The trapezius muscle - often called "traps" for short - runs from the back of your neck along the tops of your shoulders. Strengthening the traps can help stabilize the neck area, a good idea if your work or sport causes strain on the back of your neck. If you want to have nicely toned shoulders for the summer, you should give the traps some attention.

A simple, effective "traps" exercise is the shoulder shrug:

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand, arms at your sides. (You can also do shrugs with a barbell; keep your hands on the bar more than shoulder-width apart with your palms facing your thighs.)
  • Gradually bring your shoulders upward as high as you comfortably can, as if trying to touch your ears with them.
  • Hold the shrug for a moment, then gradually lower your shoulders to starting position. Do two sets of 8 to 12 repetitions each.

A note about breathing: exhale as you bring your shoulders upward and inhale as you lower them.