We can come up with poetic reasons for why we train so damn hard but when it comes down to it, we all want to look big, hot, muscular and sexy. So, much of our effort goes to working the muscles that accomplishes that end, as far as the rest of the fitness world is concerned. So, rarely does the muscles of the back get any recognition (has anyone complimented you on your rhomboids or Teres Major lately?). There’s generally two, however, that get some attention: the lattisimus dorsi (lats) and the trapezuis muscle (traps).
I’m going to touch on the Traps at this moment, since it came up on Rosstraining. Plus, they’re a bit more visible from the front anyway. A well-developed traps (or at least the upper traps) look like a cobra-like hood of muscle just above shoulders and to the sides of the neck. Frankly, it just looks bad-ass as hell!
The question on Rosstraining wasn't about how to get them by any means necessary. The question was about getting them with BW ONLY! First of all, there's cards that need to be thrown on the table. Brock Lesnar is blessed in a way that not many are. Trap size, or the appearance of trap size, is determined by how long the tendons that the Trap meat connects to are as well as the length of the neck.
So, in our situation, I think that it would be helpful to take a closer look about this piece of meat on our back that we're talking about. The Trapezuis gets it's name from it's shape. It's a trapezoid-shaped muscle that originates on our spine from our neck down to the middle of our back and inserts into the spine of our shoulder blade. (FYI, Origin refers to the point on the skeleton where the muscle connects that remains fixed during movement. Insertion generally refers to the point on the skeleton where the muscle connects that moves. Naturally, this can vary depending on which part of the skeleton moves or stays fixed.)
This muscle does a lot of things, most of which involve moving the shoulder blade. The upper fibers pull the shoulders upward, the middle fibers pull the shoulder blades together, and the lower fibers rotate the shoulder blades downward (Another FYI, the shoulders don't move in a straight line, up and down. Instead, they rotate slightly).
So, now that we know about the shoulders, how do we exercise them with BW only? Well, I'm a huge fan of two upper body exercises for the task: handstand push-ups and pull/chin-ups. Before you start sputtering that the latter doesn't work the Traps, read the above paragraph again. While you're at it, read this again, too.
Or, at the very least, check out this picture of me doing towel pull-ups... What is that in the middle of my back, flexing as I perform the exercise?
The handstand push-ups are much more straightforward, but also very difficult. Train up to them by doing pike push-ups. Use elevation of the hands and/or feet to work your way up to a handstand push-up. This is probably my favorite push-up and it's well worth using for the traps, as well as a myriad of other muscles in the upper body.
Another good isometric exercise for the Traps looks sort of like a deadlift. What you need for the exercise is a long piece of rope/strap/belting/whatever that you can step on and have enough material left to grab onto with both hands. Thrust your hips back and grab onto both sides, pulling the leftover material tight. Instead of lifting upward, shrug powerfully upward, trying to tear the material apart.
BW rarely gives out muscle-specific exercises, and the Traps are no exception. That doesn't mean that there are no exercises that work it. It's a pretty simple bottom-line when it comes to working the traps: exercises that require that you move your shoulders up or down, or hold the shoulders firmly in place, work the Traps to some degree.