Strengthen your trapezius muscle with targeted exercises.
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Your trapezius is the large, flat diamond-shape muscle that covers much of your upper back and neck. It can be divided into three parts -- the upper fibers, middle fibers and lower fibers which are responsible for elevation, retraction and depression of your shoulder girdle respectively. When training this muscle, you should select exercises based on the part of the trapezius that they work.
Shrug it Up
The fibers of your upper trapezius run from the base of your skull and out to the far edge of your scapula or collar bones. Perform dumbbell shrugs to strengthen this muscle. With a dumbbell in each hand, seated or standing, shrug your shoulders up toward your ears and then lower them again. Other upper trapezius exercises include barbell shrugs, machine shrugs, overhead shrugs and upright rows. Any exercise that involves shrugging your shoulders upward works the upper trapezius fibers.
Shoulder Back for Better Posture
Pulling your shoulders back and together is the job of the middle fibers of your trapezius which work alongside your rhomboid muscles. Spending a lot of time driving or hunched over a computer can make these muscles weak and result in a rounded upper back so it's important to keep these muscles strong if you want to have good posture. Strengthen these muscles by performing band pull aparts. With a resistance band in your hands, raise your arms forward and up to shoulder-height. With a slight bend in your arms, stretch the band out across your chest. Return to the starting position and repeat. Other exercises for the middle fibers of trapezius include wide grip rows, reverse flys, deadlifts and prone shrugs.
Shoulder Depression -- Not as Sad as it Sounds
The lower fibers of your trapezius hold your shoulders down when you perform exercises like pull-ups or lat pulldowns. In addition, they are important for posture, shoulder stability and health. Although they are worked indirectly in many upper body exercises, it is also possible to target them with specific moves including isometric lat pull downs. Grasp the bar on a lat pulldown machine with a wide grip and sit down. Lean back slightly and pull the bar down to your clavicles. Hold this position while focusing on keeping your shoulders pulled down and back. Other lower trapezius exercises include cable shrug downs, cable reverse shrugs and isometric pull-ups.
Make sure you are fit to exercise by getting the all-clear from your doctor before starting a new exercise program. This is especially important if you have been ill or sedentary lately. Before you start your workout, spend a few minutes warming up by performing some light cardio and stretching exercises for the muscles you are about to work. To strengthen your trapezius muscles, perform two to four sets of 12 to 20 repetitions of each exercise two or three times a week.