5 Best Upper Back Exercises for Building Massive Traps

Upper back exercises help build massive traps. (Photo via Pexels/RODNAE Productions)
Upper back exercises help build massive traps. (Photo via Pexels/RODNAE Productions)

If you want to build massive traps, incorporating upper back exercises into your strength training routine can be the best way to do so.

The trapezius, aka traps, starts from the back of your head and goes all the way down to your shoulders, further dividing into three main sections, namely the upper traps, middle traps, and lower traps. They are one of the largest back muscles that contribute to the overall thickness of your neck and upper back.

These muscles are basically responsible for pulling the shoulders back and up during shrugging and scapular retraction movements. Additionally, trapezius not only helps define your back but also ensures that your posture is correct while preventing back and shoulder injuries.

Hence, it'is important to develop massive traps - and the best way to achieve them is to include upper back exercises that specifically target the traps and help add both definition and size to your back, thereby giving you a solid frame.

Upper back exercises to develop massive traps

Add the following five upper back exercises to your strength training schedule to build super solid traps. Perform them no more than thrice a week to give your muscles enough time to recover:

1) Dumbbell shrug

Dumbbell shrugs are one of the best upper back exercises to build and strengthen traps and shoulders. This exercise corrects shoulder imbalance and also helps stabilize the neck muscles.

How to do the dumbbell shrug?

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand, and stand straight with your shoulders back and chest up.
  • Holding the dumbbell tightly, lift your traps as high as you can; hold for a second, and slowly lower them down to the start.
  • Repeat for a few reps.

2) Farmer’s walk

Farmer’s walk is a great full body exercise that not only helps build stronger traps but also targets the glutes, hamstrings, triceps, biceps, and calves. This exercise boosts cardiovascular health and improves muscle strength as well.

How to do the farmer’s walk?

  • Grab a dumbbell in each hand. Maintain a tall posture, and engage your abs.
  • Maintain this position, and start to walk a few steps forward. Stop, turn, and return to the starting position.
  • Ensure that your shoulders are stable and core muscles are engaged throughout the exercise.

3) Face pull

Face pulls are one of the most effective upper back exercises to add mass to your trap muscles. This exercise particularly targets the lower traps.

How to do the face pull?

  • Set the resistance band or cable machine to your eye height, and hold the rope handles or the ends of the resistance band in both hands. Make sure to use an underhand grip.
  • Squeeze your shoulders, and slowly pull the rope towards your face while keeping your body straight and elbows high.
  • Pull the rope as far as you can, and allow it to return to the starting position.
  • Complete a few reps.

4) Barbell row

One of the best upper back exercises to build massive traps, the barbell row simultaneously targets different muscles, including the posterior deltoid, rhomboid, and lats. This exercise also improves upper body strength and stability.

How to do the barbell row?

  • Hold a barbell using an overhand grip, and position your hands at a shoulder-width distance. Grip the barbell at arm’s length just in front of you.
  • Hinge at your knees and hips till your upper body gets parallel to the floor, and pull the barbell up towards your abs.
  • Hold at the top, and squeeze your shoulders; slowly return the barbell to its starting position.
  • Complete a few reps.

5) Barbell behind-the-back shrug

The barbell behind-the-back shrug targets the traps while working on the mid and upper traps more. This exercise also works the upper back and shoulders and is considered an ideal exercise for upper body training.

How to do barbell behind-the-back shrug?

  • Hold the barbell using an overhand grip while keeping your hands at shoulder width.
  • Position the barbell just behind you at your arm’s length, and start to pull your shoulders up as high as you can.
  • Return to the starting position, and repeat a few times more while maintaining a tall posture.


The aforementioned upper back exercises, when performed consistently and correctly, are sure to offer your traps the strength and size that they need.

As you progress, continue to challenge yourself by increasing weight and resistance, but do not add too much weight too quickly. Do it cautiously to prevent injuries and pain.

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Edited by Bhargav
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