Nothing looks more impressive on an athlete like a massive set of traps. Throughout the ages a thick neck and traps has been a sign of male dominance. I don’t think any female has said “That pencil neck you have is so sexy” or “Those protruding clavicles are so hot”.  Bulging traps is far more impressing and intimidating than a pair of veiny biceps. There are studies that show that women since the beginning of the human species have prized a male with thick traps because it showed that he was the dominant male in the tribe and that he could provide security for her as a mate. Even today when women are asked to rate males for potential spouse material the males with thicker necks and traps are rated the highest.

The traps a are not just for show, they also have functional capabilities for athletes. They help stabilize the neck in contact sports, are used as extensors in bridging movements, aide in retraction and depression of the scapula and serve as stabilizers in pressing movements.  Most athletes get sufficient trap development performing clean variations, snatch variations, pulls and deadlifts but if your lacking in overall development in this area here are a few helpful exercises to put in your training toolbox.

Rack Shrug

Start in the same position that you front squat in or the top position of the clean with the bar across the front of the shoulders with your elbows up and parallel to the floor. Shrug up while trying to keep your shoulder blades retracted and down.

Perform 4 sets at 10 reps with a weight that challenges you but that you can stay in retraction/

Snatch Grip Power Shrug

Standing with a snatch grip and bar at waist height with wrist curled quickly shrug up while keeping your shoulder blades retracted and down. You want to be as explosive as possible on every rep. Perform 4 sets of 15 reps. You will be able to shrug in excess of your snatch max but concentrate on staying in retraction.

Barbell Bent Over Row Shrug

Start in a bent over row position using an under handed grip and a weight that you can stabilize in that position. Forcefully retract your shoulder blades down and back and hold for a 4000 count then release. Utilizing a heavy weight is not the goal in this exercise, holding the retraction is the objective on every rep. Perform 4 sets of 8 reps.

There are many shrug variations to choose from but incorporating these three exercises will improve trap size, shoulder performance and health as well as pressing performance.