There are only so many ways to hit your upper traps. Sure, they get worked with pretty much any shoulder exercise (overhead presses, lateral raises, upright rows), but isolating the upper traps is usually a matter of doing one of the few variations of shrugs you’re familiar with. if you’re tired of the standard barbell or dumbbell shrug, move over to the Smith machine. Keeping the bar in front of you is one way to do it, but we like the behind-the-back variation. It helps keep your shoulders back to engage other back muscles and improve posture, it helps build thicker upper traps (the primary purpose of the move), and, as a bonus, it might just keep you from getting bored with your current free-weight trap routine.

The Shrug Zone

Follow these instructions for a bigger set of upper traps to show off in a T-shirt or tank top.


1. Position the bar of a Smith machine so that it’s around mid-thigh height.

2. Stand in front of the bar, facing away from it, and grasp it with your hands shoulder width.

3. Start in an upright, standing position with your knees slightly bent and arms fully extended.


Keeping your elbows locked out, shrug your shoulders as high as possible. at the top of the movement, hold the contraction for one or two counts, then lower the bar back down.


WHERE IT HITS: Upper trapezius

WHEN TO DO IT: At any point in the traps portion of your workout, which is likely either shoulder or back day

HOW TO DO IT: 3–4 sets, 12-15 reps