The Trapezius Muscle: Friend or Foe?
The Trapezius, also known in the fitness world as the “traps,” is a large muscle group located below the neck, on top of the shoulders, and running down the mid-back. This large muscle group plays a significant role in human movement and performance, especially in the integrity of the scapula. The Trapezius muscle stabilizes and moves the scapula in a variety of positions. No matter what sport or activity you participate in, you are probably using your trapezius. The Trapezius also helps protect the neck from injury, especially in contact sports and events where the neck can become compromised. How do we train the traps specifically? There are various exercises that target the traps: shrugs, heavy carries, row variations, deadlifts, and lateral shoulder raises.
So what can make the trapezius muscle so bad? Stress. Stress is often held in the traps of individuals. The traps “tense up” or can cause localized neurological pain called trigger points. These are areas where the muscle fibers contract but don’t “ratchet” back into position. Thus causing a lot of unneeded stress on some very important musculature. What also can cause the trapezius to feel unfriendly is posture. When the shoulders, chest, and biceps are kept in a forwarded and “shortened” position, the traps have to work overtime to correct this. Thus causing tension and strain were not needed.
To combat this, self-myofascial release, active release therapy, stretching, and massage are often prescribed to “release the tension”. These methods may work temporarily, but “opening” up the chest, shoulders, and biceps can help alleviate a lot of undue tension. Stress management is also crucial for healthy traps, and finding ways to reduce stress can help alleviate tension as well. If this is an area where you feel needs some work, contact a trainer to help you regain comfort and strength back in those muscles!
MS, CSCS, CPPS, USAW, CFL2