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Looking for a kettlebell trap workout that’ll give you hulking traps?

Whether you’re breaking into bodybuilding or simply a beginner looking for a well-balanced workout routine that hits all of the important areas of the body, you’ll want to perform a comprehensive shoulder workout during the week to help build size and strength in your upper body.

We chose kettlebells for this workout because, according to the American Council on Exercise1, “kettlebell training was also shown to markedly increase aerobic capacity, improve dynamic balance and dramatically increase core strength.”

With this in mind, we’ve assembled an incredible collection of kettlebell exercises that help target your upper and lower traps, shoulders, lats, arms, and other areas of the upper body, creating a full back workout to help you get those results you’ve been looking for.

Related: 11 Kettlebell Benefits, According To An Olympian

What Are Your Traps?

The trapezius muscle is a large muscle in the upper back named for its resemblance to a trapezoid. It starts at the base of the neck, spans across your shoulders, and travels downward along your spine, terminating in the mid back.

The trapezius’ primary function is to stabilize and move the scapula, but, due to its size and location, it does a whole lot more than just that. Since it stretches along the spine down the center of the back, the trapezius contributes greatly to good posture by supporting the spinal column and enabling an individual to remain erect while standing.

It’s more than just a postural stabilizer, however. As indicated in 2023’s Anatomy, Back, Trapezius2, the trapezius also assists in “active movements such as side bending and turning the head, elevating and depressing the shoulders, and internally rotating the arm.”

That means moving your arms out to the sides, throwing a ball, and even a simple shrug of the shoulders all involve the trapezius muscles to some degree.

Related: 14 Exercises For A Muscle-Building Back And Shoulder Workout

Best Kettlebell Trap Workout Exercises 

Our picks for the best kettlebell trap workout exercises activate various surrounding muscle groups, but will most predominantly target those all-important trap muscles to build a big and beautiful upper back.

We selected kettlebells, but many of the below exercises can be performed with a barbell or dumbbells if minor adjustments are made.

Related: 10 Best Kettlebell Exercises, According To A Trainer

1. Kettlebell Front Shrugs

Why It’s Great: Kettlebell front shrugs are great for your upper trapezius, but also rope in your serratus anterior, which is essential for pushing and overhead movements.

Recommended Sets/Reps: 4 sets of 12 reps

How to Do It: 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold one kettlebell with both hands in front of your body. Bend your knees slightly. This is your starting position.
  2. With your arms straight, your chin up, and your core tight, bring your shoulders to your ears and squeeze at the peak of the movement.
  3. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat as needed.
woman doing Kettlebell Front Shrugs

2. Kettlebell Side Shrugs 

Why It’s Great: Like front shrugs, the kettlebell side shrug primarily works your upper traps. The altered positioning also targets the middle trapezius, levator scapulae, and erector spinae.

Recommended Sets/Reps: 4 sets of 12 reps

How to Do It: 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Pick up a kettlebell in each hand with a neutral grip and hold them at your sides. Bend your knees slightly. This is your starting position.
  2. With your arms straight, your chin up, and your core tight, bring your shoulders to your ears and squeeze at the peak of the movement.
  3. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat as needed.
woman doing Kettlebell Side Shrugs

3. Bent-Over Trap Raises (Hands Together) 

Why It’s Great: Bent-over trap raises again alter your positioning, hitting the traps as well as the rhomboids, triceps, hamstrings, and lower back muscles too.

Recommended Sets/Reps: 4 sets of 12 reps

How to Do It: 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold one kettlebell with both hands in front of your body. Bend your knees slightly and hinge your hips to bend at a 45-degree angle. This is your starting position.
  2. While holding a tight core, raise the kettlebell upward with straight arms until it is above your head. Squeeze your traps at the peak of the movement.
  3. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat as needed.

4. Bent-Over Trap Raises (Hands Apart) 

Why It’s Great: Like the bent-over trap raise wherein your hands are together, this exercise hits the traps, rhomboids, triceps, hamstrings, and lower back muscles. However, performing it with hands apart allows you to isolate each side and even complete the movement single-arm to correct muscular imbalance.

Recommended Sets/Reps: 4 sets of 12 reps

How to Do It: 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a kettlebell in each hand in front of your body. Bend your knees slightly and hinge your hips to bend at a 45-degree angle. This is your starting position.
  2. While holding a tight core, raise the kettlebells upward with straight arms until they are above your head. Squeeze your traps at the peak of the movement.
  3. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat as needed.

5. Close-Grip Upright Row

Why It’s Great: The close-grip upright row, similar to the high pull, predominantly targets your trapezius muscles and side deltoids, but they’ll hit most areas of your upper back, shoulders, arms, and core if performed while standing.

Recommended Sets/Reps: 4 sets of 12 reps

How to Do It: 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold one kettlebell with both hands in front of your body with an overhand grip. Bend your knees slightly and keep your chin up. This is your starting position.
  2. While holding a tight core, pull the kettlebell upward to your chin. Keep your elbows above your wrists and squeeze your traps at the peak of the movement.
  3. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat as needed.
Close-Grip Upright Row

6. Farmer’s Carries 

Why It’s Great: The farmer’s carry, also called the “farmer’s walk,” is a classic strongman exercise that targets most muscle groups, including the traps, shoulders, back, core, and lower body too. Carries like this one are great to include at the beginning or end of full body workouts.

Recommended Sets/Reps: 4 sets of 30 seconds

How to Do It: 

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and a kettlebell outside of each foot.
  2. Lower your body, in similar fashion to the deadlift, to pick up the kettlebells. Stand tall with your shoulders down and back, your core tight, and your back flat.
  3. Maintaining a strong posture, start walking. Take small, slow steps and focus on holding that form instead of rushing through.
  4. Walk for the desired distance or duration.
  5. Carefully set down the kettlebells. Rest as needed.

7. Suitcase Carries

Why It’s Great: Mastered the farmer’s carry? The next level is the single-arm version, called the “suitcase carry” since it looks just like you’re carrying a suitcase, which activates your traps as well as other areas of the shoulders, arms, core, obliques, legs, and glutes.

Recommended Sets/Reps: 4 sets of 30 seconds

How to Do It: 

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart with a kettlebell on one side.
  2. Pick up the kettlebell, standing tall with your shoulders down and back, your core tight, and your back flat.
  3. Maintaining a strong posture, start walking. Take small, slow steps and focus on holding that form instead of rushing through.
  4. Walk for the desired distance or duration.
  5. Set down the kettlebell and repeat for the other side. 
  6. Rest as needed.

Kettlebell Trap Workout: Final Thoughts 

Kettlebells are for more than just kettlebell swings.

The above trap exercises utilize kettlebells in shrugs, raises, rows, and carries to engage various parts of your upper body, including the shoulders, arms, and core, as well as lower body regions as well, including the glutes and hamstrings.

For beginners, be sure to start with light weight and prioritize good form to maximize the exercise’s effect and minimize your risk of injury. You may reduce the number sets or repetitions as needed to ensure your firm always comes first.

For a more advanced workout, string these movements together and complete them with little or no rest in between. Performing the shoulder exercises Tabata is an excellent option as well. With consistency, you should see great results before long. 

Good luck, fitness fam!

Kettlebell Trap Workout: Q&A

Are kettlebells effective at building strength?

It was a common assumption over the last decade, but clinical data on the efficacy of this claim was fairly limited. In 2013, a group of researchers for the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research3, conducted a study to determine if “kettlebell training transfers strength and power to weightlifting and powerlifting exercises and improves muscular endurance.”

Their findings suggested “that kettlebells may be an effective alternative tool to improve performance in weightlifting and powerlifting” as demonstrated by an observable “transfer of power and strength in response to 10 weeks of training with kettlebells.”

In short, kettlebells can absolutely help build strength!

What are the best kettlebells for my home gym?

Of course, you can’t complete the above workout without the right gear. Luckily, we’ve also compiled a comprehensive list of the best kettlebells for your home workout.

Do kettlebell swings work the traps?

They do! The kettlebell swing is classified as a full body exercise because it hits the trapezius, but also activates your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, erectors, rhomboids, deltoids, and abdominals. Kettlebell swings provide cardio benefits as well.

References

1. Beltz, N., Erbes, D., Porcari, J. P., Martinez, R., Doberstein, S., & Foster, C. (2013, March). ACE sponsored research study: Kettlebells Kick Butt. ACE Fitness. Retrieved December 7, 2023

2. Ourieff J, Scheckel B, Agarwal A. Anatomy, Back, Trapezius. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; July 25, 2023.

3. Manocchia P, Spierer DK, Lufkin AK, Minichiello J, Castro J. Transference of kettlebell training to strength, power, and endurance. J Strength Cond Res. 2013;27(2):477-484. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e31825770fe

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Looking for a kettlebell trap workout that’ll give you hulking traps?Whether you’re breaking into bodybuilding or simply a beginner looking for a well-balanced workout routine that hits all of the important areas of the body, you’ll want to perform a comprehensive shoulder workout during the week to help build size and strength in your upper body.We chose kettlebells for this workout because, according to the American Council on Exercise1,  » Read more about: A Kettlebell Trap Workout for Jacked Shoulders  » Read more

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