Dumbbell Trap Exercises

There is absolutely nothing, like resting the top straps of a tank-top, tightly on this towering muscle group.

Brad Pitt Fight Club

The Key to Building Great Looking Traps:

The key to building great looking traps is keeping everything in proportion. Muscular traps look great if your shoulder development is there. However, building overdeveloped traps relative to the rest of your body is something you want to avoid! This looks incredibily ‘cheesy’. Ex: Bill Goldberg

Bill Goldberg Traps


Therefore you need to be careful when building your traps as they can develop rather quickly. So if you notice your traps overshadowing the rest of your body then make sure to cut back until the rest of your body catches up.

Dumbbell Advantages:

Dumbbells are one of the most effective tools for building great looking traps. Dumbbells allow for a great amount of versatility when it comes to exercise selection. In addition when you use dumbbells each side has to do the same amount of work.

Conversely when you use a barbell it is possible for the stronger side to contribute more than the weaker side. This will make it extremely difficult for your weak side to catch up to your strong side. As a result of this one of your traps will be bigger than the other which will create a lack of proportion and balance.

Dumbbell Trap Exercises:

Here is a great video that demonstrates all of the following exercises.

Dumbbell Shrugs:

This is your standard trap exercise. Many people have built outstanding traps with this exercise alone. To get the most out of this exercise make sure to keep your arms out so that your dumbbells aren’t sliding up and down your legs. This will put more tension on your traps.

Bent Over Dumbbell Shrugs:

Bent over DB shrugs are a great exercise at working the upper and mid traps (regular shrugs just work the upper traps and not the mid traps). In addition bent over DB shrugs also increase the range of motion of the exercise.

Dumbbell Seated Shrugs:

DB seated shrugs are another great variation. The benefit of doing shrugs seated is that it get the legs out of the way. Therefore you can focus solely on shrugging the weight as opposed to keeping the DB’s off of the legs. In addition by performing shrugs seated it is a lot harder to ‘cheat’.

Leaning One-Arm Dumbbell Shrugs:

Leaning One-Arm DB Shrugs are one of my favorite trap exercises. The advantage of doing this exercise is that it increases the range of motion thus working the traps more effectively. In addition this exercise gets the legs out of the way and helps you to really focus on isolating your trap.

Dumbbell Upright Rows:

DB Upright Rows are another great trap exercise that you should include in your arsenal. This movement is best performed for higher reps (8-15 reps) as heavy weight tends to put a lot of uncomfortable tension on the shoulders.

Dumbbell High-Pulls:

Definitely the best DB exercise for activating the fast-twitch muscle fibers. This movement you can go really heavy without any shoulder pain. I love doing 5 sets of 5 reps with this movement. In addition to working the traps this exercise also builds explosive hip drive.

Dumbbell Farmers Walk:

The DB Farmers Walk is a great movement to perform at the end of your workout to burn out your traps and forearms. All your going to do for this exercise is grab two heavy dumbbells and walk for distance. Try to keep your arms out so that the dumbbells aren’t resting on your legs. You can also perform the walk with your shoulders shrugged up to put more stress on the traps.

Workout #1:

DB High Pull: 5 x 5 reps

One Arm Leaning Shrugs: 3 x 8 reps

DB Farmers Walk with shoulders down (feel the stretch): 2 x 60 yard walk

Workout #2:

Bent-over DB Shrugs: 4 x 6-8 reps

DB Upright Row: 3 x 10-12 reps

DB Farmers Walk with Shoulders Shrugged: 2 x 60 yard walk

Workout #3:

DB High Pull: 5 x 5

Seated DB Shrugs: 3 x 8-12

Upright Row: 3 x 10-12 reps


Alternate between trap workouts #1, #2 and #3. I recommend working traps once or twice per week.

I like to work traps with shoulders and arms. However you can use any split you like. ex: back, bi’s and traps – shoulders and traps or legs and traps……