6 Best Shoulder and Trap Workouts

6 Best Shoulder and Trap Workouts

I think it’s safe to assume we all have our favorite “workout day.” I’m sure that day for you immediately popped into your head. For some of us, it’s leg day. Or as I prefer to call it, glute day. For others, it might be getting a good lift in for those traps and shoulders. Despite your favorite day, it’s important to carve time out each week to hit all of those essential muscle groups.

While I could workout lower body 5 out of 7 days each week, that wouldn’t really do my upper body any good. One of the muscle groups I struggle to workout the most is my shoulders and traps. Let’s just call it a love/hate relationship. I hate it while I’m doing it, but man do I LOVE it when I’m finished!

To be honest, I’m not sure why I dislike working out these areas so much. What I do know, is that there are far more benefits to doing shoulder and trap workouts than there is for not doing them. So, I put those personal feelings aside and put the work in making sure my body reaps the benefits of a good shoulder and trap workout.

6 Best Shoulder and Trap Workouts

Yes, training the shoulders and traps is aesthetically pleasing. I’m sure you have seen an outstanding looking set of shoulders and traps at some point! However, aside from being aesthetically pleasing, working out the shoulders and traps has a variety of benefits including:

  • Enhancing your posture
  • Strengthening the muscles that surround the shoulder joint
  • Creating more stability for the neck and head (which is very beneficial for athletes)
  • Increases upper body strength and power (AKA, you’ll never need help to open that pasta jar again!)
  • Strength training exercises can boost heart health
  • Keeps your bones healthy and builds density (bones lose their strength each year)
  • It makes you feel good and look good!!

So, are you ready to get that upper body pump in yet? My guess is probably YES! Especially now that you know the several benefits that come along with a shoulder and trap workout. Now the next question: “what shoulder and trap workouts should I do?” There are so many that it’s difficult to figure out where to start. To help you out, I’ve compiled a list of my go-to shoulder and trap workouts, and how to do them!

Seated Dumbbell Press

Let’s get this party started with seated dumbbell press! This is a great exercise for building muscle and strengthening your shoulders — especially the front heads of the shoulder. While you can do this exercise with a barbell, using a dumbbell may reduce the risk of injury. Plus, one shoulder can’t compensate for the other if you use a dumbbell.

Shoulder and Trap Workout

How to do Seated Dumbbell Press

  1. Start by setting up a bench at a 90-degree angle and pick out your desired dumbbell weight from the rack.
  2. Lift the dumbbell from the floor with your palms facing in. Put the dumbbells on your knees and sit down on the bench.
  3. Lift the dumbbells into place in a slow and controlled motion. Try not to jerk or sling the weights up, this will help prevent injury.
  4. Once you have your dumbbells in place, rotate your palms so they are facing forward.
  5. Take a deep inhale and press the dumbbells overhead by extending your elbows.
  6. Slowly lower your dumbbells back to the starting position. Your arms should be around 90 degrees or lower depending on how long your arms are.
  7. Repeat the exercise as many times as you’d like. I typically perform 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps.

Barbell Military Press

Up next is the barbell military press, also known as an overhead press. This compound movement helps to build the size of your shoulders and traps, while also increasing their strength. We can perform the barbell military press as a strength lift or just to build the shoulder and trap muscles. There are a variety of benefits that come with performing this exercise such as encouraging healthy shoulder mobility and builds your upper-body strength for other movements.

Shoulder and Trap Workout

How to do Barbell Military Press

  1. Begin by adjusting your barbell just below shoulder height and loading the desired weight amount onto the bar.
  2. Stand with the feet about shoulders distance apart and place your hands about shoulder width on the bar.
  3. Step underneath the barbell and unrack it. Be sure to keep your spine in a neutral position while doing this.
  4. Once you have unracked the bar, take a few steps back. From here, tuck the chin and press the bar until it locks out overhead.
  5. Slowly reverse the movement until the bar is back at your chest.
  6. Repeat as many reps as desired.

Front and Lateral Dumbbell Raises

Number three on the list of shoulder and trap workouts is front and lateral dumbbell raises. This exercise combines two movements that will strengthen the middle deltoids and anterior deltoids. If you have little time to get a workout in, front and lateral dumbbell raises are the perfect exercise to get in a quick burnout session.

Shoulder and Trap Workout

How to do Front and Lateral Dumbbell Raises

  1. For front dumbbell raises, start by holding a dumbbell in each hand to the front of your body.
  2. Keep a slight bend in the knees and begin lifting a dumbbell one at a time to the front of your body until it is shoulder height.
  3. Bring the dumbbell back to the starting position (in a slow and controlled motion).
    Repeat with the other arm. Repeat as many reps as desired.
    For lateral dumbbell raises, start by holding a dumbbell in each hand with your arms down by your side.
    Keep a slight bend in the knees and begin lifting the dumbbells laterally until they are shoulder height.
    Bring the dumbbells back to the starting position (in a slow and controlled motion).
  4. Lower the weights and repeat the sequence as much as desired.

Dumbbell Rear Lateral Raises

Dumbbell rear lateral raises are another “must” to add to your shoulder and trap workout. This upper-body exercise will add size and increase the strength of your posterior deltoids. Keep in mind that this exercise targets a smaller muscle group, so you can do lighter weights and more reps.

Shoulder and Trap Workout

How to do Rear Dumbbell Lateral Raises

  1. Begin with your feet hip distance apart. The knees should be bent and dumbbells in your hands.
  2. Hinge forward from the waist and let your arms hang forward. Face your palms inward and elbows should be slightly bent. Be sure to keep a good posture while performing this exercise to reduce the risk of injury.
  3. Start contracting the shoulder blades together as you lift the dumbbells in a lateral direction. Keeping a slight bend in the elbow, lift the dumbbells and then slowly lower back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat as many reps as desired.


Shrugs are a very popular exercise that is done to build and strengthen the trap muscles. Not only does this exercise strengthen the muscles, it’s also very simple to set up and perform. Which makes it an easy go-to shoulder and trap workout!

Shoulder and Trap Workout

How to do Shrugs

  1. Start in a standing position with the feet flat on the floor about shoulder distance apart.
  2. Put your arms down by your sides and turn the palms to face each other.
  3. Keep a micro-bend in the knees, chin lifted, face looking forward and neck straight.
  4. Lift your shoulders as high to your ears as possible. Be sure to do this in a slow motion so you can really feel the exercise and any resistance. (Tip: hold at the top for about three seconds to intensify the workout)
  5. Slowly lower the shoulders back down to the starting position.

Upright Rows

Last but definitely not least, a favorite of mine, upright rows! This shoulder and trap workout will definitely get those babies growing in strength and size. So, if you’re searching to build stronger, bigger traps, then upright rows are a must.

Shoulder and Trap Workout

  1. Begin with either a barbell or dumbbells hanging in front of your body. Keep in mind, your palms should face your body.
  2. Stand up straight and adjust your grip so that the hands are in line with the thighs.
  3. Maintaining good form, lift the barbell or dumbbells straight up toward the chin, leading with the elbows and keeping the weights close to your body. The arms shouldn’t go any higher than the shoulders.
  4. Pause at the top. Then slowly lower the weights back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat the exercise as many times as desired.

Injury Prevention

So, you’re ready to hit the gym and get in a killer shoulder and trap workout. Good for you! However, before going in full speed, it’s important to remember that preventing injuries should be a major consideration. Here are a few things to take into account before beginning your workout:

  • Be sure to warm-up! There’s no need to dive right in and potentially injure yourself.
  • Don’t lift too much weight. Especially if you are a beginner. Either way, less weight and more reps are never a terrible choice.
  • Increase your weight in small increments to help prevent injury. Start small and work your way up. You’ll thank yourself for this later!
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Gabrielle McNair

I am obsessed with all things related to fitness and personal health. Outside of that, I enjoy spending time with my husband, being outdoors and traveling.

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