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The Optimal Traps Volume – Hypertrophy Guide

You want to have big and massive traps? What exercises best add size to your traps? How often and intense should you train to get the most out of your trap workout?

If these questions sound somewhat familiar, then this article about the optimal traps volume is what you’re looking for!

Big traps embody the male creature. There are only few things that demonstrate more masculinity than a pair of trap mountains that reach to the ears.

Unfortunately, for most lifters, exercising trap muscles consists of a few faltering sets of dumbbell or barbells shrugs at the end of their back or shoulder workout.

Black man flexing his back for the optimal traps volume

This is unfavorable from an aesthetic and functional point of view.

The traps play an important role in prevention of shoulder and neck injuries, as well as improving overall performance.

With this in mind, sufficient reasons why you should train your traps are given.

However, you don’t need to spend years on them.

In the following, you will see the whole concept is relatively easy to convert into practice.

Let’s get to work, guys.

MV – Maintenance Volume

What does MV mean?

MV refers to Maintenance Volume which indicates the amount of work that is required to maintain your muscle’s current size.

To put it in other words, the amount of volume required to avoid losing any gains.

Why is it important to know your MV?

Let me answer this question with another question.

If you have to fall back from training or need to reduce your workouts for a certain period, do you want to lose your hard acquired muscles?

Obviously not, nobody wants that. Anything else would be against all common sense…

What’s more, after a period of heavy workouts in between your MAV and MRV or even above, you should take some rest from time to time.

Certainly, it’s a good thing, or sometimes even indispensable, to lower your volume.

This will desensitise your body again and enable it to fully recover.

Such phases where you start lowering volume after really heavy and exhausting weeks, are so-called “deload” phases.

A lot of lifters use 4-5 mesocycles. For example, starting off with your MEV in week 1 and increasing volume over the next weeks. Until you probably overreached your MRV at the end of week 4.

Now, after you progress most likely stagnates or even decrease, it’s time to recover.

On average, in a deload week, you reduce your weights about 40-50% and train with the same amount of sets but within higher rep ranges.

As a result, your body can recover and energize.

Moreover, you need to change exercises over time to stimulate new incentives.

You cannot train with the same exercises day in day out all year long.

For beginners, try to vary between exercises every 2-3 mesocycles. Advanced athletes can even switch exercises every mesocycle.

Concluding, it is crucial to know what the MV is and what you can use as benchmarks to ensure you don’t lose any muscles.

Also, something notably important that gets underestimated a lot, is keeping the volume in your “deload phase” appropriate.

Some folks tend to train “too heavy” in their deload week.

I find myself in a similar situation, trust me. But aiming for best results and enhanced performance, we need to stick to it.

What’s the MV for the optimal traps volume?

MV: 0 sets/week

Why?

First of all, this concerns isolated work, which gives a total amount of 0 required isolted sets/week to maintain your trap’s current size.

As we already discovered for other muscles like front delts, glutes and smaller muscles like that, they get involved by our normal training programme.

Especially exercises like rows, lateral raises and basically almost every back or shoulder exercises hit the traps.

Even squats and stiff-leg deadlifts involve traps.

Thus, your traps can for sure maintain their size with no direct work at all.

Man doing cable flys for the optimal traps volume

MEV – Minimum Effective Volume

What does MEV mean?

Minimum Effective Volume relates to the least amount of work that is necessary to stimulate some muscle growth.

Why is it important to know your MEV?

To put it in a nutshell, just like it’s important to know how much volume your traps need to maintain its current size, it is at least of similar importance to know how much volume is required to grow your traps.

What’s the MEV for the optimal traps volume?

MEV: 0 sets/week

How is that even possible? The same value for maintenance and minimum effective volume?

As above-mentioned, with your normal workout routine you get so much trap training that they can already grow really big from that.

Does that mean I can get big traps without any direct isolation work?

It might sound too good to be true, but that’s exactly the point.

Now you know why I said “you don’t need to spend years on them” in the beginning.

But, of course, big traps can always get bigger;)

I hope I don’t disappoint you now, but for traps maximization, we need to put more effort in.

The optimal traps volume doesn’t randomly appear, its about your personal progress, experiences and consistency.

MAV – Maximum Adaptive Volume

Carrying forward what I just said, with the MAV we’re able to get big traps even bigger.

What does MAV mean?

In short, MAV relates to the Maximum Adaptive Volume.

This reveals to the amount of work where probably most of the muscle growth will happen, on average.

Why is it important to know your MAV?

Do you want to limit your journey to the least effective growth?

Exactly, I dont think so. Nobody wants that.

Therefore, more effort is required for our workout and to increase the volume consistently over time. This is likely to get us into the area where maximum growth happens.

That is why it is important to know what the MAV is, and which benchmark we can use to start with.

What’s the MAV for the optimal traps volume?

MAV: 12-20 sets/week

If you just want your traps to be relatively balanced, or focus your first years on the bigger body parts, you don’t need any of these MAV and MRV volume.

Traps really take care of themselves.

But, if you want to further add size to your traps, between 12-20 sets/week is the way to go for you.

MRV – Maximum Recoverable Volume

What does MRV mean?

MRV stands for Maximum Recoverable Volume.

It refers to the maximum amount of work that your body is able to fully recover.

In other words, the maximum amount of work that your body can sustain until your strength and performance may even decrease.

Sooner or later in your mesocycle programme, you will reach a point where progress isn’t going as smooth as it used to be.

Furthermore, your performance starts to stagnate or might even decrease.

If this sounds like you, this is an indication that you most likely overreached your MRV.

Why is it important to know your MRV?

If we think about the above-mentioned aspects, it seems logical.

Who wants to take superfluous breaks from training?

Exactly, nobody. At least I hope so, guys… 😉

All things considered, that’s why it’s important to know what and where your MRV presumably is to avoid redundant breaks and overreaching too quickly.

How much volume on average can most people’s traps sustain?

MRV: 26 sets/week

Wow… thats sounds a lot, right?

Don’t panic, here’s the deal.

As well it’s very easy to maintain or stimulate your traps to grow, it similarly easy to train them.

Firstly, training traps isn’t hard when done properly.

Secondly, traps are in charge of holding our shoulder girdle which is why they can sustain a lot of pressure.

Thirdly, because traps are involved in a lot of exercises, they can recover relatively fast as well.

Consequently, considering these three points makes it clear why the MRV value can be as high as 26 sets/week.

Finally, I want to emphasize it one more time. If you only want to grow your traps, you actually don’t need to train your traps directly.

If you want to have the best traps possible, then you definitely need to work on them.

Frequency

How often should I train them for the optimal traps volume?

2-6 workouts/week

In fact traps heal relatively fast which is why you can train them between 2 up to 6 times/week.

If you really don’t care about traps, stay with 0 times/week, they will grow without any direct work at least to some extent.

But, if you want to focus on your traps, work up to 3-4 times/week and you’ll get the maximum benefit.

This varies individually, some people might even able to go 6 times/week whereas others struggle with 3-4 times/week.

Try out different things and track your progess over time to assess what works best for you.

Intensity

What about intensity? How often can and should we train them for the optimal traps volume?

10-20 reps/set

This is on average the rep range that works best for most individuals.

Why isn’t it any lower?

Because, like mentioned in the beginning, deadlifts, stiff-leg deadlifts and rows hit the traps with very high intensity.

Oftentimes, what you’ll deadlift is weight that you cannot shrug for a single rep.

So, when we’re training traps it will be mainly in between 12-20 reps. We save the heavy work for compound exercises like deadlifts and stuff.

Man doing weighted pull-ups for the optimal traps volume

Traps workout – Exercises

What’s the best exercise for big, massive traps? Is there one best exercise?

As always and because everybody is unique, it’s mainly about personaly preference and your anatomy.

But, nevertheless, I’ll give you some good example of common and my personal favorite exercises for traps.

  • Barbell Deadlift (variations)
  • Barbell Shrugs (or Dumbbell)
  • Barbell Row (or Dumbbell)
  • T-Bar Row
  • Upright Rows
  • Seated Cable Row (grip variations)
  • Face Pulls (variations)
  • Lateral Side Raises
  • Reverse Flys (Cable or Dumbbell)
  • Butterfly Reverse

With all these exercises, there are a lot of different variations.

It’s for sure a good thing to integrate exercises with various variations into your trap workout to stimulate as much muscle fibres as possible.

There is no best or worse exercise. Make sure to try all of them and figure out which one suits you the best.

Range of Motion

How about Range of Motion for trap training?

Execution is the key.

You definitely want to make sure that every time and every rep, you get your traps to fully stretch.

Doesn’t matter which angle you’re pulling from, but always go all the way up and all the way down.

Never sacrifice full range of motion and proper contraction for weights that are too heavy for you to control, guys.

Conclusion

To conclude, there’s not a lot of secrets and tricks to trap training.

If you want bigger traps than your actual workout routine have already given you, start with 2 times/week of direct trap work and work your way up.

If that does not sound like you, then don’t.

Traps are not the most important muscles to focus on and they still grow without any direct work which is pretty convenient for those of you who don’t really care about traps.

Summing up today’s most important key notes for the optimal traps volume:

MV: 0 sets/week

MEV: 0 sets/week

MAV: 12-20 sets/week

MRV: 26 sets/week

Frequency: 2-6 times/week is the range that works for most people.

If you don’t prioritize traps, then you can stick to 0 times/week because, trust me, your traps will grow from heavy compound exercises like deadlifts, rows and almost every back and shoulder exercise.

But, if you want to get them as big as possible, start with 2 times/week and work your way up over time.

Intensity: 10-20 reps/set is the main rep range in which we exercise traps. Saving and getting the heavy forces done by the compound exercises like deadlifts, squats and rows.

Exercises: There is no best or worst exercise. Make sure you switch between them to increase variety after some time.

Some of the most common exercises for traps are all kind of rows, deadlifts, shrugs and reverse flys.

What’s more, because there are a lot of different angles for all these movements, integrate some diverse angles to stimulate as much muscle fibres as possible.

Range of Motion: Execution is key. Make sure to always get a full stretch of your traps. Go all the way up and all the way down for the optimal traps volume.

Never ever sacrifice full range of motion for heavy weights that you cannot control properly.

Practical Tips

Regarding trap training, there are no particular helpful techniques to do.

But, nevertheless, you can use super sets or drop sets now and then to increase variety or just for fun.

Special shout-out to Dr Mike Israetel, we really value his knowledge and the content that he shares with us on his YT channel and his blog.

Definitely check out his video about traps volume!

Do you prioritize your traps?

Thanks for tuning in, guys, I hope you enjoyed this article about the optimal traps volume.

For feedback or any questions, leave a comment below or feel free to contact us.

Cheers,

Claas

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Claas

Claas

Hi, I'm Claas. I am a passionate fitness and performance lover. For several years I have been training and developing my personality with dedication, ambition, and commitment to pursue my goals. During this time, I already had the opportunity to support many friends, family members and athletes on their journey to achieve their goals, both athletic or performance driven. Whether about nutrition, training, performance or self-development, for the last few years I was able to steadily improve my knowledge to provide our clientele with all my experience. I believe the key to a happy life, to pursue your goals, overcome challenges and convert your dreams to reality, is based upon mastering our four underlying four pillars; nutrition, fitness, productivity, and mindfulness.

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