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How to Get Big Shoulders and Traps

by Nick Ng

About Nick Ng

Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.


Getting bigger shoulders and traps -- the large, broad muscles found on either side of your upper back that extend from the lower part of your upper spine to the base of your neck -- requires you to perform strength exercises that involve both pushing and pulling movements. Perform the exercises on nonconsecutive days with a day of rest in between training so that your muscles can recover and heal.

Standing Shoulder Press

Step 1

Stand with your legs about shoulder-width apart. Hold a 30-pound dumbbell in each hand over your shoulders with your arms bent at about 90 degrees. Point your elbows out to your sides.

Step 2

Exhale and press the weights over your head without moving your body or banging the weights together. Hold this position for one second.

Step 3

Inhale and lower the weights to the starting position. Perform three sets of eight to 10 reps.

Inclined Pullups

Step 1

Set the height of the squat bar on the squat rack to about three feet. Grab the bar with both hands about shoulder width and crawl beneath the bar so that your chest is below the bar.

Step 2

Put your feet on the ground about hip-width apart with your legs bent at about 90 degrees, your buttocks pushed up and your arms extended. This is your starting position.

Step 3

Exhale and pull yourself up until your chest barely touches the bar, squeezing your shoulder blades together.

Step 4

Inhale and lower yourself until your arms are fully extended. Perform three sets of eight to 12 reps.

Kettlebell Push Press

Step 1

Stand with your legs about shoulder-width apart. Hold a 35-pound kettlebell in your left hand near your left shoulder with your elbow close to your ribs.

Step 2

Bend your legs slightly and quickly straighten them, pressing the weight over your head at the same time. Use your legs and hips to perform most of the work instead of using your shoulder to lift. Hold this position for two seconds.

Step 3

Inhale and lower the weight to the starting position. Perform three sets of six to eight reps with each arm.

Bent-Over Row

Step 1

Stand with your legs about hip-width apart. Hold a 20-pound dumbbell in each hand by your sides. Bend your torso forward and bend your legs slightly so that your arms are extended below your torso with your hands facing each other. This is your starting position.

Step 2

Exhale and pull the weights up near your armpits without moving your spine, squeezing the shoulder blades together.

Step 3

Inhale and lower the weights to the starting position. Perform three sets of eight to 12 reps.

Items you will need

  • 35-pound kettlebell
  • Two 20-pound dumbbells
  • Two 30-pound dumbbells
  • Squat rack with squat bar


  • The shoulders and trapezius muscles are prone to tightness and sensitivity due to poor posture and stress; stretching and massaging your shoulders alleviates the tenderness and pain associated with tightness. When you stretch the shoulders and traps, hold the stretch for a duration of five or six deep breaths. You can also lie on a foam roller or a massage ball and roll back and forth to remove tissue adhesions that cause stiffness and pain, notes physical therapist Chris Frederick, co-author of "Stretch to Win." When you use the massage tools, compress and roll slowly and gently upon the sensitive area until the pain subsides.

References (2)

  • NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training; Michael Clark
  • Stretch to Win; Ann and Chris Frederick

Photo Credits:

  • Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.