10 August 2010

What The Fuck Are Those Things Around Your Ears? How I Got My Traps, Part 2.

Though I've covered this topic once before, there are a few things I've read recently that have gotten my fucking dander up about this subject, so I thought I'd revisit this subject.

Opinions are like assholes- everyone's got one.  Unfortunately, on the internet, everyone's opinions are the equivalent of a gay crackhead's asshole mixed with that of the internet phenomenon Goatse- thus, they've got enormous, distended, pile-encrusted, hemorrhoid-laden opinions dripping with rancid shit and undigested food, and they haven't had a wash since the dawn of time.  This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that people in the sports science and nutrition fields pander to the lowest common denominator, leaving anyone with a scintilla of enthusiasm, strength, or intelligence bereft of a life raft in a literal sea of bullshit.
Luckily, I know a guy with a longship.

Nowhere, my friends, is this problem more apparent than when it comes to a discussion of what makes decent traps.  You will find eight gazillion fucking trap workouts on the internet, each more palsied, decrepit, ball-less, and generally fucking pathetic than the last.  I have, however, seen the pinnacle of this tremendous shitheap of extravagant douchebaggery and weakness, and it's penned by none other than Nate "I read The Game, did a few pushups, and sucked TC Luoma's cock and somehow ended up an author" Green- "From Dud To Stud In 30 Days".  In it, myriad contributors (including the formerly reputable Dave Tate- how he got roped into this nonsense I will never understand) contend that the best way to make a marked change to one's physique is to get lean and build up your shoulders, arms, and traps.  As I blogged about this some time ago, I would tend to agree.  That, however, is where our paths diverge.

The lauded contributors to this intellectually dishonest and testosterone deficient nightmare proffered the following for shoulders in traps, in addition to a laughable series of circuit workouts that included reverse lunges and bodyweight squats but lacked an actual lower body work:
Why would you take this man's advice on trap development?  It's be like taking lessons on dunking from Verne Troyer.

Barbell Shrugs — 6 x 6
Rack Pulls — 8 x 8
Dumbbell Shrugs — 10 x 10 with a two-second contraction held at the top
Low-Trap Raises — 3 x 15
Face Pulls — 3 x 15

Barbell Shrugs — 2x20 (Note: If you're feeling adventurous, try overhead shrugs)
Upright Row — 3x15
Low Trap Raises — 2x15

Barbell Push Press - 6 x 6
Dumbbell Military Press — 8 x 8
Javelin Press — 10 x 10
Cable Lateral Raises — 3 x 15
External Rotations — 3 x 15
T-Muscle readers on the way to the gym

If there was any question in your minds that we had entered an age of "polio chic", it's time to set it aside, as the answer has come back in the affirmative.  I'll confess, off the bat, that I've no idea what the fuck a Javelin Press is, nor do I know what a Low-Trap Raise is, and I've read Paul Kelso's book of ridiculous trap exercises many times.  I pulled perhaps three good exercises out of that book, but managed to enjoy it overall because the topic rules.  In case you're curious, a Javelin Press is a stupid name for a unilateral barbell overhead press (apparently only done with an unloaded barbell or a preloaded barbell), and a lower trap raise involves a set of ultra-light dumbbells and apparently doing an ultra-slow lateral raise while laying facedown.  While I'd never do the latter, the great irony here is that I love occasionally doing a one arm barbell push press with 135, but I might have to swear them off now that they've been tainted by Nate Green and his stupid moniker for them.

That the workout above is an unmitigated disaster goes without saying, I think.  I'm not really certain why they've even posted the thing, as it's not April 1, and I have a hard time believing their silly bullshit isn't a joke. Every jackass I've seen in the gym doing high-rep shrugs with 315 has the type of traps you'd expect from that silly bullshit- none at fucking all.  They always have really cool Under Armor shirts, though, and their form is impeccable.  

What should you be doing for traps?  I'm glad you asked.  This shit:

  • Ultra heavy shrugs.  Lots of people will decry my form.  If any of them was anything but bereft of trap development, had a decent deadlift, or was in any way qualified to talk shit, I would encourage them to do so.    I've never seen a form Nazi on shrugs with any trap development, and I've never seen anyone who does light, slow, controlled shrugs with any trap development of any kind.  There's a reason for that- traps are fucking brutal, and since form follows function, you've got to lift brutal to look brutal.  To the grammar Nazis, I know that was incorrect, but it sounded better than "brutally".  The adverb's all but dead anyway.
  • Rack pulls / the hand and thigh lift.  The hand and thigh lift is an ultra-old school lift wherein you jam your thighs under the bar and use them to push the bar up as you stand upright.  If you think that my 1 second battles with 1000+ lbs are unimpressive, I suggest you try them and get back to me.  They hurt, and they work.  Same goes for rack pulls, though I'll more often than not turn those into hand and thigh lifts, unconsciously, because I can move a hell of a lot more weight that way.  And fuck- Paul Anderson did that exercise all the fucking time, so why wouldn't you?
  • Deadlifts.  They work.  If you cannot figure out why, you should hit yourself over the fucking head with a tack hammer, because you're a retard.
  • Bent over rows with a high body angle- The closer you are to vertical, the more your traps are involved.  
  • One arm dumbbell rows- I find these hit my traps fairly hard, though this may be due to the fact that my traps overpower my upper body to the point where they involve themselves in everything I do.
  • High Pulls- I do these like they're a retarded combination of deadlift and upright row, which I know is incorrect.  Done the way I do them, however, they beat the living shit out of your traps.  To those Olympic lifters out there who are sitting at their computers aghast at the horrors I've perpetrated on camera with my high pulls, I'd apologize if I cared all that much, but I don't.
You'll notice I left out a great deal of the ancillary bullshit with which most lifters preoccupy themselves.  Nowhere will you find Hise Breathing Shrugs, or Overhead Shrugs, or Face Pulls, or especially trap bar shrugs and dumbbell shrugs.  If there are two bigger wastes of time than the latter two, I've no clue what they are.  The most weight you could possibly get onto a trap bar is around 600 lbs, which would make it useful for a grip exercise... or a warmup.  Leave the trap bar to Bradley J Steiner and his merry band of skinny-fat fanboys.  Likewise for dumbbell shrugs.  In 15 years of lifting, I've been to two gyms with 200 lb dumbbells, and while those are great for cardio shrugging workouts, they're pointless for heavy shrugging.  Leave them to the compulsive benchers whining incessantly about their mysterious shoulder pains.  As to the first few, you could do them, but then you'd be wasting time that'd be far better off spent doing shrugs with all the fucking plates you can find.
Blurry and grainy, but you can see I lack a neck.

Take it from a guy whose collared shirts touch his fucking ears if the collar's starched- high reps do not huge traps make.  Huge fucking weights on big lifts done with a hell of a lot of hatred for your fellow man is the way to obnoxiously overdeveloped traps.


  1. I've had "decent" traps since shortly after I began lifting, and since applying your methodology, they've become quite respectable. They're easily the muscle that I'm questioned the most on by guys that lift at the gym where I work. However, nine out of ten of the ones that I inform of my six-plate-plus shrugs with shitty form generally weakly nod, then return to their 55 pound dumbbell shrugs. It's pathetic. It makes me want to crush babies for grip work.

  2. Agreed 100%, Jaime.

    Hilariously enough, the most vocal opposition I get from Shrugging heavy is from people both weaker than myself and bereft of anything approaching strong or developed traps.

  3. Jewish Meshuggenah PainAugust 10, 2010 at 9:13 PM

    Anyone who disagrees with this post is about to make


  4. Whats the tune and band, need to add it to my mp3 player?

  5. I thought high pulls were a sort of deadlift-high pull hybrid? What's the difference between yours and "correct" execution?

  6. Just had to show up your ex on those one arm dumbbell rows didn't you! Just get married why don't ya! In any event, impressive on both counts. Love to you both.

  7. Nate Green is a joke and a half. TMuscle started going downhill once he began to contribute regularly.

    Ok, I lied. TMuscle has always sucked donkey dick. Unless you're a "general fitness" kind of guy looking to spend $300 per month on supplements.

  8. The fuck. You look like Guile from Street Fighter minus the flat top. Grow one or I'll draw one on MS Paint motherfucker.

  9. Looking fucking sick man! Insane shoulders and traps! Because i train at home i recently had to buy a new bar because of how heavy i was shrugging but on the upside my traps are growing at a crazy rate so it's all fucking good. What are your opinions on power cleans for trap development? Combined with shrugs they seem to be doing a good job.

  10. My traps make little kids cry.

  11. On a blog that is excellent, that was probably your best post and video, so far!

  12. All variations of pulling moves done daily. Regular ol' DL, one-handed DL, suitcase DL, oly pulls (snatch grip especially), jefferson lifts (look this up if you don't know what it is), barbell hacks, rack pulls -- fucking all of it. Pick one each day and do it.

    BTW Jamie, if you wanna do one-handed rows heavier, use a barbell. Fuck the knee on the bench shit -- that borders on Men's Fitness cover boy shit. Face the barbell and put your non-pulling hand on your non-pulling knee. Grab in the middle with the pulling hand, break it under control from the floor and then yank it up. You already know that these should be done with a degree of sloppiness.

  13. "T-Nation readers on the way to the gym"

    Best caption yet.

  14. Hey Lencho! At least we are having a nice tricep chat on BB.com this morning... Squat negged me... again... and I love being told by a guy with 14" arms how inexperienced I am.

    Jamie that is some sick shit bro... love those top rack pulls with over 1k. Did some extra barbell rows with your vid playing because the song rocked to finish off my workout last night.

  15. Niel- I'm fairly certain there are supposed to be two separate pulls in high pulls- to the waist and to the shoulders. As I'm the furthest thing from an authority on Olympic Weightlifting, I'm just certain that I'm doing it wrong, haha.

    Anon- Power cleans are also great for trap and overall back development. I left them off for no reason in particular, but I'd imagine it was subconsciously because high pulls are superior.

  16. Oh, and the song is Burn the Lies by Hatebreed, on the Satisfaction is the Death of Desire cd.

  17. Jamie wrote:
    ["Anon- Power cleans are also great for trap and overall back development. I left them off for no reason in particular, but I'd imagine it was subconsciously because high pulls are superior."]

    If you're not an oly lifter, then:

    High Pulls = more weight = bigger boner.

    End of discussion.

  18. LIke the blog post. Funny as hell.

    One point of contention: everyone swears deads build big traps but for some people, that doesn't seem to be true. The deadlift is more taxing on the hips and low back, leaving the traps relatively unworked, or not worked very effectively.

    Just something to consider.

  19. Anon:
    ["One point of contention: everyone swears deads build big traps but for some people, that doesn't seem to be true. The deadlift is more taxing on the hips and low back, leaving the traps relatively unworked, or not worked very effectively."]

    All barbell pulls work the traps isometrically. Do some heavy rack pulls from the knees up with 100 or so pounds more than you're full lift and tell me if you can't feel the traps engaging.

  20. dammit Jamie, both the actual content and your own writing style rally make me look forward to the next post each damn time.

    tarps make the man

  21. Another great strength training blog...


  22. Jamie,

    Please answer the following question. Do blondes *really* have more fun?


  23. Rack lifts really work. People ask me what muscle they hit; I always say, "everything." Can feel it in the legs, forearms, hands, back, shoulders, traps: pretty much everything that doesn't usually press. I could never understand what people thought they were doing when they did "shrugs" with 60lb or even 120lb DBs.
    Oddly, I got a lot of trap growth from high rep kettlebells, though I was always doing rack lifts on other days. One of the keys to growth for me seems to be doing really heavy shit, then pumping that muscle full of blood. I've never really seen a "program" which advocates this specifically, but that's what works for me.

  24. There's a great vid of Johnny Jackson and Matt Kroc lifting together, and in one part Jackson does a heavy deadlift set, and then proceeds to shrug a few reps before throwing the bar down, haha.

    Great post Jamie. And congrats on the flood of hits you've been getting to your blog.

    I'd like more descriptions/vids of some weird old strongman stuff you like doing, the fast curl and press being the one that turned the most heads at my gym besides the occasional bent press...

  25. Matt Kroc is more of a man with his single testicle than everyone on T-Nation combined. His overly large traps contribute to this fact.

  26. Ah gotcha Jamie. My O-lifting knowledge is basic so I really wasn't sure myself.


  27. Holy Fuck

    Check this shit out:


    I'm speechless.

  28. I have decent traps from deadlifting (definitely better than that bronzed fag pictured above), but I'll have to start shrugging to take it to the next level. When I first started lifting, I saw people doing shrugs and tried them out. I decided they were gay, but it's probably because I was using 135 lbs for 20 reps instead of double my deadlift weight for singles.

  29. In Tates defense, he basically said, "You're not going to gain any appreciable muscle in 30 days, so try to lose all the fat you can. He didn't post any of the workouts, and then said to do lots of cardio. This included warm ups and HIIT, so I understand your dislike here.

    However, he either had to say something about Fagaconda or it was put in there by the Tnation sales people. After that, he recommended L-Lucine, which I think should get more press than it does as the science that's out there -although young- seems to show it has a major effect on body comp and weightloss.

  30. I noticed he really made no recommendation on the training, but for fuck's sake, he might have mentioned that some heavy lifting might benefit the sorry motherfuckers trying that shit.

  31. What? It's T MUSCLE we're talking about here. You can just assume that these articles are written for guys who are pumping out heavy workouts twice a day six days a week. I mean, they advertise all these EXTREME supplements and give all their exercises EXTREME names. They use words like BRUTAL and INSANE and also EXTREME.

    This isn't a website for amateurs man it's TMUSCLE. It has muscle right in the name! I bet there wasn't a single guy who read that who squats under 500.

  32. Look what you've created. Poor guy doesn't stand a chance.


  33. Don't be hating on Shelby Starnes (that bodybuilder you posted a pic of). He's strong as shit. Offseason he's like 235, much bigger than you "Chaos and Pain"

    Here's a vid of him deadlifting 584 X 4: