Trapezius Muscles – AKA Trap, Traps, Trapezoid?

trapezius muscles

Hey everyone!

Welcome back or welcome to the page.

Today I would like to talk about the trapezius muscles, which are located in the upper back. They are also called the trap muscles or traps for short. They are not, however, referred to as the trapezoid muscles!

We’ll talk about their origin and ending points, their function, and which exercise are best to build them.

Let’s get started!

All About theTrapezius Muscles

The trapezius muscle is one of the widest muscles in the back. It is also the muscle that is the most superficial, that is, trapezoid musclesnearest the surface of the skin. The traps are triangular muscles that are broad and flat and just below the skin, covering the upper back and shoulders. Although it is triangular in shape, it is named the trapezius because it is similar to a trapezoid in its actual shape.

The main responsibility of the traps are to pull your shoulders up, as in shrugging, and to pull your shoulders back. The traps do have a more complex function than that simple explanation allows, and as we break it down into its three parts, we will talk about attachment, orientation of muscle fibres, and its detailed functions.

Its Three Parts

trapezoid musclesAs you can see from the diagram, the traps are quite a large muscle group. They cover most of the back and shoulder area. The muscle fibres originate along the spine and converge together to insert into the spine of the scapula (shoulder blade) and the acromion process of the clavicle (collarbone). This is crucial information, as it leads to the functions of the muscles and the methods of exercising them.

There are three specific area of the trapezoid muscles: the upper, the mid, and the lower.

The upper portion, which travels across the tops of your shoulders, can lift your shoulder. It can also extend, tilt, and rotate your neck, which effectively brings your head back, to the side, or turns your head.

The lower trap works with the upper trap to rotate the shoulder blade upward. This occurs when you lift your arm up to thetrapezius muscles side. Keep in mind that there are a variety of muscles working together to accomplish all these tasks, not just the traps. The lower trap also has the job of bringing the shoulder down, the opposite motion of the upper trap.

The middle trap area assists in bringing the shoulder blade back toward the spine and helps to stabilize the shoulder during certain arm movements.

All the trapezius muscles work together to create a little more space in the upper chest area when we breathe. All in all, they are a busy group of muscles, tilting and turning the head and neck, shrugging the shoulders, steadying the shoulders, and moving the arms.

Trapezius Pain

Just before we get into the exercises we can perform to strengthen the trapezius muscles, there are a couple of other reasons why you may be feeling pain in your traps.

The most obvious, if you are exercising, is just that: exercising and overuse. This could be related to lifting weights, or any other sport-related repetitive movement, such as swimming. Giving the muscles time to repair and rebuild (24 – 48 hours) should alleviate this pain.trapezius muscles

It is also common for people to feel stress in their traps. This is because we tend to tense up our muscles when we are under stress, and the excess tension we place on the traps when we are under stress could lead to soreness over time. If you feel you are under a lot of stress, take a break and go for a walk, stretching your muscles as you go to eliminate this pain.

Poor posture can also lead to pain in the trapezius muscles. If you are sitting at a desk for extended periods of time, hunched over your keyboard, typing, this will cause the muscles to become shortened and tight. Frequent breaks from typing and hunching over your desk accompanied with some stretching of the trapezius muscles will prevent or alleviate this pain.

Muscle pain may also be caused by overloading them with too much weight. If you experience a pain in your traps that is more than just the normal exercise pain, you may have torn the muscle. This would require considerable time to recover, and a doctor should be consulted.

Now, on to the exercises!

Trap Exercises

The number one exercise for the upper traps is the shrug. It is important to keep in mind the orientation of the muscle fibres when doing any exercise, and in order to engage the muscle fully when doing a shrug, be sure to widen your grip to a snatch-type grip. This will allow the muscle to fully contract and stretch as you shrug the weight.

snatch grip shrugsHeavy deadlifts and a Farmer’s Walk will also work the upper traps.

It is important to work the middle and lower traps as well, as they will give muscle definition to your entire back and also help with your posture. Here are a couple of exercises you can try to work your middle and lower traps, keeping in mind that other groups of muscles will be worked out at the same time.

For the middle traps, a bent over row is the best exercise. You can vary your grip from overhand to underhand, and use either a barbell or dumbbells to work them in a full range of motion. You could also do a T-bar row or an incline row. An alternative to the bent over row would be a one-arm row, as demonstrated in the photo.

one arm rowbent over rowbent over row dumbbellsAll of these exercises, and many others, are great for building the strength of the trapezius muscles. Remember, it’s not just the upper part that needs the work. Be sure to incorporate exercises that will work the entire trapezius, from top to bottom.

Last Words

So there you have it.trapezius muscles

All there is to know about the trapezius muscle. Not really, but I hope you have learned a little about the traps and their importance in the overall functioning of our bodies.

Thanks for listening. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

Also, if you are a father (or mother) (or anyone for that matter) who would like an easy to follow program that includes a menu and work out information, check out this article from a few months ago.

See you in the next post.

Have a great day!


Tom Fitzsimmons

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *