Your trapezius muscle group is more than an impressive-looking body part – it’s also a collection of hard working fibers that support your shoulders and limbs, and its functions include keeping the neck and head in position, enabling the movement of the shoulder blades and even assisting breathing.
That being said, the trapezius muscles are comprised of upper, middle and lower fibers, even though the upper fibers usually get all the love because they are most visible from the front.
Just ask yourself how many exercises do you know that specifically target your lower traps? That’s right, zero. Yet the middle and lower traps are incredibly important when it comes to back health and they are also a major contributor to the aesthetic appeal of a well-developed back. As it is with many other body parts, the lower portion is equally important as the upper portion, and if this gets neglected so that one of the sides grows stronger while the other remains weak and stiff, guess what happens. Yes, injury, and uh, flat or weird-looking muscles.
In the name of balance, strength, health and aesthetics, we give you the 3 lower trap exercises you’re probably not doing enough of:
Laying Silverback Shrug
This shrug variant allows you to effectively isolate your lower traps so that the farther you lean over, the more you’ll hit your lower traps, which are involved in retracting your shoulder blades and pinching them together.
If this is your first time with the move, set the bench to a 45 or 60-degree angle because that’s usually proves as the most comfortable position. Now, shrug your shoulders straight up towards the ceiling.
3-4 sets of 8-12 reps should make your lower fibers burn just the way we want them to.
Named after the owner of one of the greatest backs in the history of the sport, Yates rows are exactly the amazing back builder you think they are. This exercise is very similar to the standard barbell back row, but instead of leaning forward as close as possible to parallel, you need to only lean forward about 30 degrees. Yates held the bar with an underhand grip but you’d be better off with an overhand grip if you care about minimizing bicep activity.
Pull the bar to your stomach, hold it there for a moment while squeezing your shoulder blades together, then release and repeat.
Again, the classic range of 3-4 sets with 8-12 reps will do wonders for optimal hypertrophy gains.
One-Arm Dumbbell Row
You’ve probably noticed that in order for your traps to enable a full retraction the shoulder blades during a rowing movement, your hands have to get further back than what the barbell allows. You can overcome this issue by performing one-arm dumbbell rows in a kneeling position.
To do this, kneel with one leg on a bench and one arm supporting you while the other foot rests on the floor and the other arm holds the dumbbell. Making sure that your upper body is roughly parallel to the ground, allow the dumbbell to drop towards the floor. This will produce a great stretch in the back. Pull the dumbbell straight up to the side of your chest until it comes beside your stomach, keeping the torso stationary. At the top position your shoulder blade should be fully retracted. Squeeze your back muscles for a second, then return to the starting position.
Repeat for a couple of sets of 8-12 reps with each arm.
For best results, consider super-setting your trap exercises. Good luck and stay strong!