Will The Deadlift Give Me Huge F**** Traps? It's possible, but it's not guaranteed.

Rumor has it every back muscle works incredibly hard when you deadlift. Well, it’s not a rumor. It’s true. Even your rear deltoids are involved in the lift, if you are actively trying to keep the barbell as close to your body as possible. Most of the work done by the back, however, is isometric with very little range of motion.


The role of the trapezius muscle, a.k.a. Traps, is to keep the upper back area rigid, so that the force generated by your hips can be transmitted to the bar. When you deadlift the spine acts as a human crane. The traps and the rest of the upper back musculature stabilize the upper portion of that crane. The contraction, however, is mostly isometric. You are not suppose to perform any kind of shrugging motion.

Static Vs. Concentric Contraction

Exercises with larger range of motion tend to build more muscle mass. A good example would be the popular bodyweight movement known as “planche”. What do you think will build more shoulder mass – the planche or the overhead press done with full range of motion?

I know that some of the gymnastic revivalists will choose the planche, but if somebody was holding a gun to my head and threatening to kill me unless I make my shoulders as big as possible, I wouldn’t rely on planche anything. Full contraction always beats statics when it comes to muscle growth.

Try this: sit at the leg extension machine and try to hold the weight at the top for as long as possible. Your quads will be burning, you will even shake, but the exercise will not build as much muscle mass as the leg press or the squat. That does not mean that static contractions do not build strength and muscle. It’s just that full range of motion exercises are better when it comes to muscle hypertrophy.

The Spinal Erectors Are The Most Important “Deadlifting” Muscle

The traps are a thick muscle group with short insertions and recover very quickly. This is one of the toughest muscles in the whole body and can take a daily beating without much riot. The real deadlift heroes, however, are the spinal erectors which are the muscles that run along the spine – from the neck down to the bottom.

The spinal erectors never get invited to beach parties. Similar events are reserved for the arms, chest and lats. Who gives a fuck about spinal erectors? What’s that?

Many people miss their deadlifts because the spinal erectors fail to maintain proper back alignment. Therefore, it is very rare to meet a decent deadlifter who does not have well developed spinal erectors. It does happen, especially if we are talking about a sumo puller (leg drive based lift), but it’s rare. This has been my experience as well. I can talk bad about the deadlift all day, but I have to admit that it has built my spinal erectors considerably compared to my previous insect state. {still nothing impressive though}

Another very important reason why the spinal erectors always grow from heavy deadlifts is that their range of motion is pretty decent during deadlifts. A large part of the deadlift is essentially a back hyperextension.

To summarize:

The deadlift will certainly build your traps, especially the middle part, but if your goal is to have “big fucking traps”, you may consider dedicated exercises such as heavy barbell or dumbbell shrugs, rowing variations, overhead presses (the shrug at the top works the traps intensely) and many more to count. Those exercises work the traps dynamically which is a form of training that tends to produce more growth than statics.

If you want thicker and stronger spinal erectors, however – deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, rack pulls and heavy duty weighted back hyperextensions are some of the best exercises you can do.

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