The trapezius, or "traps," is a trapezoidal-shaped muscle that lies across the upper back. It is functionally split into upper, middle and lower parts. The lower trapezius often gets neglected during strength-training routines, as it is not as visible as some of the other upper body muscles. However, weak lower traps can lead to shoulder joint misalignment and pain, and, eventually, arthritis.
Basic Activation of Lower Traps
Stand with your back to a wall, feet hip-distance apart and about 8 to 10 inches away from the wall. Your tailbone, midback and back of your head should all be in contact with the wall. Raise your arms overhead, allowing the backs of your arms to contact the wall as well, then bend your elbows and shoulders to 90 degrees, into a "goal post" position.
Slide your elbows and forearms farther down the wall, as if tucking them into your back pockets. Actively depress your shoulder blades; this will activate your lower trapezius muscles. Hold for a count of five.
Release back to the starting position, and repeat this movement eight times. If you start to fatigue, perform fewer repetitions.
Advanced Lower Trap Activation: The Prone Y
Lie on your stomach on the floor or a mat. Stretch your legs straight out behind you, hip-distance apart. Your arms should be angled out to your side, pointing to the "10" and "2" positions of a clock face. Rotate your arms so that your thumbs point toward the ceiling. Look down toward the floor, keeping the back of your neck long throughout the entire exercise.
Exhale and lift both arms straight up, making sure your movement comes from drawing your shoulder blades together. Your arms should stay straight, and your shoulders should stay away from your ears.
Inhale and release both arms down to the floor. Repeat the movement to complete a set of 10.
- Start with the basic scapular activation -- Section 1 -- which can be done once a day. When that becomes too easy, try the prone Y exercise. If that is too challenging, bend your arms as you lift and lower them.