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Muscle of the Month: Trapezius

Hadyn Luke posted this on Tuesday 23rd of May 2017 Hadyn Luke 23/05/2017

Tags: Anatomy and physiology , Exercise library

The Muscle of the Month featured in our latest blog is the trapezius.

A broad, flat, superficial muscle, the trapezius is one of the most important muscles of the back, which helps with both posture and movement.

The trapezius extends from the middle of the spine, level with the lower ribs, to the posterior of the neck and across the top part of the shoulders. Its name comes from its shape, which resembles a trapezium.

The left and right trapezius each consist of three bands of muscle fibres: superior, inferior and middle.

The origin and insertion of the trapezius

A large muscle, the trapezius originates at its lower point in the Thoracic 12 spinous process up to the Cervical 7 spinous process and the occipital protuberance (the bump at the base of the skull).

Its insertion is in three points: the anterior border of the scapular spine, the acromion process and the lateral third of the clavicle.

The action and basic functional movement of the trapezius

The symmetrical left and right trapezius can each be divided into three bands of muscle fibres – superior, inferior and middle – which have distinct structures and functions within the muscle, working both individually and in combination with each other.

The main function of the trapezius is to elevate, retrract and depress the scapula (shoulder blade) and increase its stability in general. For example when raising the arms, shrugging, or stretching for or lifting something. It also extends the head at the neck, allowing it to tilt and turn.

Common exercises for the trapezius

The trapezius can be strengthened through a variety of common exercises. Personal trainers and fitness instructors might recommend any or all of the following:

  • Barbell shrug
  • Barbell row
  • Dumbbell shrug/incline dumbbell shrug
  • Dumbbell lateral raise
  • Dummbell overhead carry
  • Push ups
  • Shoulder blade squeeze
  • Kettlebell high pull

The benefits of trapezius exercises

Exercising the trapezius helps to strengthen the upper body, in particular the neck and shoulders, which is beneficial for all – not just for keen gym-goers who want to sculpt their shoulders and back.

Daily activities such as sitting at a desk for long periods, lifting heavy objects or carrying a shoulder bag can result in tension in the trapezius, which can be alleviated by strengthening this muscle. Strong trapezius muscles can also help with stability and posture, useful for older people and pregnant women.

Dangers of overtraining

As there are many different back and shoulder exercises that involve working the trapezius, it’s easy for this muscle to get overworked and stressed.

If you feel pain or stress in the trapezius, give them a rest from training. Also, avoid overtraining your upper trapezius muscle fibres and ignoring the middle and lower traps, and avoid training your back and shoulders on consecutive days.

As always, consult a personal trainer or other fitness professional for advice on training programmes, but for medical issues it’s best to go straight to your doctor.

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