Access to a rack of dumbbells is ideal when working your traps.
Your traps, or trapezius muscles, are located at the center of your upper back and are partly responsible for controlling movement at your scapulas. The trapezius is made up of three separate sections, including the upper, middle and lower head. You'll want access to dumbbells of various weights when you're targeting your traps, because you'll be lifting a significantly greater amount of weight during some exercises.
Before beginning your trapezius workout, adequately prepare your shoulder joints by incorporating a 10 to 15-minute warm-up session. A dynamic warm-up will increase blood flow and body temperature, thus lubricating your shoulders. Start with five minutes of low-intensity cardio, such as walking or jogging, followed by five to 10 minutes of exercises that target your shoulders. Swing them up in front of you, over your head and back behind you. Complete arm circles of varying diameters. Hold your arms out wide and swing them across your chest.
Most lifters are familiar with the upper head of the trapezius, because when it's developed, it offers the broad-shoulder, big-neck appearance. The upper fibers are primarily responsible for performing scapular elevation, which means you use them when you shrug your shoulders. The lower and middle fibers most often assist during compound back exercises, as they're primarily responsible for performing scapular adduction -- they pinch your scapulae together.
To develop the upper fibers of the trapezius, incorporate dumbbell shrugs and dumbbell upright rows into your workout. You'll likely be able to shrug with heavier dumbbells. To perform shrugs, stand while holding the dumbbells down by your sides with your palms facing your legs. Pull your shoulders up toward your ears, lifting them as high as you comfortably can. A common mistake when shrugging is to roll your shoulders instead of lifting them straight up and down. For upright rows, stand and hold the dumbbells at the front of your thighs with your palms facing your legs. Pull the weights up toward your chin by bending your elbows so that they flare out to your sides. To reduce the stress on your shoulders, keep the dumbbells close to your torso as you raise and lower them.
Middle- and Lower-Trapezius Exercises
To target the middle and lower trapezius, complete dumbbell bent-over rows and dumbbell bent lateral raises. For bent-over rows, stand and bend forward at the waist, allowing your knees to bend slightly until your back is parallel to the floor. Pull the dumbbells up toward your chest by bending your elbows and driving them up toward the ceiling. Keep your back straight and your head up throughout the entire exercise. Reduce the stress on your lower back by always keeping the dumbbells over the vertical line of your feet. Dumbbell bent-lateral raises will require significantly lighter-weighted dumbbells. Sit on the edge of a bench and bend forward at your waist. With your elbows slightly bent, open your arms out to your sides until they're about parallel to the floor.
Do your trapezius workout two to three days a week with sessions scheduled on nonconsecutive days. Schedule your traps workouts to coincide with your back workouts. The trapezius is involved in controlling the scapula during many compound back exercises, such as lat pulldown, rows and pullups, so don't do the back and trapezius workout on consecutive days. Schedule back and trapezius exercises within the same workout.
At the end of your workout, stretch your trapezius to facilitate recovery and improve your range of motion. Sit on the edge of a chair with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Bend forward at your waist, reach one hand to the opposite-side foot and grasp the tip of your shoe. Pull away from your shoe until you feel a stretch. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then switch sides.