8 Best Dumbbell Trapezius Exercises To Sculpt Your Traps

If you are looking for the best dumbbell exercises for trapezius muscles, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve shared various dumbbell workouts that can help you strengthen and sculpt your traps and improve your posture.

The trapezius is divided into three parts (upper, middle, and lower trap) that start at the base of your neck, go across your shoulders, and extend to the middle of your back. They help move your head, neck, arms, shoulders, and torso. They also stabilize your spine and help with posture.1What is the trapezius muscle? – my.clevelandclinic.org

Strengthening trapezius muscles helps improve posture and shoulder mobility and reduces the risk of injuries and lower back pain.

You can strengthen your traps through various exercises using multiple equipments, such as barbells, machines, and resistance bands, but this article is for those who train mostly with dumbbells.

Related: Free 12-Week Dumbbell Workout Plan PDF

Best Dumbbell Trapezius Exercises To Build Sturdy Traps at Home

If you have a set of dumbbells, you can do various exercises to bolster your trapezius muscles at home.

Here’s a list of the best dumbbell exercises that allows you to target your traps from different angles.

  1. Incline Dumbbell IYT Raises
  2. Dumbbell Reverse Fly
  3. Bent-Over Dumbbell Row
  4. Dumbbell Facepull
  5. Dumbbell One-arm Row
  6. Dumbbell Seal Row
  7. Dumbbell Shrugs
  8. Dumbbell Upright Row

Some of these exercises are identical to one another that’s why you can incorporate them on different days of your training. For example, you can do shrugs and upright rows on day 1 of your trap workout, IYT raises and reverse fly on day 2, and dumbbell row and seal row on day three.

1.Incline Dumbbell IYT Raises

Exercise Level: Intermediate

Benefits: The IYT raises is a compound movement that strengthens upper body muscles, particularly the back. It is one of my favorite dumbbell exercises I often do to train my trapezius muscles. A study published by the American Council of Exercise has shown that IYT raises highly activated middle and lower traps among various back strengthening exercises.2ACE RESEARCH: What Is the Best Back Exercise? by Holly Edelburg, B.S., John P. Porcari, Ph.D., Clayton Camic, Ph.D., Attila Kovacs, Ph.D., and Carl Foster, Ph.D., with Daniel J. Green

How to: To perform the incline dumbbell IYT raises, set the bench at a 30-degree incline height and lie on your stomach, holding one dumbbell in each hand with a neutral grip. Keep your arms straight toward the floor with your palms facing inward. That’s the starting position.

  • I raise: Raise the dumbbells in front of you until your arms are parallel to the floor. Pause and lower the dumbbells to the start.
  • Y raise: Raise the dumbbells slightly out, so your arms make a 45-degree angle until you feel the work in your trap muscles. Pause and lower the weight in the beginning.
  • T raise: Raise your arms out to your sides until they are horizontal to the floor. Squeeze your trapezius at the top and then return the dumbbells to the start. That’s one rep.

Suggested Reps: Perform three sets of 6 to 8 reps at the start of your training session.

Related: Types & Benefits Of I-Y-T Workout

2. Dumbbell Reverse Fly

dumbbell traps workout

Exercise Level: Beginner

Benefits: If you want to strengthen the rear delt and upper traps simultaneously, you can do a dumbbell reverse fly. Dumbbell reverse fly helps build muscle and improve balance, coordination, and posture.

How to: Hold one dumbbell in each hand, sit on the edge of a bench, and bend forward until your chest is parallel to the floor. Brace your core, maintain a neutral spine position, and keep your arms straight down the floor. That is your starting position. Raise your arms out until your upper trap, and posterior delt are fully engaged. Pause and return to the start.

Suggested Reps: Perform three sets of 8 to 12 reps with one to two minutes of rest between sets.

3. Bent-Over Dumbbell Row

Exercise Level: Beginner

Benefits: The bent-over dumbbell row is an excellent alternative to the barbell row that hits the entire back muscles, including upper, middle, and lower traps. A study has also shown that standing bent-over row elicited the highest muscle activation from the upper to lower back.3 Comparison of different rowing exercises: trunk muscle activation and lumbar spine motion, load, and stiffness – Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research So, it’s best to include it in your trap training for better results.

How to: Holding one dumbbell in each hand, stand upright with your feet hip-width apart. Keeping your core tight, slightly lean your torso forward, and hold your arms straight down with your palms facing your body. That’s the start. Pull your elbows at your sides until your back muscles are fully engaged. Extend your arms to the start and repeat for the desired times.

Suggested Reps: Do three to four sets of 8 to 12 reps each.

Tips: Start with light dumbbells and maintain proper form during the movement. Keep your abdominal muscles tight as it provides stability to your lower back and prevents injuries and pain.

4. Dumbbell Facepull

Exercise Level: Intermediate

Benefits: The dumbbell facepull is not as effective as the cable facepull but can help you forge trap muscles. It also strengthens the posterior delt and biceps and provides stability to your upper body.

How to: Grab one dumbbell in each hand and stand upright with your feet hip-width apart. Hinge forward at your hips until your torso is parallel to the floor. Keep your arms straight down with your palms facing in. That’s the start. Pull the weight toward your face until your elbows are aligned with your delts. Pause for a second and return to the start.

Suggested Reps: Shoot for three sets of 8-10 reps with one to two minutes of rest between sets.

5. Dumbbell One-arm Row

dumbbell trap workout

Exercise Level: Beginner

Benefits: If you want to perform rowing using one arm at a time, you can incorporate a one-arm dumbbell row in your trapezius dumbbell exercises. It helps correct muscle imbalance and improves your back musculature.

How to: Holding a dumbbell in your right hand, place your left knee and hand on the bench. Brace your core, maintain a flat back, and keep your arm straight underneath your shoulder. Now pull the dumbbells at your side until your elbow is close to your side. Pause and then extend your arm to complete one rep.

Suggested Reps: Aim for three sets of eight to ten reps.

6. Dumbbell Seal Row

Exercise Level: Intermediate

Benefits: The seal row is unpopular but an excellent exercise for building stronger traps. It helps you forge back muscles without putting any stress on your lower back. So if you feel back pain while doing standing rows, seal row can be a great alternative to other rowing exercises.

How to: Place the foot of the bench on elevated objects and lie on it, holding one dumbbell in each hand with your arms straight toward the floor and palms facing each other. Pull the dumbbells at your sides until your hands reach your chest level. Pause for a second and extend your arms entirely.

Suggested Reps: Strive for three sets of eight to 10 reps.

7. Dumbbell Shrugs

Exercise Level: Beginner

Benefits: The dumbbell shrug is an excellent exercise to build your upper trap and shoulder muscles. Studies have demonstrated that upward rotation shrugs enhance the upper and lower trapezius and improve shoulder abnormality.4Jia X, Ji JH, Petersen SA, Keefer J, McFarland EG. Clinical evaluation of the shoulder shrug signClin Orthop Relat Res. 2008;466(11):2813-2819. doi:10.1007/s11999-008-0331-3,5Modifying a shrug exercise can facilitate the upward rotator muscles of the scapula – National Institute of Health Database So you can perform standard as well as modified upward rotational shrugs interchangeably to develop your trap muscles.

Standard Shrug: Holding a pair of dumbbells, stand upright with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your arms straight at your sides with your palms facing in. Now, pull your shoulder blades toward your ears as high as possible. Pause and then relax your shoulder. That’s one rep.

Upward Rotation Shrug: To perform the modified shrug, extend your arms slightly out until they form a 30-degree angle. Raise your shoulder blades as high as possible, you’ll feel the contraction in your traps. Squeezing your trapezius muscles, pause for a moment, and then return to the start.

Suggested Reps: Do three sets of 10 to 12 reps each.

8. Dumbbell Upright Row

Exercise Level: Intermediate

Benefits: The dumbbell shrug is a free-weight exercise that helps strengthen the delt, upper traps, and rhomboids. However, many people don’t do it, it’s because they don’t like it or they just don’t have enough strength at the end of their shoulder training. But a study has suggested that those who seek to maximize the involvement of the deltoid and trapezius muscles can do wide grip upright row.6Effect of grip width on electromyographic activity during the upright row – Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

How to wide grip upright row with dumbbells: Holding one dumbbell in each hand, stand upright and keep your arms straight in front of your thighs with your palms facing your body. Pull the dumbbells up until they reach your front delt height or until your elbows are in line with your shoulders.

Suggested Reps: Do three sets of 10 to 12 reps each.

Final Words

Strengthening trapezius muscles helps improve posture and shoulder mobility and reduces the risk of injuries and lower back pain. In spite of this, many people often forget to train these muscles specifically.

However, if you’re one of those who want to forge and sculpt your traps can do the above trap exercises with dumbbells. The dumbbells are an excellent piece of workout equipment that provides a full range of motion and allows you to perform various exercises at home and in the gym.

You don’t need to perform each dumbbell trap workout on the same day. Instead, you can incorporate them on different days of your training. For example, reverse fly and upright row on day 1 of your trap workout, IYT raise and shrug on day 2, and bent-over dumbbell row and seal row on day three.

I hope you like this article. You can always contact me for any query related to exercise and fitness. I’ll try to help you out as per my ability.

I’ve created a simple, easy-to-follow, and effective 72 days dumbbell workout plan for all fitness enthusiasts. You can give it a try.

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