The Shoulder Shrug
So, you want to increase the size of your traps; sure, why wouldn’t you!
The traps, or to be technically correct trapezius muscles are responsible for elevation, retraction and medial contraction of our shoulder blades, which translates into shrugging up and down and pulling the shoulder blades together.
The best exercises for this will be your barbell and/or dumbbell shoulder shrugs. Steps include:
1) Stand upright grabbing the dumbbell or barbell with your preferred grip.
2) With your arms fully extended allow the weight to hang in front of OR if using dumbbells eitherside of your body.
3) Keep your body stature anatomically symmetrically with your neck and spine positioned upright.
4) While keeping the weight close to your body, elevate your shoulders towards the ceiling and hold for 2 seconds.
5) Release the hold, and repeat the exercise with an intensity that adheres to your muschle building goals.
As with all muscles, to increase in size & strenght, we must:
a) recruit as many fibers within the muscle sheath as possible
b) ensure that we place those fibers under an intensity they usually do not work under and
c) make sure the intensity is within the fast twitch muscle hypotrophy remit.
To ensure we recruit the largest percentage of muscle fibers possible, it only stands to reason that we must apply the overload principle and work the muscle fibers to their maximum capacity. It's only then we can be sure that we're recruiting those muscle fibers at the top end of the intensity spectrum. This can sometimes be a problem with exercises that require grip strength as the majority of the time our grip fatigues prior to the muscle being worked. Often, in these occasions, the muscle we want to encourage to grow is restricted to secondary muscle potential. To mitigate this problem many pro athletes and serious lifters use ergogenic fitness accessories such as weight lifting straps, that can help increase the grip strength allowing for an additional couple of repetitions. In more recent years quality weight lifting hooks are being used, that eliminates the need for gripping the bar completely allowing all the focus to be on the predominant muscle being worked. This is a fantastic method, to ensure we're recruiting the maximum percentage of muscle fibers which then significantly increases our potential for strength and lean muscle gains.