Q&A with Mr. Olympia Phil Heath...
FLEX: As a guy with narrow shoulders, I’ve been told to avoid trap training because it’ll only make me look narrower. What do you think about that?
PHIL: I’ve heard people say that. Supposedly, if you fill out your traps your shoulders will look narrower because there will be less space on either side of your neck. But it’s called bodybuilding for a reason. My plan has always been to fill in everything. People said I was narrow, so I added a lot of muscle to my delts and to my traps, too. I wanted to make my whole shoulder complex—delts and traps— bigger so that would be a focal point. Now your eyes are drawn to my shoulders, and you see all the muscle that I have there that other guys don’t have. I turned a weakness into a strength.
Now I think traps are one of my best body parts, and that’s an area I can use in certain poses like the most muscular and rear double biceps and even the standing relaxed shots from the front and back, because a lot of guys just don’t put the same work into shrugs that they do with other areas. I did, and I continue to, and it’s an advantage I can exploit. For example, I’ll do sevens when I do shrugs (seven sets with only 20–30 seconds’ rest between sets) to keep the intensity up. Other times I’ll do two exercises for traps, dumbbell shrugs, and barbell shrugs, or shrugs on a machine.
Some guys just throw in three or four sets of shrugs at the end of their shoulder workout as an afterthought, and they don’t really get much out of it. Train your traps as hard as any other body part. Of course, you want to keep everything in balance, so you want to cap of your shoulders by growing your delts. That might need to be your priority if that’s a weakness. But don’t worry that bigger traps are going to make you look more narrow. Small traps are only going to make people notice that lagging area more. Focus on growing everything. If you have a complete physique then that’s what people will see. They’ll see that you have the right proportions and everything flows together and nothing is a glaring weakness.
FLEX: Growing up in Seattle, did you ever imagine you’d go to all the places you’ve traveled to?
PHIL: I never thought I’d see half of these places, but when I became a pro bodybuilder I knew I’d have an opportunity to see the world. I’m acquainted with quite a few pro basketball players who haven’t seen half of what I’ve seen, and they probably never will. I know guys in the NBA who’ll go to South Beach in the off-season or Hawaii, but they’ll never get out of the country. I feel blessed that I’ve seen so many countries, and I have fans all over the world. Sometimes my schedule is tight, and I don’t have time to see as much as I’d like to when I go to other countries for appearances. But, when I can, I like to take in the sights and experience some of the local foods and things.