Top 5 Calisthenics Trap Exercises For A Yoked Upper Body

Training the trapezius muscle improves posture, prevents shoulder rounding, enhances upper body aesthetics, and reduces the risk of strains and impingements by promoting shoulder stability. Keep reading and learn how to train the traps effectively!

Anatomy And Function Of The Traps: How To Target Specific Parts

Before jumping to the exercises it is good to have a basic understanding of the anatomy and functions of the traps, that way you will know how to target and isolate different parts of the muscle effectively.

The trapezius muscle is a large, flat, triangular muscle that extends over the back of the neck and shoulders. It is one of the major muscles of the upper back and is named for its trapezoid shape. The trapezius is divided into three parts: the upper trapezius, middle trapezius, and lower trapezius. Each part has specific attachments and functions.

Upper Trapezius: This portion originates from the base of the skull (occipital bone) and the ligamentum nuchae and inserts into the lateral third of the clavicle.
The upper fibers of the trapezius are primarily involved in elevation of the scapula, such as when you shrug your shoulders.

Middle Trapezius: This part originates from the spinous processes of the cervical and thoracic vertebrae and inserts into the acromion process of the scapula.
The middle fibers help retract or pull the scapula toward the spine, as in squeezing the shoulder blades together.

Lower Trapezius: It arises from the spinous processes of the thoracic vertebrae and inserts into the spine of the scapula.
The lower fibers assist in depressing the scapula, moving it downward and It helps stabilize the scapula during arm movements.

5 Best Calisthenics Trap Exercises

Now you have a basic understanding of the different functions of the trapezius muscle it is time to get down to training, that is why I have compiled a list of the 5 most effective exercises for targeting the different parts of the trapezius muscle, enjoy!

1. Handstand Shrugs

Handstand shrugs are an exercise that involves performing shrugging motions while in a handstand position. This exercise primarily targets the upper trapezius muscles, through shoulder elevation.

How to do handstand shrugs for cobra traps:

  1. Start by getting into a handstand position against a wall or freestanding if you have a solid balance in your handstands. For an easier variation, you can do them in a pike position.
  2. Ensure your body is straight, with your arms fully extended and shoulders stacked over your wrists.
  3. Initiate the movement by depressing your shoulders and letting them sag.
  4. Next, elevate the shoulders by pulling them up towards your ears in a shrugging motion.
  5. Lower your shoulders back down to the depressed postion and repeat for reps.

Handstand shrugs challenge not only the strength of your trapezius muscles but also help with proper posture in your handstand.

2. Inverted Shrugs

Inverted shrugs are an exercise that targets the muscles of the upper back, especially the trapezius. This exercise is typically performed using a bar or a pair of gymnastic rings and involves a movement very similar to the traditional shrug but in an inverted position.

How to perform inverted shrugs for a yoked upper body:

  1. Position yourself under the bar or rings. Grab the bar with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lift your feet off the ground and hang from the bar, allowing your body to fully invert. Your arms should be fully extended, and your body should form a straight line from head to toe.
  3. Initiate the movement by shrugging your shoulders upward toward your ears. Focus on contracting the upper trapezius muscles.
  4. At the top of the shrug, hold the position for a moment, squeezing your shoulder blades together to maximize the contraction in your upper back.
  5. Lower your shoulders back down to the starting position in a controlled manner and repeat for reps.

If you aren’t comfortable being upside down, I would recommend practicing the inverted hang first.

3. Bodyweight Rows

Bodyweight rows, also known as Australian pull-ups, are a compound exercise that targets the muscles of the upper back, including the middle trapezius muscles to a high degree, mainly through scapula retraction.

How to perform pull ups like Aussie:

  1. Position yourself under the bar or rings.
  2. grab the bar or rings with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Initiate the movement by pulling your chest up toward the bar or rings. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades as you pull.
  4. At the top of the row, hold the position for a moment, focus on squeezing your upper back muscles.
  5. Lower your body back down to the starting position in a controlled manner.

Adjust the difficulty by changing the angle of your body. The more horizontal you are, the more challenging the exercise becomes.

4. Ring Reverse Flys

The ring reverse fly targets the muscles of the upper back, particularly the rear deltoids, rhomboids, and middle traps. The rings provide a unique challenge by introducing instability into the exercise, thereby engaging and stabilizing muscles around the shoulder and helping prevent injury.

How to perform reverse flys on rings:

  1. Grab the rings in a pronated grip (palms facing down), Walk your feet forward and lean back so that your body forms a straight line from head to heels. Arms fully extended in front of you.
  2. Initiate the movement by lifting both rings out to the sides in a wide arc, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  3. At the top of the movement, hold the position for a moment, emphasizing the contraction in your upper back muscles.
  4. Lower your body back to the starting position in a controlled manner.

You can adjust the difficulty by leaning back. Ring Rear Delt Flys can be quite difficult, so don’t give up if you find yourself nearly vertical at first.

5. Dip Bar Shrugs

Dip bar shrugs are an exercise that targets the trapezius muscles, particularly emphasizing the lower trapezius through shoulder depression.

How to perform dip shrugs:

  1. Grasp the dip bars with an overhand grip, placing your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lift yourself off the ground, supporting your body between the dip bars with your arms fully extended and scapula depressed (shoulder blades back and down).
  3. Initiate the movement by shrugging your shoulders upward toward your ears.
  4. Push your shoulders back down to the depressed position and repeat for reps.

You can add weight to make the exercises harder.

Final thoughts

Training your traps with calisthenics can be highly effective, offering a functional and bodyweight-centric approach to developing strength and stability of the scapula. A lot of the basic exercises you likely already do like pull ups, rows, pike push ups already targets the traps. However to get the most out of your trap development incorporating a mix of exercises to target the upper, middle, and lower traps, promotes better overall trap development.

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