Last Updated on September 13, 2022 by TJ Daniels, Certified Personal Trainer
The trapezius muscles are a group of large muscles in your upper back that stabilize your back and shoulders.
Having strong traps is key to maintaining good posture and avoiding back pain, making them an important muscle group to work out.
Weak traps can hinder your workout regime and even increase your risk of injury.
Luckily, there are many exercises you can do with dumbbells to help increase both the mass and strength of your traps.
Let’s take a look at some.
Bent-Over Dumbbell Lateral Raise
Bent over exercises can work both your rear deltoid and your mid-trap muscles, making them a great choice for an overall shoulder workout. Begin by sitting on the edge of a bench or other solid chair.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and bend forward with the dumbbells hanging at your sides. Stay bent over and lift the dumbbells, keeping your arms straight so that the dumbbells are raised out from your sides.
You should try to lift the dumbbells so that your arms are parallel to your shoulders. Hold the position for a few beats and then slowly lower the dumbbells down.
Dumbbell Farmers Carry
If you want to work on your conditioning as well as the strength of your traps, this exercise can do both. Begin by picking up a pair of dumbbells and holding them at your side.
Make sure that your grip is firm, your shoulders are kept back, and your core is tight. Try to stand tall as you take small steps forward at an even pace.
Don’t drop your head or twist your neck as you walk, instead keep your eyes focused on a point straight ahead of you. As you walk, try to squeeze your shoulder blades and keep your abs tight.
Dumbbell Jump Shrug
It is of vital importance that your grip is firm and tight with this exercise as you don’t want to drop or throw your dumbbell as you jump!
Begin by holding a dumbbell in each hand and stand straight with a slight bend to your hips and knees. Keep your arms loose at your sides and position your grip so your palms are turned towards your body.
In one quick motion, lift your shoulders into a powerful shrug, thrust your hips forward, and jump into the air as high as you can manage.
Most exercises on this list work best with slow and controlled movements but this exercise is the opposite, so try to be as quick and explosive as you can.
Dumbbell Lateral Raise
This exercise is commonly done to exercise the deltoids, but it is also a great workout for your traps, too. If it isn’t already part of your regular routine then make sure that it is in the future.
Take a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your palms should face forwards and keep your arms at your sides.
Bend your arms slightly at the elbows and lift your arms up so that they are at shoulder height. Hold the position for a beat and then slowly lower the weights back down.
Dumbbell Overhead Carry
Unlike most exercises that only require you to hold them for a second or two, this one requires you to hold the dumbbells up for a longer period of time so make sure that you don’t start too heavy.
Begin by taking a dumbbell in each hand and then lift them over your head. Your palms should face inwards and make sure you keep your arms straight and next to your ears.
Slowly walk forward with the weights lifted and try to prevent your arms from moving. Do this for 20 to 45 seconds before lowering the weights back down.
This exercise can be completed with quite heavy dumbbells, making it a great way to build both mass and strength. It’s also very easy to do.
Begin by standing straight with your arms at your sides and a dumbbell held in each hand. Try to lift your shoulders as high as possible while keeping your arms straight.
This isn’t a bicep curl, so your elbows shouldn’t bend at all. Hold your shoulders at the highest point you can for a few beats and then allow them to return to your starting position.
Make sure that you lift and lower your shoulders in a slow and controlled way and don’t make any sudden jerks or bounces as this can cause strain or injury.
Dumbbell Upright Row
The upright row is perfect for building huge traps. You can choose to do this exercise with either a narrow grip or a wider one.
The narrow grip concentrates more on the traps, whereas the wider grip will work your entire shoulder area. For the purpose of this article, we will stick with a narrower grip.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of you, keeping the dumbbells close together in front of you with your palms facing outward. Use your shoulders and elbows to lift the dumbbell to chin height, making sure to squeeze your traps as you move.
Hold for a few beats and then slowly lower back down.
Incline Dumbbell Shrug
This is similar to the Dumbbell Shrug we detailed earlier, but makes use of a bench. By using the bench, you can be certain that your posture and form are correct as it forces your arms into the correct positions.
Hold a pair of dumbbells and straddle the bench so that your chest is pressed against the bench and your feet are firmly on the floor.
Slowly lift your shoulders towards your ears and once you reach the highest point you can, pause for a few beats and squeeze your traps.
You can then slowly lower the weights back to your starting position.
Lying Dumbbell Rear Delt Row
With this exercise, you can work your traps and your side deltoids. Begin by straddling an incline bench with your chest pressed against the bench, and again, make sure your feet are firmly on the ground.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and slowly lift the weights with your elbows bent. Your elbows should be lifted until they are a little above the height of your shoulders.
Once your elbows are high enough, hold for a few beats and squeeze your traps. Then, slowly lower the weights back to your starting position.
Single-Arm Dumbbell Upright Row
Dumbbell exercises for your traps don’t come any easier than this one, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t effective. Begin by holding a single dumbbell using an overhand grip.
Hold it in front of your body and lift it up by bending your elbow out to the side. Slowly bring the weight up to your chin and hold for a beat.
Then slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position. We would recommend completing 10-12 reps before switching arms and repeating on the other side.
There are a wide variety of exercises you can do with a pair of dumbbells to gain strength and mass in your traps. We hope that this list of exercises will not only be effective but will also be fun to try out.