Monday, February 25, 2013

Beefing the Traps: Mistakes and technique. By Vic Goyaram

Beefing the traps: Mistakes and technique
Researched and composed by Vic Goyaram
Denis Ayen shows good balance between delts and traps
Warning: balance between delts and traps is essential!
Having massive trapezius development is indeed the mark of a bodybuilder. It shows that you have paid your dues with the iron. However, many people are overzealous in having it developed without looking at balance in the shoulder musculature. Muscular balance in the shoulder region is as much important as balance between your quads and your calves. It is important to maintain balance between your trap and deltoid development so the first thing I would advise you to do is to look in the mirror and see whether these two body parts are in balance. Then you work out a plan of attack for your shoulders taking into consideration your strengths and weaknesses. 

Big Brock Lesnar's traps are massive
But they dominate his deltoids
Even when standing relaxed!
Jack Madanamoothoo shows perfect balance
between his deltoids and trapezius
The anatomy of the Trapezius muscle
Trapezius anatomy: more than meets the eye!
When asked to show your traps you will most likely hit a most muscular pose and not a rear double biceps, right? Why not? Because in the rear double bi you are showing more of your traps than in the most muscular.  The traps are made up of the upper, middle and lower regions and having all these three regions developed are an absolute must. What is visible from the front when you do a most muscular pose is the upper trap. Having balanced development will greatly enhance your rear poses (see picture below).  The traps indeed make up a large portion of your back musculature. Future articles will focus on training the middle and lower traps. This article focuses on trap training as a whole. 
Note the contribution of your traps to overall back musculature
Trap training Mistakes

1. Rolling the shoulders while shrugging
Many bodybuilders roll the shoulders while shrugging.  Some roll the shoulders to the back and some to the front. I have also seen people alternate between forward and rear rotations while shrugging. This is a waste of energy and you potentially risk injury while doing this. The shrugging movement is simple, straight up and down.  The direction of resistance in the standing barbell or dumbbell shrug is straight down, meaning the direction of the pull is straight down. Therefore to derive maximum benefit from the shrug you must pull opposite resistance, which is straight up (no rolling). By rolling the shoulders you are assuming that the direction of resistance is coming from the front, which is not correct. I invite you to check the video below of Bio-mechanics expert Doug Brignole (a former NABBA Mr. Universe and Mr. America and who placed 7th at the 2012 NABBA Mr. Universe +50 masters)

2. The narrow grip Upright Rows
The upright row is a traditional movement for the traps but it's not the best exercise that you can do for your this muscle. It is not a good trap exercise as there are definitely better exercises. The majority of the movement is done by the arms and forearm and the remaining 10% is an incidental shrugging movement. So why not put the effort in a 100% shrugging movement? Additionally, upright rowing with a narrow grip puts the shoulder joint under a lot of stress. While I've never had shoulder issues with narrow upright rowing (they actually consist 25% of my trap training, for variety purposes) I know many others who have injured their shoulders with it (a lot having to do with use of excessive weight as well).

Extra tip: A much safer version of the upright row is the wide grip upright row. This is more of a side deltoid movement rather than a trap movement.  There will still be some trap involvement due to an incidental shrugging motion in the movement. Use a shoulder grip width and pull up to the sternum (middle chest) area. Superset with side laterals for developing the side deltoid (great for width). You can learn more about this upright row variation in the Gironda Series article on shoulder training (Click here).

Wide grip upright rows: a great way of cooking the side deltoids 
for width. Works great with a superset with side laterals
3. Shrugging for traps (not ego).
Many bodybuilders shrug with excessive weight, causing them to move only a few millimetres.  Sometimes if you watch them you don't really see any movement in their shoulder and you wonder what they are working. Please don't do this. It does a lot to your ego to show people you are holding 150+kg in your hands in the rack but you don't realise that you are cheating on yourself. It is useless showing people that you are shrugging so much weight when your trap development looks as if you don't do any trap training at all. Bodybuilding Mauritius recommends performing shrugs according to the guidelines below:
The Bodybuilding Mauritius Shrug Guidelines
Design courtesy of Premanand Maniam, Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Additional shrug tips
Sometimes your private parts may get in the way when doing shrugs. To eliminate this problem you can maintain a slight forward bend in your torso while you shrug.  Dumbbells as well as a trap bar (if your gym has it) can be used as well. More articles in the future will cover trap training.
Olivier Malherbe (far left) dominated this pose at the 2011 Mr. Mauritius
Courtesy of balanced trap development that tied well to his back

Photo Courtesy of: Pascal Quirin (Body FX Ltd)
Do you need more motivation?
Photo Courtesy of: Dyaus Photography
My Bio: I am a Mauritian originally from Roche-Bois, Port Louis and now based in Cape Town, South Africa where I am busy with my postgraduate studies in molecular biology of exercise. My research, supervised by Prof. Edward Ojuka, looks at the influence of nutrition and exercise in gene expression in muscle, research which is relevant and applicable to exercising individuals, sports persons and diabetic individuals. The knowledge that I share with you stems from my 18 years of experience in bodybuilding and 8 years (and counting) of university education in the field. I have also published work in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism (2013), International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (2013) and co-authored two book chapters on exercise and diabetes. I also presented my research work at the 2012 International Sports and Exercise Nutrition Conference (UK). I am grateful to each and everyone at the UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine. "Knowledge without sharing is worth nothing"
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