Ask The Super Strong Guy: How Do I Build Titanic, Shirt-Stretching Traps?

Pro powerlifter Mark Bell answers your questions about lifting very, very heavy objects off the floor and rack. Learn how to build shirt-stretching traps!


Strong dude! I shrug like a sissy, but I want a strong snake around my neck. I'm tired of these tiny traps! How do I build the shirt-tearing traps of a Titan?

Good question, son! Luckily, it's got a simple answer. Train like a mofo and don't really worry about it!

Don't believe me?

If it sounds dumb, don't worry, I been hearin' that all my life ... from people smaller and scrawnier than me!

You can bet your barbells, big traps are built on a foundation of heavy lifting. Heavy squats, deads and, yup, even benches. As a powerlifter who has benched more than 800 pounds and squatted more than a grand many times, I can tell you that simply setting up, getting your body tight, and stabilizing big weights will train the total package - including those sick ridges around your neck.

It's a Trap!

You want traps so big people can climb 'em? Then you gotta lift big 'n ugly!

In a bench and squat, the traps get mashed pretty good. Why? You retract and squeeze them statically while they're under heavy tension. In the case of the squat, the barbell is resting on 'em. Thus, these 3 exercises will help you hide your neck with a Titan's traps.

Max-effort work followed by a high-rep method using any of the Big 3 (squat, bench or deadlift) will help build 'dem big traps. Of course, the squat and pull (deadlift) hammer the traps more than the bench, so keep those two lifts at the front of your trap-smashing arsenal.

You want a program? You got it.

Showng off some sick yoke!
"Showng off some sick yoke!"

Ridge Rover

Let's say your goal for the day is to squat a max set of 3 with 300 pounds. So, leading up to it, you hit 225 for 5, 275 for 3, then 300 for 3. After that, lower the weight by 20-30% and do as many reps as you can. Do 1-2 sets of that to stoke your Yoke!

Now it's time to move onto more direct trap training. The low reps will stimulate muscle growth because you handled heavy weights. The higher rep sets will force muscle growth due to the time under tension. Now, superset dumbbell clean and face pulls for 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps. Finish the workout with a few regular shrugs - dumbbell or barbell - but let the weights really stretch your traps at the bottom of the exercise. Do 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

The low reps will stimulate muscle growth because you handled heavy weights.
"The low reps will stimulate muscle growth because you handled heavy weights."

It's a Trap! Training Sample

Titanic Traps
  • Barbell Full Squat Barbell Full Squat Barbell Full Squat
    3 sets of 5, 3, and 3 reps. 1 drop set to failure at 20-30% drop. Repeat all four sets.

As a side note, moves like the Farmer's Walk and Yoke Walk have a profound effect on building life-changing traps. Consider using them instead of/in addition to your shrugs.

Don't get called a pencil-neck geek ever again, and don't get trapped by anything!

Get to the gym now and start working on your Yoke!