Some people like to train biceps separated from the back, because "when you get to workout the biceps, it is already tired from the back exercises". Sometimes, you have a hurt biceps and need it to rest, but still want to train your back.

Unfortunately, the obvious exercises for the trapezius and lats involve the biceps, like the various forms of rowing, pulldowns, pullups and chin-ups.

What exercises are there to train the traps and lats that do not involve the biceps?

  • Often lower back exercises don't utilize biceps at all like 45 degree lower back extensions or deadlifts
    – chrisjlee
    Feb 11, 2012 at 2:23
  • 2
    @chrisjlee - except for the fact that the poster specifically says traps and lats.
    – JohnP
    Sep 11, 2012 at 22:52
  • @JohnP, Those are involved in deadlifts--particularly if you keep your shoulders back. Sep 12, 2012 at 20:17
  • @Gabriel, some forms of rows can minimize biceps use if you get that mind-muscle connection working for you lats. You don't want the elbow going up past your torso anyway. Sep 12, 2012 at 20:19

5 Answers 5


Wide pulldowns will have minimal impact on the bicep - you focus more on the triceps, trapezius and lats when your hands are spaced widely.

Twisting sit-ups with a medicine ball are also effective at working your lats.

For trapezius, you are a little limited as it is used for a lot of pulling movements, which will also use your bicep. You could try overhead bar raises to work the top of your trapezius.

  • How does a twisting situp work your lats? The function of the lats are to adduct the upper arms. And how does a wide grip pulldown emphasize the triceps?
    – JohnP
    Jul 9, 2014 at 19:27
  • You do understand where your lats attach, right? They don't just go straight down, but run at an oblique angle. Twisting sit-ups work really well on them. Similarly, wide grip pull downs are all lats and tris.
    – Rory Alsop
    Jul 9, 2014 at 20:13
  • 1
    Your triceps serve to extend your arms (i.e. straighten), not bend. You'd only be working them during the eccentric phase. The lats originate along the spine and the top of the iliac crest, and insert on the humerus. Their sole function is movement of the arm and shoulder girdle. Saying that twisting situps work the lats is like saying that calf raises work the abdominals.
    – JohnP
    Jul 9, 2014 at 21:43

Deadlifts are a very good back and trap exercise. Although this is a pulling movement, the arms remain straight so there is little biceps involvement.

  • 1
    -1 The title (used to) say "back" but the question is asking about traps and lats, i.e. not the lower back. Sep 13, 2012 at 15:01
  • -1 Just because the arm is straight doesn't mean the bicep isn't involved in maintaining grip and position of the arm. Thats why people get detached biceps from deadlifts.
    – user2861
    Jul 13, 2014 at 22:00

Straight arm pulldowns work the lats without the biceps.

Rear delt flies with the elbows bent at 90 degrees work the traps... or you could just do shrugs.


For lat activation without biceps involvement try stiff (straight) arm pushdowns using a cable machine.

For trap activation, mostly Trapezius III and IV (the "lower" traps) try lying face down on an incline bench and performing dumbbell or barbell raises with the arms straight. Lift the weights until your arms as completely in line with your upper body (arms will be straight over your head). You can also perform this on the Smith machine, using the arms as "hooks", keeping the completely straight and lifting the shoulders.


I am surprised no one mentioned the pull over. To target your back muscles, keep your arms bent more and flare your elbows out: https://www.bodybuildingmealplan.com/dumbbell-pullover/. My opionion is that if you start with elbows pretty bent and you progressively make them a little less bent while raising the dumbbell (but still bent) you will use the triceps and nullify biceps involvement

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