Skip to Content

Do Pull-Ups Work Your Traps? (Explained For Beginners)

Having big traps is something that many gym-goers want to achieve.

If you think about bodybuilders, it’s not just the big arms and the muscular chest that are noticeable.

Even when they’re dressed, their large bulging traps can be seen clearly.

There are several exercises that are very effective at building traps – shrugs, upright rows, and many more that gym-goers have been doing for a long time.

Aside from these obvious exercises though, are there others that work your traps?

In this article, we focus on pull-ups and, more specifically, whether they can actually help build your traps.

We look at whether different variations of pull-ups work your traps more or less, as well as thinking about why some people feel pull-ups in their traps more than others.

Do Pull-Ups Work Your Traps?

Yes, pull-ups do work your traps but not as much as some of the other muscles involved in the movement.

Your traps are considered a secondary muscle in pull-ups.

This means that they definitely activate and play a part in the exercise, but they aren’t one of the primary target muscles.

If you’re trying to put a lot of focus on building your traps, pull-ups won’t be the most effective exercise for you to do.

However, they do certainly work your traps, even if it’s in a small way.

Why Do Some People Feel Their Traps Activate During Pull-Ups?

Feeling your traps activate during pull-ups isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

However, it can be a sign that something’s wrong if you feel them activate more than other muscles that should also be activating during the exercise.

A potential reason for feeling your traps activate during pull-ups is that you have weak traps.

If your traps are weak, they may struggle to keep up with the other working muscles in pull-ups which can make them have to work harder throughout the movement.

If this is the case, you’ll probably feel your traps activate more than expected when doing pull-ups.

Another reason could be that your technique is a little off. Pull-ups involve quite a complex movement so it can be fairly easy to make mistakes in your technique.

Even small errors in the technique can shift the focus to other muscles which aren’t meant to be doing so much of the work.

It could also be that you’re feeling your traps activate as they’re involved in pull-ups.

It’s worth keeping in mind that your traps are secondary muscles in the exercise so you shouldn’t be feeling them activate more than some of the primary muscles, but it’s very possible that you’ll feel pull-ups in your traps.

Why Do Some People Get Sore Traps After Pull-Ups?

Traps are involved in pull-ups so it could be perfectly normal to experience some mild discomfort in the muscle after doing pull-ups.

If you feel pain in your traps after pull-ups though, this could be an indication that something is wrong.

The first thing to think about is whether what you’re feeling could be the normal discomfort felt after a muscle has been working.

The microscopic tears formed in the working muscles during an exercise can cause some level of soreness.

This could be why some people get sore traps after pull-ups – their traps are simply being worked during the exercise and need some time to recover.

Soreness in your traps after pull-ups could also be a sign of injury.

Mild discomfort can happen after exercise (particularly challenging ones like pull-ups), but pain is never normally a good thing.

If you’re experiencing a lot of pain, you should speak to a medical professional.

Are Close Grip Pull-Ups Good For Your Traps?

Close-grip pull-ups are particularly good for lower trap activation.

Using a narrower grip when doing pull-ups brings your inner lats, lower traps, biceps, and shoulders into play a little bit more than a wider grip would.

Most people looking to build their traps focus on the upper traps which is the rounded part that sits between your shoulders and your neck.

However, working the lower trap is equally as important for building size and strength in the muscle.

Close-grip pull-ups are a great way of putting a bit more focus on your traps during your workout.

Are Wide Grip Pull-Ups Good For Your Traps?

Wide-grip pull-ups aren’t very effective at working your traps.

While your traps will still play a role in the movement, adopting a wide grip tends to put more focus on your lats, shoulders, chest, back, and core.

The main focus of wide-grip pull-ups is placed on your lats and shoulders.

This is a good exercise to do if you’re looking for the traditional V shape in your upper back associated with bodybuilders.

Your traps will take on more of a secondary role in wide-grip pull-ups so there’ll be better exercises out there if you want to work them a bit more.

Are Behind The Neck Pull-Ups Good For Your Traps?

Behind the neck pull-ups tend to put a lot of emphasis on your upper back.

This includes the trapezius (traps), rhomboids major and minor (back), pectoralis (chest), biceps (arms), teres major (back/shoulder), and core (trunk of the body).

Your traps play a fairly big role in behind the neck pull-ups so they’ll definitely feel the benefits of the exercise.

It’s worth mentioning though that behind the neck pull-ups won’t be suitable for everyone and are best performed by experienced gym-goers.

The movement can put a lot of stress on your shoulders and neck, so there’s an increased risk of injury.

If you know what you’re doing though and have mastered the technique, behind the neck pull-ups can be a very effective addition to your training program.

Are Scapular Pull-Ups Good For Your Lower Traps?

Scapular pull-ups are one of the most effective exercises for activating your lower traps.

The exercise itself is quite different from other pull-up variations in that the goal is to bring your chest up towards the bar without bending your arms.

This obviously sounds weird and somewhat impossible, but the point of scapula pull-ups is to pull your shoulder blades down and in.

While you may not be able to lift yourself high enough to get your chest to the bar, you should be able to lift yourself a few inches without having to bend your arms.

If you can get the hang of this, your lower traps will activate and get lots of benefits from the exercise.

What’s The Best Pull-Up Variant For Building Traps?

This will probably depend more on you than anything else.

There are obviously certain variations like close-grip pull-ups and scapula pull-ups that put more focus on your traps.

However, it’ll be the variations that you can perform correctly and most effectively that will likely benefit you and your trap development the most.

Sources

Pull-Ups Muscles Worked