Thought the trap bar was only used for lower body strength training? Start adding these upper body exercises to your workout plan and see your results take off.
With my article on the 5 Trap Bar Exercises You’re Not Doing, I already gave you a taste of how the trap bar can be used to push your strength gains to the next level. But, as I’m sure you noticed, all of the exercises discussed were lower body and core focused. Not that focusing on core strength is a bad thing (as it will assuredly do much more for your body composition and athletic performance than endless bicep curls do) but pigeonholing the trap bar doesn’t do justice to its versatility.
Which is why, in an effort to provide you with the full gamut of trap bar exercises, I’ve put together the list below of the best upper body exercises as well. These exercises, along with the ones I’ve provided in my previous article, will help you build muscle, get stronger, and take your gains to the next level.
Let’s start with everyone’s favorite trap bar exercise: the shrug. The beauty of using the trap bar here is that it allows you to hold a lot of weight in a shoulder friendly position without using lifting straps or an over/under (snatch) grip. It’s a great way to build size in the traps, and when done for high reps, it’s also a great grip exercise too.
Trap Bar Rows
Bent over rows can be very hard on your lower back, and tough to grip when done with a lot of weight. Thankfully the trap bar helps solve these problems by reducing stress on the low back while allowing you to hold big loads without using straps. My favorite variation of this exercise is to do these dead stop every rep, as if performing a “Pendlay” row with a straight bar. This will improve starting strength for the pulling muscles while allowing you to go very heavy in a controlled fashion.
Neutral Grip Pull Ups
Pull ups are one of the best overall exercises for muscle and strength, which I’m sure you already know. But by putting the trap bar in a power rack you can perform neutral grip pull ups which may be even more effective, as the grip is the most shoulder friendly, and the bar allows for a true vertical pull causing complete contraction. Give these a shot, especially if your gym doesn’t have neutral grip bars.
Neutral Grip Inverted Rows
Inverted rows are another great way to train the upper back and lats. Traditional straight bar inverted rows can be tough on your shoulders, and the trap bar allows for the shoulder friendly neutral grip. While blast straps and other suspension trainer devices are the best way to do this, the trap bar in a rack at a low to moderate height is a good substitute. Don’t completely understand the setup? Give the video a look to clear up any confusion.
Neutral Grip Push Ups
Forget the gimmicks on TV. If you really want a neutral grip push up station, just use the trap bar. This grip can help take stress of the wrists and allow bigger lifters to get a better range of motion. Want to make them harder? Try adding bands and chains for external resistance, or elevate your feet.
Halo Neutral Grip Overhead Press
You can set these up in a power rack on a pin setting, or use a partner to help get the bar into the starting position. Either way the trap bar allows for a true vertical press, as you don’t need to press the bar around your neck and face like a traditional overhead press with a straight bar. The result is a more natural overhead pressing motion that’s much easier on your lower back and shoulders.
And now you’ve got an onslaught of upper body trap bar exercise to add to your toolbox. But don’t take my word for it. Give the workouts below a go and discover for yourself what a powerful tool the trap bar can be.
The Trap Bar Workout
A) High Handle Trap Bar vs Chains 5×3
*If chains aren’t available just use heavy straight weight
B) Trap Bar Pull Ups 4×6-12 Reps bodyweight
C1) Trap Bar Push Ups 3×12-15 Reps Bodyweight
*Can use bands, chains or weight vest for external resistance
C2) L-Sit Hold 3×15-20 Seconds
*if can’t perform this exercise substitute any challenging plank variation
A1) Low Handle Trap Bar Deadlift 4×6-8 light weight slow tempo
*If low handle not available stand on mats or small box
A2) Dead Stop Trap Bar Rows 5×6-8
B) Trap Bar Halo Overhead Press 3×8-10
C1) Trap Bar Farmers Walk 2×30-45 Seconds
C2) Suitcase Holds 2×15-20 Seconds
A) Dead start Trap Bar Jumps 6×3 with 20-30% of 1RM
*weight should be light and should move extremely fast. Be sure to stick each landing under control
B) High Handle Trap Bar Stiff Leg Deads 5×5 moderate weight slow negative
C) Trap Bar Inverted Rows 4×12-20 Reps
*Set are for max reps, but leave one or two reps in the tank
D) Trap Bar Shrugs 2×20 slow tempo and squeeze each rep
To maximize your muscle and strength gains when using this workout 1R would recommend the following supplements: