoulder width apart, bend at the hips and knees, grab a dumbbell in each hand and deadlift them until standing upright.
  2. With a tight grip, hold the dumbbells by your side. Keep your core, back, and shoulders tense as you stand tall.
  3. Begin to take small steps forward with an even pace across the gym floor or your home
  4. Keep a tight core and a neutral spine as you take the necessary number of steps, halt, and set the dumbbells down.

To get the most out of the dumbbell farmers walk make sure to focus on squeezing the shoulder blades and engaging your core. The spine must be kept upright and straight in order to avoid injury. 

3. Incline Y-Raise 

Do you find that your shoulders are often the reason you aren’t hitting your goals? The Y-Raise is an effective exercise in targeting the rotator cuff and the mid to lower traps. 

This is a simple exercise that is essential in building the back, shoulder, and core muscles. 

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Begin by lying front facing on a bench with the top of the bench touching the chest. 
  2. Hold a light dumbbell or weight plate in each hand. 
  3. Slowly lift both arms up as high as possible into a Y shape. 
  4. Hold the Y position for 2-5 seconds before slowly lowering the dumbbells. 
  5. Repeat for desired reps. 

The incline Y-Raise, while simple to perform, requires a very low weight and can even be performed as a body weight movement. 

Ensure to keep the motion slow and controlled, inhaling as the arms lift and exhaling as they lower. 

4. Chest Supported Dumbbell Row 

This position is a variation of the chest supported T bar row and is excellent in working the entire back and even the chest. The muscles engaged can vary depending on the ROM you can achieve and the technique you use. 

Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Begin by lying front facing on a bench with the top of the bench touching the chest. 
  2. A dumbbell in each hand, hanging straight down. 
  3. In a controlled motion, pull the dumbbells up until the elbows are slightly above the shoulders. 
  4. Hold for a second or two, squeeze the shoulder blades. 
  5. Slowly release the dumbbells down until returned to the starting position. 
  6. Repeat for desired reps. 

This exercise, while involving heavy weights, has more of a focus on controlling the movement. Avoid racing through the motions. Keep the weight slow and controlled on both contraction and release. 

5. Dumbbell Rear Deltoid Raise

Rear Deltoid Raises are an isolated movement making them extremely effective at targeting the rear deltoid, middle trap and lower traps. These are essential when it comes to building and rounding out the shoulder muscles. 

While this can be completed in both seated and standing positions, the seated variation allows for a stricter movement and more isolation on the muscles. 

Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Sit at the end of a bench, arms extended down, holding a light dumbbell in each hand. 
  2. Slightly bend forward, keeping the head facing the floor. 
  3. Lift the dumbbells out to your sides until they are slightly above the shoulder. 
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to your side. 
  5. Repeat for desired reps. 

The dumbbell rear deltoid raise is an excellent exercise for working the shoulders and upper back. To ensure they are effective the arm should be parallel to the floor at the top of the movement without using body momentum to lift the weight. 

This exercise is great when supersetted with lat pulldowns, pullups, or chest press. 

6. Incline Dumbbell Shrug

In addition to strengthening the top section of the trapezius and the neck region, the Incline Dumbbell Shrug is a variation of the trap dumbbell shrug exercises that also helps to improve posture. 

The addition of the bench isolates the muscle and prevents any momentum from being used throughout the movement. 

Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Lie forward facing on an incline bench. Feet must be flat on the floor in order to support your body. 
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip, arms extended down. 
  3. Slowly shrug the shoulders towards the ears, Hold for a second, squeeze the traps and rhomboids. 
  4. Slowly release the shoulders and lower the weight to the starting position. 
  5. Repeat for desired reps. 

This movement is simple however, it can be easy to overload weight and risk injury. Keep the weight light, arms remain straight throughout the entire movement and everything is slow and controlled. 

7.  Overhead Dumbbell Shrug 

When focusing on a particular muscle group, it can be easy to identify any imbalances or discrepancies. The overhead dumbbell shrug can help improve posture by releasing focus on the levator scapula and focusing on the traps. 

Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Standing with a straight back, hold a dumbbell in each hand with an underhand grip. 
  2. Raise dumbbells until fully above the head. Arms should be completely straight. 
  3. Lock the elbows and bring the shoulder up towards the ear. 
  4. Hold the movement for 2 seconds before releasing the shoulders. 
  5. Repeat for desired reps. 

This exercise is excellent for identifying imbalances and allowing the muscles to become balanced. This can be performed with both arms and as a single arm movement to isolate and strengthen the muscles. 

Ensure the elbows remain locked while weight is overhead and not to use extremely heavy weights to avoid injury. 

8 Best Dumbbell Exercises For Growing Traps

8. Dumbbell Military Press

This exercise is classic when it comes to training the shoulders and traps. The use of dumbbells  allows more control over the shoulder position.  This exercise calls for lighter weight with more reps. 

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Grab a dumbbell in each hand, raising them to rest on the shoulders. 
  2. Plant the feet and brace your core. 
  3. Press the weights over head in a scapular plane. Rotate the elbows out slightly and keep the weight slightly in front of the torso. 
  4. Repeat for desired reps. 

It is extremely common to injure the rotator cuff during this movement. Ensure the weight is not pressed directly overhead. Ensure the core is engaged, the ribs are not flared, the back is straight, and the elbows are slightly rotated. 

Imagine you are  drawing a small rainbow with the dumbbells.

Why You Should Train Your Traps

Whether you enjoy lifting weights, swimming, or do not exercise at all, the traps play a massive part in keeping us upright and absorbing shock to prevent injury. Otherwise we may end up hurting our necks a lot more than we currently do. 

The trapezius muscle can be broken into 3 parts: 

Upper Fibers 

People typically relate the trapezius with its upper fibers. Both from the front and the back, they project from the shoulder.

Bodybuilders who overdevelop these muscles give their subjects a “cobra neck.” Their main reproductive strategy is to raise the shoulders.

Middle Fibers 

These span your shoulders and aid in stabilizing shoulder motion. These muscles can be worked successfully without weights and respond to high repetition.

The middle fibers are especially active during upward rotation and scapula adduction (squeezing your shoulder blades together).

The middle trapezius will therefore be effectively targeted by exercises like bent-over rows, seated rows (which involve scapula adduction), and overhead presses (which involve upward rotation).

Lower Fibers 

situated on the back’s thoracic (chest) spinal area. The lower fibers have an effect on the scapula (shoulder blades), acting as the principal force behind scapular descent. When the arms are raised fully overhead, it also serves as a stabilizing device.

As you can see, each element of the traps comes together to aid in our daily functions. Without them we would struggle to raise our arms above our heads and perform everyday tasks.

How Often To Train Your Traps  

You should be able to get the greatest pump in the muscle by working your traps three to four times per week while still giving yourself time for recovery.

You should perform 4 to 6 sets of each trap exercise during your at-home workouts or in the gym.

Start each set with a smaller weight to let the muscles warm up and get blood flowing. As you increase the weight, this gets the muscle ready for the larger load that will come later in each trap exercise.

The warm-up also aids in preventing overstress on the body. The ability to rehearse the workout and isolate the specific muscles you will be exercising is another of its biggest advantages.

You should practice solely contracting the traps during the warm-up, leaving the surrounding muscles at rest and out of the workout. This makes sure that your traps are working as hard as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Are Traps Hard To Grow?

Most of the time, the trapezius muscle is an endurance muscle (if you think about it, it has to hold up the weight of your arms all day long and thus would respond better to a higher rep workout).

That is, it requires a lot of repetitions for it to grow.

Will Doing Shrugs Make My Traps Bigger?

Shrugs are a very efficient exercise for developing your traps, but the majority of individuals perform them improperly by using too much weight and failing to fully engage the muscle.

Should Heavy Weights Be Used For Growing Traps?

Heavy loading and higher repetitions are frequently required if you want to increase your trapezius muscle size. You can work out harder and complete a few more repetitions per set by using straps without having your grip fail.

Wrapping Up 

There you have it! 8 of the best dumbbell exercises for building your traps. From shrugs to chest support row, building the traps is no easy task. 

This rather essential muscle is extremely important for our everyday lives and requires special attention. Completing a few focused exercises 4-6 times a week is sure to result in not only growth but increased performance. 

Whether you are moving a box from one shelf to another or hitting a new personal best on overhead military press, your traps are there supporting you!

So, get to training your lats with 8 of the best dumbbell exercises!