Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Classic Physique vs. The "Hulk"-like Physique: Traps and Shoulder Width

Another important difference between the classic physique and the "Hulk"-like physique is in the development of the traps and the appearance of shoulder width. In the chemically-enhanced, cartoonish "Hulk"-like physique (remember the "Hulk" was a cartoon/comic before they made it into a TV series and film), the traps are almost always vastly overdeveloped compared to the classic physique.

The problem with overdeveloped traps is that they make the shoulders appear more "rounded" and narrow rather than square and broad. One of the hallmarks of the classic physique is broad shoulders. So to enhance the appearance of broad shoulders, classic physique builders would intentionally not overdevelop the traps. In some instances, upper traps would not have to be exercised at all.

In his book, Building the Classic Physique The Natural Way (p. 70), Steve Reeves explains "Don't misunderstand me, the trapezius is a good muscle to develop - for supreme strength. If you're a competitive weightlifter or powerlifter, then you need that trapezius development to generate the extreme power required to make heavy lifts. But if your goal is to have a good physique, and be strong (if not necessarily the world champion in a strength sport), then you don't need that extra development in the trapezius."

Take a look at the photos above (left: Steve Reeves - Mr Universe 1950, right: Ronnie Coleman - Mr Olympia 1998-2005) and judge for yourself. Whose physique looks as if the shoulders are broader? Whose physique would you rather have?


Anonymous said...

Great post.
But, this is the question, HOW to not over-develop traps? It seems the most of exercises for the upper body is targeted (more or less) to stimulate the trapezius muscle.

Greetings from Italy!

- CPB - said...

Hi Anonymous from Italy! Welcome to CPB!

Great question! But we would turn it around this way - since many upper body exercises INDIRECTLY involve the trapezius muscle, there is no need to DIRECTLY exercise them. So, no need to do "shoulder shrugs" - which directly stimulate the traps.

Many times, we have seen guys in the gym doing heavy shoulder shrugs. They don't realize that by building up the traps, it will produce a "rounded" or "sloped" shoulder look - which will make the neck appear shorter and the shoulders appear more narrow. Yet, this is a very popular exercise these days!

Because the traps will get indirectly stimulated through many other upper body exercises, they will get plenty of work to stay toned, but not enough to build heavy mass. So we generally advise to stay away from shoulder shrugs (especially with heavy weights and using low reps - which build mass).

This is why Steve Reeves said there is no need to directly exercise the traps - not if your goal is to build a classic physique.

All the best (and thanks for your question!)


P.S. Steve also said to stay away from side bends (especially with weights) which which will add mass to the obliques and make the waist appear wider (rather than narrower - which is preferable for a classic physique).

Johnny G said...

I don't mind some traps that is natural and it shows that a man has strength, but I see the point of having any muscle group overly developed

Anonymous said...

Trap development is a tricky thing too much and it actually detracts from your shoulder width, too little and the upper body looks incomplete. Ronnie C. looks horrendous in the accompanying photo.Reeves on the other hand exhibits the symmetrical balance that has made him legendary!