Traps Are the New Abs

On June 5, 2015 by Physical Culturist

By: Paul Carter, T-Nation

Traps Are the New Abs

Here’s what you need to know…

  • Abs are all the rage, but you don’t even have to lift to get them. Impressive traps, however, can’t be built without hard work.

  • Shrugs and deadlifts don’t work for everyone. If you have longer clavicles you’ll probably need more than just the basics.

  • Increase time under tension by pausing at the top of your shrugs. And try the lawnmower movement, which is like an explosive one-arm row.

  • Do front plate raises that go above your head for 100 reps straight. Do barbell presses behind the neck to hit your lower traps.

  • Try upright rows using a kettlebell and a rope. Finish off your workout using the reverse pec deck to hit your traps.

Abs Are Overrated

Traps Are the New Abs

Abs have become a status symbol. But abs just represent the physical manifestation of an energy deficit. You want abs? Eat less until abs appear.

It’s slightly more complicated than that, but at the heart of it all, not really.

You may think abs represent a healthy body, but abs aren’t always achieved through health or hard work. You can easily find pictures of anorexics, bulimics, and drug addicts sporting abs. But I don’t think you’ll be seeing the “meth-head core routine” popping up in the near future.

People can have abs who don’t train at all. They’re just genetically blessed to carry a lower percentage of body fat. No work, no dieting, no cardio. Abs for days.

Make no mistake, I think abs are cool too. But dieting alone can get you a set of abs without ever setting foot in a gym or weight pit, which is why traps are a far better representation of hard training.

Escape From Team No-Traps

Traps Are the New Abs

Traps are the physical manifestation of hard work. Yes, you could build enviable traps without ever hoisting a barbell, but not without a lot of hard labor.

Massive traps are obvious regardless of clothing. Abs? Not so much. In fact, you can meet a lot of people that get social media attention because of their abs, but in-person wearing clothes, you can’t even tell they lift. That’s a travesty.

Some people like what they like. That’s fine. Some people also like smelling other people’s urine in a dark alley but that doesn’t make it cool.

Lots of hard-working lifters are trap deficient. I was a member of Team No-Traps for a long time myself. It drove me nuts. I did all the regular shit everyone says to do in order to get big traps, and it just didn’t put traps on me.

“Just deadlift.”


“Do heavy shrugs.”


And that’s about where the line ends for those predisposed to growing traps easily. The “just deadlift and shrug, bro” people are usually those with short clavicles, short necks, and narrow shoulders. They can do some deadlifts and some ultra heavy shrugs and their traps grow immediately.

Those on Team No-Traps often have broader shoulders and longer clavicles, making it much more difficult to build a set of traps that appear impressive. There are exceptions to these rules, but this has been my standard observation.

Simply relying on shrugs and deadlifts is just not enough to build an impressive set of traps for most guys anyway. Shrugs are awesome for developing the upper part of the traps, but if you want a set of traps that looks like a couple of hams on your back, you can’t neglect the mid and lower traps and the rhomboids.

I’ve gone through about every movement known to man in order to escape from Team No-Traps and I’ve found a few movements that will put traps on virtually anyone.

Twice-a-Week Trap Training

If you’re trap deficient, train them twice a week and not as an afterthought. That means traps get two days a week to themselves for the most part.

Why not? You want big traps, right? Give them some love a couple of days a week and they will love you back. Here are the movements that work best to get out of no-trap hell.

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