dumbbell traps exercises

Dumbbell Traps Exercises

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The next time you hit your local weight-lifting spot, take a look around at your fellow fitness enthusiasts. 

Have you noticed that they, and bodybuilders in general, have a specific, almost sculpted aesthetic to their necks?

It’s because bodybuilders and weight lifters plan specific times in their workout schedules to work their trapezius muscle. 

The traps are a large muscle, similar to a stingray in shape, and its job is to support your shoulder and upper back. 

You can take your traps workout game up a notch with exercises that also work your chest and your triceps for maximum stabilization and balanced muscle building. 

Working your chest muscles, also known as your pectorals, can help to improve your posture and promote better breathing. 

While working your triceps, or upper arms, improves joint strength and muscle growth in your shoulder. 

Keep reading to learn five dumbbell trap exercises you can use in your workout routine to quickly and efficiently bulk up your arms and chest.

PS! For a full list of dumbbell exercises see this article.

PPS! I seriously recommend

bowflex selecttech dumbbells

these dumbbells for your home gym

(or these if you’re on a tight budget).

5 Dumbbell Trap Exercises

1. Dumbbell Upright Row

Why the Upright Row is Bad for Your Shoulders (With Safe and ...

Target Muscle Groups: Back (Traps, Latissimus Dorsi), Arms (Biceps, Triceps Brachii), Shoulder Blades (Deltoids)

What Do You Need: Set of 2 Dumbbells, Exercise Mat

How To Do It:

  1. Stand on your exercise mat with your feet about hip-width distance apart and grab one dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Hold the weights in front of your thighs so that your palms are facing in towards your body. This is your starting position.
  3. Slowly pull your dumbbells up towards your chest, keeping them in as close as possible to your body.
  4. As you pull up, flare out your elbows out to either side. Continue pulling until your dumbbells reach chest level and pause at the top of the movement.
  5. Slowly lower your dumbbells until you resume the starting position to complete a single repetition.

Reps X Sets: If this is your first foray into the world of trap workouts, try going for 3 sets of 10 reps with a lighter weight. As you improve, increase to 15 reps and 5 sets to avoid stagnation in your muscle building. Don’t forget to rest for 60 seconds between sets and hydrate throughout your routine.

Youtube: Are you more a visual learner? Click here for a short video, or click here for a longer video, to guide you along as you perform your dumbbell upright row.


2. Shoulder Shrugs

5 Unique Shrugs to Get You Yoked | Muscle & Fitness

Target Muscle Groups: Back, (Traps, Levator Scapulae, Erector Spinae), Shoulder Blades (Deltoids)

What Do You Need: Set of 2 Dumbbells, Exercise Mat

How To Do It:

  1. Stand on your exercise mat with your back straight and your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. You can keep your legs straight through the knee, or slightly bent at the knee to further engage your core when you shrug your shoulders. 
  3. Grip one dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing in and allow your arms to hang loosely by your thighs. This is your starting position.
  4. Slowly raise your shoulders up and back as high as you can and pause briefly.
  5. Slowly lower back down and forward until you resume the starting position to complete the rep.

Reps X Sets: Start with 3 sets of 10 repetitions and, over time, work your way up to 3 sets of 20 reps or 4 sets of 15 reps, depending on how you prefer to divide up your reps.

Youtube: Click here for a quick video so that you can make sure you’re using the correct form when you shrug your shoulders. 

If you want a bit more explanation to help you along, click here for a longer video.

3. Farmer’s Walk

Get in Shape With This 15-Minute Farmer's Walk Conditioning Workout

Target Muscle Groups: Core (Abdominals), Legs (Hamstrings, Quadriceps), Arms (Deltoids), Back (Traps, Latissimus Dorsi, Erector Spinae)

What Do You Need: Set of 2 Dumbbells, 75-100 ft Area

How To Do It:

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and with a straight back.
  2. Grip one dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing in towards your body.
  3. Allow your arms to hang loosely down at your sides so that your dumbbells are by your thighs. This is how you start. 
  4. Walk forward at a relatively fast pace, taking short steps, one at a time, to cover the given distance as quickly as possible.
  5. At the end of your farmer’s walk, lower your dumbells to the floor and take a 60-second break before resuming your next set.

Reps X Sets: Unlike some of the other exercises we’ve covered, you should measure your farmer’s walk in the distance traveled rather than reps, and each length of distance is considered a single set. For beginners, try doing 3 sets of farmer’s walks across a 75-foot distance. If you’re a more experienced athlete, aim for walking a 100-ft distance for up to 4 sets.

Youtube: Need some virtual assistance? Click here for a short video to help you ensure that you’re performing your farmer’s walk correctly. Or, you can also click here for a longer video with instructions to guide you along in your workout.

4. Close Grip Dumbbell Pushups

Exercise Database (Chest26) - Close Grip Dumbbell Push Ups — Jase ...

Target Muscle Groups: Arms (Triceps Brachii), Chest (Pectorals), Shoulder Blades (Deltoids), Core (Abdominals, Obliques), Legs (Quadriceps), Back (Traps)

What Do You Need: Set of 2 Dumbbells, Exercise Mat

How To Do It:

  1. Set your dumbbells down next to each other on your exercise mat. They should run vertically and parallel to the floor. There should be no more than 3-4 inches between the grip of your dumbbells, and the weights themselves should be no more than 1-2 inches apart if possible.
  2. Assume the plank position on your exercise mat. Instead of laying your palms flat, grip your dumbells to hold yourself up.
  3. Your palms should be facing down towards the floor, with your fingers wrapped firmly around your dumbbell. Remember to keep your arms, lower back, and legs straight without locking out your knees or elbows. This is how you start. 
  4. Tuck your forearms close to your torso and bend at the elbow to slowly lower yourself to the floor.
  5. Pause at the bottom of your press to further engage your abs.
  6. Drive your push through your elbows as you lift your body back up to resume the starting position and complete the repetition.

Reps X Sets: Make it your goal to accomplish 3 sets of 10 reps before upping your pushup routine to 4 sets of 15 reps.

Youtube: Click here to see what your close grip dumbbell pushups should look like in action in less than 30 seconds. Or you can click here to see a longer video featuring close grip pushups without dumbbells to perfect your form before moving onto the dumbbell variation.

5. Skull Crusher

How to Do Skull Crushers | Openfit

Target Muscle Groups: Arms (Triceps), Shoulder (Deltoids), Back (Latissimus Dorsi, Traps)

What Do You Need: Set of 2 Dumbbells, Workout Bench (try a Stability Ball or an Exercise Mat as an alternative)

How To Do It:

  1. Lay down flat on your exercise mat and allow your feet to rest on either side of the bench so that you’re comfortable.
  2. Have a friend or third party pass you your dumbbells so that you’re holding one dumbbell in each hand vertically. Your hands should be facing in so that your palms face each other.
  3. Raise your dumbbells above your chest until your elbows are straight and in line. This is your starting position.
  4. Lower your arms slowly towards the sides of your head by bending your elbows until they create a 90-degree angle. If possible, continue lowering your dumbbells behind your head until they’re in line with the top of your workout bench.
  5. Pause before reversing your movement and driving your dumbbells back up into the starting position to complete the rep.
  6. Remember to have a third party or friend take your dumbbells before getting off your bench.

Reps X Sets: Begin with 3 sets of 8 reps and increase to 4 sets of 12 reps as you improve to challenge your workout and promote continuous muscle building.

Youtube: Do you want to see what your skull crushers should look like in action? Click here to see a quick video overview, or click here for a more extended instructional tutorial with trips and tricks to assist you along the way.

Dumbbell Recommendations

trap exercises with dumbbells

Now that you know how to work your traps, it’s time to get the equipment and get started. Continue reading below for dumbbell recommendations for your in-home gym.


If you’re looking for one functional set of dumbbells that does the work of more than 7 individual weight sets, look no further than the PowerBlock Sport series. 

Powerblock dumbbells are my second most recommended for their wide range of weight adjustments, and affordability.

Find out more about Powerblock dumbbells from my full review by clicking here.

Or, click here to see a side by side comparison of Powerblock’s Sport and Elite series of dumbbells.

PowerBlock Sport 24 Adjustable Dumbbell, 24 lbs (Pack of 2)
  • Pair of adjustable dumbbell weights for efficient, cost-effective strength training
  • Adjusts from 3 to 24 pounds in 3-pound increments (3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, and 24 pounds)
  • Selector pin lets you change weights easily, just like with weight stack at the gym
  • More compact and balanced than traditional dumbbells; padded handle for wrist protection. Welded solid steel construction. Powder-coated finish
  • Offers maximum weight of 24 pounds per hand; limited 10-year warranty


When it comes to adjustable dumbbells, you just can’t beat the quality and durability of Bowflex’s SelectTech series. 

Bowflex’s unique weight-adjustment system features an easy to use dial system that allows you to switch between weights without taking a break from your workout.

Find out more about why the Bowflex’s SelectTech Series is my number one dumbbell recommendation from my in-depth review of Bowflex dumbbells here.

Need help deciding between Bowflex’s 552 and 1090 series? Click here for a comparison detailing both.

Bowflex SelectTech 552 Version 2 | Two Adjustable Medium Dumbbells | Black, Red & Grey
  • Each dumbbell adjusts from 5 to 52.5 pounds; adjusts in 2.5-pound increments up to the first 25 pounds
  • Lets you rapidly switch from one exercise to the next
  • Combines 15 sets of weights into one, using a unique dial system
  • Eliminates the need for multiple dumbbells cluttering your workout space
  • Two year warranty on weight plates and parts


Ironmaster’s adjustable weights come in at number three in my top 3 most recommended dumbbells for use at home. 

Ironmaster’s adjustable dumbbells are designed to be compact and reliable, and as a matter of fact, I’ve only owned one pair since 2014, and they still look great, despite years of use.

For more information, check out a thorough review of Ironmaster’s adjustable dumbbells by clicking here.

ATIVAFIT Adjustable Dumbbell for Workout Strength Training Fitness Weight Gym (Single) (27.5)
  • ADJUSTABLE WEIGHT - Quick change weight adjustments with push-pull design
  • EASY USE & STORAGE - One dumbbell equal to 4 different weights dumbbells, compact design save your space at home
  • WIDELY APPLICATION - Multiple weight range suitable for performing basic body workouts, core fitness, strength exercises and heavy leg lifts
  • HIGH QUALITY MATERIAL - Contoured, textured and soft grip handle design provides comfortable and secure grip control
  • SWEET GIFT - A great gift for your family or friends who is fitness enthusiasts

Hex Dumbbells

If you’re looking for affordability over durability, then rubber hex dumbbells may be the best option for your in-home gym. 

Rubber hex dumbbells usually come in sets of 3 different weights and can range in size from 0.5 lbs to as much as 200 lbs and heavier.

Click here to check out my top 5 recommendations for cheap rubber hex dumbbells.

CAP Barbell SDPP-030 Color Coated Hex Dumbbell, Black, 15 pound, Pair
  • VERSATILE: Dumbbells offer the ability to target specific muscle groups or attain a full body workout.
  • CONSTRUCTION: Heads are made from ASTM A48 Class 20 grey iron joined together by a solid 1018 cold rolled steel chromed handle.
  • FEATURES: Original Hex Shaped heads prevent rolling. The medium depth knurling on the ergo handle provides essential grip and security during use....
  • FUNCTIONAL: Perfect for isolations, full body, functional and HIIT workouts.
  • CHOICES: This dumbbell group from CAP is available in sizes from 5, 8, 10, 12, and 15-50 lbs in 5lb increments.


trap workout with dumbbells

Your traps are the primary muscle responsible for keeping your head up, so why not give them a metaphorical thank you with a workout designed specifically to strengthen and support them?

Plus, in working your traps, you get the added benefit of preventing shoulder injuries and reducing your chance of getting a concussion. 

So, are you ready to take on these full-body exercises that explicitly target your trapezius muscles? 

Try our example routine below to get started on your way to wicked shredded traps.

Example Routine for Trap Exercises:

  • Dumbbell Upright Row: 10 Reps X 3 Sets
  • Shoulder Shrugs: 10 Reps X 3 Sets
  • Farmer’s Walk: 75ft Distance X 3 Sets
  • Close Grip Dumbbell Pushups: 10 Reps X 3 Sets
  • Skull Crushers: 8 Reps X 3 Sets

If you like this article, then check out our other reviews on fitness equipment and supplies here.

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