I’m sure you’ve heard that pull ups are a great back workout. You’ve probably also heard that they target other muscle groups as well since they are a compound exercise.
Do Pull Ups Work Traps?
Pull ups work the entire back including the trapezius muscles. There are a few variations you can add in to hit the traps even more, which I will discuss. I’ll also throw in some of the best trap builders.
1. Which Muscles Do Pull Ups Target?
The pull ups are a great all around back builder. While you may not feel them in your traps, you can guarantee that your entire back is being worked when doing pull ups.
The lats are targeted during pulls up as their job is to move your upper arms close to your body while pulling up. Without the lats, you would be unable to pull yourself up. They pull on the upper arms, moving them close to the body and rising your body up.
The biceps are also worked as they are the main muscle used to pull you up. The biceps are actually worked best with a pulling movement from above. Your trapezius muscles take the load of your body weight.
Don’t forget your forearms as they are engaged as synergists. The wider your pull up grip, the more that your deltoids will also help out in the movement.
Even your abs are worked as they stabilize the body when you are in a dead hang position.
2. How To Feel Pull Ups In Your Traps More
Bring your grip closer together to target the upper and middle traps more. Also consider switching your grip so that you are instead performing a chin up. By using complete range of motion and not swinging your body up using other body parts, you can ensure the best trap work.
Try out using a neutral grip to further isolate the traps. When you pull yourself up, squeeze your shoulder blades together. You should feel a lot more of a squeeze in your traps compared to using a shoulder width grip during a pull up. This take the lats out of the movement and focus the tension on your traps.
Behind the neck pull ups are another great way to focus the tension more on the traps. They mainly focus on your upper traps.
You will want your hands to be a bit outside shoulder width to start. Pull your shoulders back and down and then pull yourself up until the bar is just behind your neck. Then you can let yourself back down slowly. Keep your neck straight to avoid injury although it may want to tilt forward. You should feel your traps doing most of the work.
The hanging reverse shrug is another good trap exercise that can be done on a pull up bar.
Set yourself up as if you were going to do a chin up with your hands shoulder width apart and your palms facing away from you.
Hang from the bar and then bring your shoulders up and backwards, away from your ears. Hold for a second, before returning yourself to the hanging position. If your traps are burning, you are doing it correctly.
3. Best Exercises To Target Your Traps
Shrugs. I’m sure that everyone already knew this. However, I bet that most people don’t know how to do shrugs for the most trap growth.
Dumbbells or a barbell doesn’t matter, but I would suggest doing both since they both differ slightly. A barbell allows you to pack on more weight, overloading the traps. Whereas dumbbells allow greater range of motion and a better squeeze of the traps. Switch it up and do both.
Whichever one you are doing, you want to squeeze your traps up and backwards. At the same time, think of squeezing your shoulders in towards your neck. It will hurt. That means it is working. Want to make them even more intense and really kill your traps? Hold for 3 seconds at the top of every rep flexing them as hard as you can.
Deadlifts are another great trap builder. I’ve never not had sore traps the day after dead lifting. You can pack on the most weight out of any compound exercise and lift it up. All while your traps are holding the majority of the weight in place.
The traps may not be the main focus of the lift, but at the top of the movements they are definitely overloaded.
Add in face pulls at the end of your shoulder workout for some added trap work.
Set up a rope attachment on a cable at about head height. Grip the rope with your thumbs pointing backwards. Your elbows should be bent below your shoulder and then pull the rope towards your face. Turn your hands out and rotate.
These can be done with a variety of different equipment, including bands, cables, or even a towel. Check out this video to further understand how to engage your traps while doing them.
4. How To Do More Pull Ups?
If you can only do one or two push ups, there are a few great ways to strengthen your back muscles to help you.
First let’s look into some of the reasons why people can’t do pull ups.
Not being able to hold onto the bar due to lack of grip strength. This can be improved by dead lifting and by doing dead hangs. Make sure to not use chalk or lifting straps for dead lifting so that you grip strength is really being trained.
Attachments such as fat grips will make the bar larger so that your grip and forearms are working harder to perform bicep curls. You can also purchase a hand grip strengthener to improve forearm and grip strength. They are very cheap and easy to use. Shop here.
A lack of muscle strength is another obvious reason for failing to perform pull ups. More specifically the lats, spinal erectors, traps, abs, and biceps. Consider training all of these muscle groups more to be able to do more pull ups.
Another interesting thing to consider is training without weights. Some people just only train with weights in the gym, so they never do body weight exercises like pull ups. Different muscles are recruited during body weight exercises and the movements are a lot different.
Try adding in body weight exercises so that you have more versatile training experience.
If you’ve had any prior injuries affecting the rotator cuff, labrom, or bicep this may be where your problem lies.
Assuming you don’t have a prior injury, let’s go over some easy, yet effective ways to improve your pull ups.
The assisted pull up machine. This thing is awesome because you get to mimic the exact pull up exercise even if you cannot perform one rep of pull ups.
This machine has a pad that you kneel on and can add or decrease weight allowing you to have some assistance while mimicking the pull up. This strengthens all the muscles required and is a great way to practice perfecting your form.
Do more inverted rows. Lie under a barbell that is either in the racks or attached to a smith machine so that you are facing the bar. The bar should be at about hip height. Place your hands shoulder width apart and hang from the bar so that your arms are straight. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull up so that your chest touches the bar and then slowly return back down. This work all the same muscle that a pull up does.