We all know about our upper traps, those muscles at the top of the neck that get really tight from holding tension, a heavy grocery bag or a purse. The Trapezius muscle is so much more than this headache monster. It is shaped like a trapezoid (which is cool) and attaches to the back of your head, your shoulder blades, the outsides of your shoulders, your collar bones and down all of the spinous processes of your neck and thoracic spine! The upper fibers have the ability to give us a neck ache, but middle and lower fibers work to help healthy shoulder function (phew, at least it does something right).
The middle fibers of the trap draw the scapula in towards the spine. The lower fibers of the trap draw your shoulder blades down the back and also (with the help of our friend serratus anterior) assist upward rotation of the shoulder blades (this happens when you lift your arms up above shoulder level). They do this by pulling the inner corners of your shoulder blades down, which causes the bottom corners to open out to the side. It's like pulling a triangle by one of its points -- the pull makes the triangle spin!
The mid and lower traps should engage well when you are performing upper back extension exercises. They help bring the shoulder blades onto the back of your ribcage and open the front of your chest. Having balance in your trapezius recruitment helps reduce the possibility of over recruiting your latissimus dorsi, thus unlocking potential for more fluid length and connection in your torso and lovely shoulder mechanics.
Use this knowledge to utilize those mid and lower traps when doing our at home Extension Series Exercises!
Shorty Swan just loves to teach people about the bones and muscles of the body. Check out all of his lessons!