23 May 2009

*The Ubiquitous Question- How I Got My Traps

I have huge fucking traps. This is the topic of conversation nearly every time I discuss training with anyone, as bodybuilders tell me that they've ruined my symmetry and X-frame (hahaahaha. Fucking bodybuilders! They kill me!), and everybody else wants them.

Whenever I'm asked how I got them, I smile, and I answer the same way, every time: "Shrugs and deadlifts."

Here's where it all goes horribly wrong, as the person asking me is invariably bereft of any trapezius development, yet they will proclaim to the skies, "But I shrug and deadlift!"

No. You don't.

I shrug and deadlift. Most other people do shit that looks like it was picked up in a group fitness class on a polished wood floor while surrounded by mirrors. Shrugging happens in a heavy squat rack. Deadlifting happens in a cloud of chalk and frequently a puddle of blood.

Wanna learn how to shrug? First, let's go over what shrugging is NOT:
  1. Anything under 4 plates on a side. Shrugging with 315 is not shrugging- it's some form of odd public masturbation.
  2. Anything wherein your goal is reps, rather than weight. No one gives a fuck that you did 43 reps with 225. You're a fucking pussy. Go join a Bally's and buy all of your workout gear at International Male.
  3. A movement wherein you ROLL YOUR FUCKING SHOULDERS. Sweet mother of fuck, why in the hell would you do this? Complete development? Yeah. Sure. My cock has better development, and my infraspinatus is still intact. You're a pussy if you roll your shoulders.

So, what IS shrugging?
  1. Heavy ass weight. I work up to 10 plates on a side regularly for singles. I've got surgery for my 60% tear in my tricep and my halved bone spur on Tuesday, and yet I did 15 sets of 3 with 7 plates on a side today. That's fucking shrugging.
  2. No reps over 5. If you're doing more than 5 reps, you're doing the wrong fucking exercise. Add weight, or refer to #2 in the preceding section.
  3. Brutal, painful, and soul-crushing. It should not be something you can do while holding a conversation about Brangelina's newest addition to their brown baby collection.
Some tips:
Set the pins so that the bar rests about 4 inches below the line where your hands drop naturally. This way, you won't hit the pins on every rep, because the bar will bend. Speaking of that, make sure you use a bar that's already bent, if possible, because this destroys bars.

Use straps. No one's impressed by the fact that you did a set with no straps if you did half the reps you could with straps, and you left three of your calluses on the bar. You can't do any more useful lifting (though you know you'll just put a wad of paper towel in your hand and keep going), and you won't be killing your traps as much.

Here's the key to the whole shitteree- you're going to do an old-school and and thigh lift to get it off the pins. Instead of just doing a quarter dl, try wedging your legs underneath the bar and squatting it up, putting most of the stress on the tops of you legs, rather than your back. This will become especially key late in the workout, when your low back is fried.

All of the same rules apply to deadlifting. If you're using fewer than 4 plates, you might as well just be jacking off, because your traps are going fucking nowhere.
I guaranfuckingtee you Derek Poundstone shrugs heavy.

Now go shrug something heavy, and be quick about it, fuckers. Quick and brutal. No squeezing anything, no "feeling the movement". Just load up the bar and move it as far as you can as many times as you can and repeat. I guarantee you, you're going to get way more trap development out of 10 sets of 3 "shitty" reps with 6 plates than you would out of 3 sets of 20 perfect reps with 2 plates, and you'll sure as shit feel it more in the following days. Moreover, you're going to do wonders for your high pull, deadlift, and your testosterone levels.(Frye)

If you curious how often, I do pulling movements as often as humanly possible, which range from stones to logs (clean and press) to deadlifts with every kind of bar available, to shrugs and high pulls.

Be a fucking man about it.

Frye AC, Lohnes CA.  Acute testosterone and cortisol responses to high power resistance exercise.  Hum Phys (2010) 36:4 457-461.  


  1. What is that guy trying to kill in the background of your second picture? *upper left hand corner* Looks like he's trying to kill someone with a weight!

  2. Skeptical Jamie - Is that guy behind you holding a bong? My kinda gym!

  3. you use a little leg drive? or jsut straight shruggin?

  4. sooo... If we can't shrug what you can shrug, or deadlift what you can deadlift we are doing "some form of odd public masturbation"? How is this supposed to help somebody with small traps develop them if they can't deadlift 405/shrug 315? I thought those were the people this article was trying to help...

    1. I realize how old this post is but I'll state the obvious anyway. Shrugging the way Jamie suggests, which I also advocate, you should be able to shrug about 50% more than you can deadlift. How long does it take a guy of average size (starting out 150 lbs., we'll say with no training) to deadlift 315? Less than a year if you're not fucking up.

      So in less than a year you should be able to shrug well over 4 plates at least for a single, and more like a set of 5. There shouldn't be many people who can't shrug 4 plates in this style. ANd if you can't, then you've either been training less than a year, in which case forget about building bigger traps and just lift for a while and develop some strength, or you're significantly smaller than the average person, or you're a female, in which case just train longer and shrug what you can for now, or you've fucked up your training and need to address that. Jamie is clearly advocating low reps high intensity rather than high reps low intensity. If your max shrug is 315 and your max deadlift is 225 then shrugging is the least of your concerns right now.

      This isn't macho bullshit, it's just the facts. Men should have no issue getting strong enough to do this in a relatively short time. And if you're struggling then you're doing something wrong. Most likely not eating enough, not training enough, or not trying hard enough.

  5. Why are some exercises noted for "raising testosterone levels"? Is it just coincidence, or is there solid science behind it?