At the gas station at 3:30 AM, when a wild-eyed hooligan that smells of a bottom-shelf shower approaches you—monster traps will be a hell of a lot more intimidating than pumped up “bi’s.”

Big traps are a prerequisite to constructing a no-nonsense physique. Big traps are combat-ready weapons ready to coil into battle at the drop of a hat. And, If throwing around heavy pig iron is your thing — Herculean traps are a must for pulling big weights.

A cursory YouTube search of the top deadlifters and Olympic weightlifters will serve as a mute bible for the importance of big, strong traps.

Additional Benefits of Strong Traps:

  • Keeping the shoulder girdle in proper alignment
  • Staying healthy in high contact sports like rugby, boxing, MMA and football
  • Helping maintain upright posture while squatting and providing a nice resting spot for the squat bar
  • Important for locking out deadlifts and Olympic lifting variations
  • Helps keep the back tight when bench pressing massive poundages

The Exercise 

We are going to use the one-armed barbell shrug to transform your traps.

This exercise was introduced to me by the legendary Charles Poliquin and offers many benefits over traditional barbell and dumbbell shrugging exercises.

Dumbbell shrugs cause large amounts of friction on the thighs; as the dumbbells move up and down, the weights grind against the thighs. The one-armed barbell shrug is much smoother. Compared to a trap bar, the barbell in this movement is much more perpendicular to the floor (opposed to out to the sides), allowing for a greater range of motion. A huge underrated benefit of this movement is the teres minor and infraspinatus are forced to worked overtime isometrically to prevent the bar from moving in front of the body.

Technical Guidelines

  • Set the barbell across the pins in a power rack
  • Stand to the side of the barbell, grip directly in the center of the barbell
  • Use straps if needed, do not let grip limit you
  • Pick the barbell up (you can use off hand to brace rack upright if need be)
  • In an upright position, shrug the barbell as high as possible holding the top position for one second
  • Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions

Training Guidelines

Do this exercise twice a week: one day for 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions and a second day for 4 sets of 5-8 repetitions. This is not in place of your heavy, full range of motion pulls—it’s a supplement not a substitute, so keep pulling heavy.

One-Armed Barbell Shrugs