Tom Hardy’s Cobra

I need big traps. They are so powerful looking from the front – they are so hard to miss! They fill in that area between your shoulders and your neck. Also, thick middle traps add a thick look to your upper body. Honestly, when I can see someone’s middle traps through their shirt, I find that very impressive. Check out Tom Hardy here, you can see how people used to refer to the traps as the “cobra muscles”.

The trapezius is comprised of three sections: the upper, middle and lower. Each section has a different function, but people typically only train the upper portion. For full development and better posture you need to add a few more exercises.

upper, middle and lower sections

The upper traps elevate your shoulders and keep your shoulders from being pulled down.

The function of the middle trapezius is to pull the shoulders back. Note the difference to the lat or the rhomboids here… Think about just squeezing your shoulders straight back and together. That’s why the high wide machine row works so well (or a cable row) – lean back a bit and you can hit a bit higher on your traps. make sure to grip very wide with your elbows high and squeeze back.

The lower trapezius pulls the shoulders back and down, which is very useful for posture correction.

Here’s a complete trapezius workout for you to try – if you’re really an animal, do this after your deadlift workout! Deadlifts alone hit your trapezius well isometrically. Go heavy and hard on the shrugs and snatch grip high pulls, and do the rest fast with low rest to pump up the muscle. The combination is hard to beat.

Complete Trapezius Workout:

1. warm up: band pullaparts 4×20


2. heavy shrugs (upper traps) 5×10

3. wide machine high row (middle traps) 4×20 – lean back a bit, keep elbows high, squeeze middle traps!

wide rows

4. snatch grip high pulls (upper and middle) 3×15 – use straps!


5. Y raises on 45 degree bench 5×10 (lower traps)


Some people can get away with very little trapezius training. I’m just not one of those people. Deadlifts, barbell rows and pullups will do a lot for your complete trapezius development, but if traps is something you want to focus on give my workout a try. Even understanding the function and being able to isolate and feel each section will be really useful in your training.

If someone asks me for advice, more often than not, I’m likely to tell them to just look up Stan Efferding. I’ll tell them to look up Stan and follow everything he says, and I guarantee that they’ll be well on their way to being healthy, strong and successful.

Stan is really, really, really good.

Do I like him because he totaled 2303 raw? (that’s a 865.2 pound squat, 600.3 pound bench and 837.7 pound deadlift – yeah, he’s superhuman) Nope. He’s amazingly strong, and when he did this it was probably the first time I heard of him, but it’s not why I think he’s great.


I like him because he’s extremely intelligent, well spoken and articulate, and describes training and nutrition concepts better than I can. And he inspires me to work harder in business. He’s an excellent example of how to succeed I think.

Check out his rants, or “10 talks”… Here is a good example of what I’m talking about. Some people speak in sentences, some people speak in paragraphs. Stan Efferding speaks in essays. Here he talks about the obesity epidemic in the Somoan islands, and the parallels to North American diet and obesity.

Check him out! Stan’s website.

One of my favorite bodybuilding/powerlifting programming ideas is “The Rule of 40”. It’s a simple idea for learning how to program intensity and volume in your workouts.

I’ll show you how I would use this idea to program a typical day in the gym. Using back day as an example, I’ll pick 5 or 6 exercises that I haven’t done recently and/or haven’t done in this order, and set up the sets and reps something like this:

  1. Barbell row: 5×8
  2. Pullups: whatever you have to do to get 40 reps total.
  3. Snatch grip high pulls: 4×10
  4. db pullovers: 3×15
  5. machine reverse fly: 2×20

Another example for back day:

  1. Pullups 7×3 weighted
  2. db rows 4×10
  3. wide cable rows 4×12
  4. barbell shrugs 3×15
  5. barbell curls 1×40

The rule of 40 simply means the total volume for each exercise should equal (roughly) the magic number 40. 4×10, 5×8, or 4×12 and 5×12 are staples. 5×5 or 6×5 is a good bet even though it doesn’t add up to 40.

The 1×40 set is really interesting. It really depends on how you pick the weight. Pick a bit heavy, and it’s a trial from hell to get through that set. Pick a bit light, and this can be really good for flushing blood into the area and improving recovery.

The 40 rule is not a firm rule, but it’s a good starting point, which should help teach most people how much volume they need to progress. I’ve learned to tweak a few things, like I’ll do more total volume for exercises that have a very short range of motion – shrugs are a good example, where 4-5×12-15 reps probably works better. Also, I’ll typically do a bit more volume for back than for chest or shoulders. More often back exercises are 4×12 or 5×10, where chest will be 5×8 or 4×10.

Conversely, you might want to take the hardest exercises and drop the volume a bit. Deadlifts are a good example, where 5×5 is more than enough work. Or 7 sets of 3 reps of weighted pullups, which is only 21 reps total, is a lot of work.

Also, these rep ranges only work if you follow the “ramp up to one max set” method. As an example, if my best bench press is 225×5, and I expect to hit a PR today, I might do 5×7, like this:

  1. 135×7
  2. 160×7
  3. 185×7
  4. 205×7
  5. 225×6 (almost hit 7 today, but I made the PR of 6)

Only that last set was “all out”. So you get a growth stimulus of pushing your limit and breaking new ground, but also the volume of the 4 previous sets without blowing out your central nervous system. You can play around with this, and you COULD do 205×7 for 5 sets… But for me, always aiming for a PR just yields better results. I try to PR on the final set of every exercise, in every workout. And if I’m eating enough, training hard enough, resting enough, and rotating my exercises properly, it will happen.

There is a lot to be said for simplicity in exercise programming. The fitness industry pushes all types of overly complicated workouts and exercise plans – it seems somehow we all feel like the key to fitness must be complicated, expensive, or come in a pill.

The truth is, the answer is just simple, consistent, hard work. AND it doesn’t cost a damn thing. Success in all areas of fitness is actually simple. Maybe not easy, but it is simple. Eat less. Move more. Be consistent. Here’s a “move more” example:

You want to improve your abs, but you don’t know where to start. Surfing the internet gives you a million ideas, all with different exercises, rep ranges and theories. Or maybe you decide to go to the bookstore and find a book on abs, which might be the thickness of a textbook, full of anatomy charts and hundreds of different abdominal exercises. But the answer doesn’t really doesn’t have to be so complicated. Not only does it not have to be complicated, it shouldn’t be. The simpler the prescription, the easier it will be to implement and be consistent with.

If you’re going to consistently keep doing something, it needs to be simple enough that you can actually do it, and repeat it, consistently, over a long period of time.

Here’s a simple workout prescription for abs – do this three times a week:

  • 3 sets of planks
  • 3 sets of v-ups
  • 3 sets of Russian twists

That’s it. In six months get back to me and tell me how amazed you are with your results.

Too easy? Just do a bit more every time. Longer duration planks. More reps or sets on the v-ups and twists. Build up slowly but always try for a just a little bit more.

I got this idea specifically from Runner’s World and Mike Rutt, an 800m runner who made the Olympic trials, who did this exact routine for 5 years. Unfortunately the video file type is not supported by WordPress, but this link will get you there until I figure out a workaround:

Want to lose weight? Run. Want to get in shape? Run. It actually works for everyone. I know, I know, maybe you can’t run, but if you set “being able to run” as your goal, and work your butt off to get to that point, you will definitely be more fit than you are now. And if you can’t run, that is probably something you should be working on. Is your knee busted up? Let’s work on fixing that. Foot issues? Ankles? Hips? Arthritis? Obese? It doesn’t matter. Whatever is holding you back, that’s what we need to work on. If you can walk, we can start there. Can’t walk? Well, then we have to work on that first!