10 Best Bodyweight Trap Exercises For A Massive Upper Back

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Building thick and strong traps using your own bodyweight can be tricky if you don’t understand how they work…

Once you crack the code on how your traps work… you’ll accelerate muscle growth and activate your muscle fibers more effectively.

And you can do so WITHOUT picking up a single barbell or dumbbell.

The 10 bodyweight trap exercises in this article will give you a variety of beginner to advanced movements to build a massive upper back.

First, here’s how your trapezius works…

Massive Traps 101: Know Your Anatomy

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In the picture above you’ll see, traps are more than a noticeable stack of muscle that sits above your shoulders…

The traps are a huge, diamond-shaped muscle with several functions. Not just shrugging.

The trapezius has three functional regions: the superior region (descending part), which supports the weight of the arm; the intermediate region (transverse part), which retracts the scapula; and the inferior region (ascending part), which medially rotates and depresses the scapula (1).

And with the bodyweight trap exercises below you’ll see how you can utilize these functions of the trapezius to result in a MASSIVE upper back.

Benefits Of Massive Traps

For one, it enhances the way you look. Traps are the second most superficial muscle on the body. Superficial, meaning; closest to the skin.

And it makes a commanding difference in any room. This one muscle exudes power and presence. I’m sure you’ve seen it before. The guy with the largest traps at the gym immediately gets attention. Same goes with the dude wearing a plain white t-shirt and looks like he’s pitching a teepee on his neck…

Massive traps give you a dominant appearance. End of story.

(you ever see Tom Hardy’s traps when he played Bane in Batman: The Dark Night Rises? Those traps are HUGE…)

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You’ll also get some benefit in your shoulder strength as well. Especially if you have trouble raising your arms overhead without compensating your posture.

And just like any muscle. Strong traps will help you perform exercises with greater efficiency… therefore you’ll be able to complete more repetitions for greater muscle growth and even lift more weight.

You’ll especially notice big-time benefits with bodyweight exercises like pull ups, inverted rows, and dips.

See the benefit of having strong traps? Here’s how to build them with your own bodyweight.

10 Best Bodyweight Trap Exercises

  1. Floor Shrug

Skip to 0:40 in the video below to view this exercise:

Level of difficulty: Beginner

Bodyweight floor shrugs are an excellent exercise for beginners to engage the trapezius muscles and rear delts. The exercise may look easy. And from an execution standpoint, it is…

However, this simple movement is incredibly effective and can be performed anywhere. Even while watching TV.

Grow your traps while watching television? Um… yes.  

  1. Plank Rear Shoulder Sinkers

Start this video at 0:34

Level of difficulty: Beginner

(Although my buds at Anabolic Aliens are going a little faster than I’d recommend for the exercise, it’s still a solid demo of the movement… just slow-it down a bit)

This isn’t your everyday plank. In fact, you’ll take the attention off the core and place it smack-dab on your lower traps. When performing this exercise, intensely focus on the muscles working…

As you depress your shoulder blades, imagine your traps contracting to perform the movement. During this time, your upper traps will eccentrically control the movement. Therefore, engaging your upper and lower traps at the same time.

Watch out for your low back: Do not allow it to dip. As your traps depress in this movement, keep you low back in a neutral position without dropping the hips.

  1. Scapula Pull-up

Level of difficulty: Beginner

Even if you have trouble with pull-ups, you can complete this exercise. In fact, this small movement will help you develop strength and progress with your pull-ups overtime.

Whenever you’re hanging from a bar, it’s easy to go straight into pull-up mode. Which causes you to contact your lats. You’ll want to avoid this.

As you see in the video, the elbows do not bend. The movement is strictly in the rotation of the shoulders.

If you catch your elbows bending even the slightest when performing this exercise, you may be engaging more lats than traps. Instead, reset yourself. And perform the movement with your arms locked, as seen in the video above.

  1. Scapula Push-up

Skip to 1:35 in the video below to view this exercise:

Level of difficulty: Beginner

The starting position for this move is a bit more stiff than your standard push-up position. Of course, you’ll be on your hands. Yet, you’ll extend your elbows all the way out and extend your upper back all the way up.

From this position, drop your shoulders and traps in a controlled fashion, while keeping your elbows fully extended. And then contract, returning to the starting initial position.

  1. Power Push

Skip to 1:45 of this video

Level of difficulty: Intermediate

One of the primary functions of the traps is to elevate the shoulders. You often think in terms of shrugging when you think of elevating the shoulders.

However, this move can be performed laterally along the floor, while challenging the same function of the muscle, making this one of the best bodyweight trap exercises you can do.

As you push your body away from the front position during contraction, you’ll feel heavy engagement of your traps.

And there’s more. This movement also targets another function of the traps which is the upward rotation of the scapula. This happens as you push your body away from the floor. So you can see, this bodyweight traps exercise is a double-whammy for muscle fiber activation.

  1. Parallel Bar Shrugs

Level of difficulty: Intermediate

(the music + graphics in this video are awesome)

You’ll need to find a set of dip bars or some other structure which allows you to set both hands down with your body hanging freely down the center.

You’ll look like you were performing a dip with bad-form on this exercise. In reality, you’ll be blasting your traps for a massive upper back.

Now, similar to bodyweight trap exercise #4, keep your elbows locked and your upper back fully extended when getting in the starting position.

From there, allow your shoulders to sink as if you were performing a reverse-shrug. Then contract your traps, bringing you back to the starting position.

Form check: Keep your elbows in full extension. If you notice your elbows bend with the movement, chances are you’re taking the focus off of your traps and putting the attention on your chest and triceps.

  1. Australian Row (overhand)

Level of difficulty: Intermediate

This exercise will hit your traps and rear delts like no other, making it one of the best bodyweight trap exercises, assuming you have a bar, TRX band, or even a set of rings to perform the movement.

When performing the movement, primarily engage the muscles in your upper back. To do this, pull your body up from the floor, keeping your elbows pointed out and up. Your elbows, should be aligned with your ears, that’s how “out” your elbows will be pointed to reap the maximum benefits.

  1. Inverted Underhand Row

Skip to 0:47 of this video:

Level of difficulty: Advanced

This movement is going to blast the lower traps and really help you build thickness and density in your traps and upper back. Unlike the movement above (bodyweight trap exercise #7), you’re going to keep your elbows tucked instead of flared out.

Here’s a couple intensity tips to really maximize this exercise…

1) With each repetition, hold the fully contracted position at the top for one second before lowering your body. You’ll have a great opportunity to squeeze your traps and take advantage of the mind-muscle connection for some serious trap gains.

2) Set your feet on a box, chair, or bench when performing this movement. Taking your feet off of the ground and executing the inverted underhand row from a declined position makes this one of the best bodyweight trap exercises you’ll find.

  1. Isometric Handstand Shrug

Level of difficulty: Advanced

(It humors me how the intro of the video states this exercise is for novice gymnasts. When some of us can’t even get into the starting position…)

Talk about a tough exercise. And one that’ll take your trap development to another level. Here’s how to do it from start to finish.

Slowly walk your body up the wall to reach your starting position.

Hint: I like to start in a push-up like position with the bottoms of my feet touching the wall. I then walk my body up the wall, one foot at a time. Once I reach the top I set my body position and it’s “go-time”.

This is another movement to be mindful of your elbows and shoulders. Keep both completely extended in the starting position. And when you perform the movement, keep your elbows locked while retracting the scapula.

After performing your goal amount of reps, walk your hands outward, with your feet following behind. This will help you safely return to the floor.

  1. Handstand Shoulder Taps

Skip to 0:40 in this video

Level of difficulty: Advanced

(The critiques on form in this video are awesome and give a great understanding of how to perform this bodyweight trap exercise safely and effectively)…

This is another gymnastics move. If you were able to complete most of these bodyweight trap exercises, especially #9, this will be your final test. Pair this move with an Olympic Abs Workout you can do from home and you’ll have larger-than-life traps with a ripped set of abs.

What I love about this exercise is it puts a large load on your traps at one time. For example…

Say you weight 180 lbs. When you perform a standard handstand shrug, it’s like loading 180 lbs of resistance (not calculating other factors) on your traps.

However, with the handstand shoulder taps, it’s like loaded one side of your traps with 180 lbs. That’s double the load! Which will help propel your muscle building results for your traps.

There you have it. 10 of the best bodyweight trap exercises so you can build a thick and strong upper back…

Yet what’s a massive set of traps without an attention-grabbing and powerful chest? Nada. Which is why I know you’ll like this free no-load chest building guide, which gives you the top bodyweight chest building exercises so you can growth your pecs for the ultimate power-physique. Simply click on the banner below and download your FREE bodyweight training guide to a massive chest.

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