When lifting, certain muscle groups are trained harder than others. Others, however, are neglected, whether intentional or not. In terms of building a well-rounded physique, it pays to focus on the smaller, lesser-worked muscle groups, including the traps.
Your traps can go a heck of a long way in terms of giving you a powerful-looking physique. There is so much more to trap training than just endless shrug variations. In order to really build up the traps, you should try to hit all its aspects: the upper, lower, and middle.
In today’s article, I’m going to be looking particularly at several of the best mid trap exercises currently available.
Your trapezius muscle is one of the largest back muscles in the body. The muscle itself actually gets its name from the fact that, due to its unique shape, it resembles a trapezoid. It’s triangularly shaped and is as flat as it is broad.
The traps create an elongated muscle column located across the upper back and the neck. The trapezius muscle is what is known as an active postural movement muscle, which is responsible for many motions involving the head, neck, upper back, and shoulders. It works by retracting, depressing, elevating, and rotating the scapula, which you will probably know as the ‘shoulder blade.’
As you can see, the trapezius muscle plays many roles in basic body mechanics and movements. So, it’s very important to remember about its strengthening on a regular basis.
Five best middle trap exercises
The middle trap, as the name implies, is the mid-portion of the trapezius muscle. As it is located in the middle of the muscle, it is responsible for a great deal of the muscle’s thickness and size. If you’ve ever seen big dudes with huge traps, e.g. a professional wrestler Brock Lesnar, you’ll find that much of the thickness found in their traps is a result of well-developed mid traps.
I handpicked the following exercises based on results from related studies that compared many popular trapezius exercises.
1. Prone horizontal abduction
First on our list today, we have the prone horizontal abduction exercise. This exercise is fantastic for people rehabilitating from shoulder injuries. It helps to promote an improvement in shoulder mobility while adding size to the trap muscle. The exercise should not be performed with a heavy dumbbell, as form and range of motion are essential.
Here’s what to do:
- Begin by lying down face-first onto a secure and high bench with a light dumbbell in your left/right hand.
- Grip the dumbbell with an underhand grip. Use your free hand to secure yourself firmly onto the bench.
- Let the dumbbell hang freely down toward the floor. Slightly rotate your arm outward. Now, lift the dumbbell upward and out toward your side so that your palm is roughly level with the top of your head at the peak of the movement.
- Hold for a second and then slowly return the dumbbell to the starting position.
- Repeat for as many reps as required and then perform the exercise with the other hand.
2. Overhead arm raises
Up next we have overhead arm raises. This is another exercise that is vastly underappreciated when it comes to working the traps, and the deltoids for that matter.
To do this exercise:
- Begin by setting a bench to a slight incline. Set yourself down in it face-first so that your chest is firmly pressed onto the bench. Your head is above it looking down at the ground .
- Now, with an overhand grip on a light set of dumbbells hanging at your sides, slowly bring both arms up into the air and outward at the same time so that they’re above your head. Keep both dumbbells in the vertical position while rising.
- At the top of the movement, both arms should form a V-shape. Focus on contracting the muscles in the traps and squeezing.
- Slowly lower the weights down to the starting position.
- Repeat for as many reps and sets as required.
3. Dumbbell scaption
This exercise is similar to a lateral raise, except for the fact that your grip is different.
To perform this exercise:
- Begin by taking a set of dumbbells, holding them down at your sides with your palms facing forward. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
- Making sure not to bend the elbows, slowly raise the arms upward so that they’re level with your shoulders at roughly 30 degrees. During the entire movement, palms should be in a neutral position. Don’t do any rotations!
- Hold for a second, get a good squeeze, and return to the start position.
- Repeat as necessary.
4. Unilateral rows
The penultimate mid trap exercise I have for you today is the unilateral row. This exercise is a great all-rounder for adding strength and size to the back and traps.
Here’s what to do:
- Set a bench to a 45-degree incline. Grab a dumbbell in your right/left hand with an overhand grip.
- Slowly lower yourself face-first down onto the bench so that your chest is placed firmly at the top of the bench.
- Now, with the dumbbell down at your sides, lift your head slightly whilst still looking at the ground. Bend your elbows, and begin to row the dumbbell.
- Use your free hand to grip the top of the bench to hold yourself in place.
- Repeat for as many reps as required, then switch hands and do the movement with the other arm.
There are also many variations on how to perform this exercise. You can try them and compare what works best for you.
5. Prone extensions
Last but not least we have prone extensions. This is another exercise ideal for shoulder rehab and mid trap strengthening.
- Begin by lying down prone on a high bench, so that you are face down.
- Take a dumbbell in your right/left hand with an overhand grip.
- Extend your arm backward behind you, so that the dumbbell is roughly level with your hip, with the top of the dumbbell pointing to the sky.
- Pause at the peak and slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat for as many reps as required and then switch to the other hand.
Mid trap workout
For those folks who want to focus on strengthening their mid traps, I want to share two trapezius muscle workout examples.
- Prone horizontal abduction: 3 sets of 10–15 reps.
- Dumbbell shrugs: 2 sets of 10–12 reps.
- Dumbbell scaption: 2 sets of 10–12 reps.
- Overhead arm raises: 3 sets of 10–15 reps.
- Barbell shrugs: 2 sets of 10–12 reps.
- Prone extensions: 2 sets of 10–12 reps.
- Best Exercises for the Trapezius Muscle.
- EMG analysis of the scapular muscles during a shoulder rehabilitation program.
- Rehabilitation of Scapular Muscle Balance Which Exercises to Prescribe?
- Serratus anterior muscle activity during selected rehabilitation exercises.
- Surface Electromyographic Analysis of Exercises for the Trapezius and Serratus Anterior Muscles.