Trapezius Strengthening: More than Just Shoulder Shrugs

Mar 31, 2017

Trapezius Strengthening: More than Just Shoulder Shrugs

If you were to be told that your traps were one of the most important muscles to be trained if you are experiencing shoulder pain, what would come to mind? Likely you would imagine someone at the gym repeatedly shrugging very heavy weights up and down. While often associated with bodybuilding type training, there is so much more to this complex, at times misunderstood, muscle group.

The scapula (shoulder blade) serves as the “core” of the shoulder complex. Much like abdominal core strengthening is an important part of managing back pain, training the muscles that stabilize the scapula is crucial to any shoulder rehab program. The trapezius muscle is one such muscle that provides stabilization and control. This muscle has 3 distinct components, whose actions are dictated by the direction of their muscle fibers. The upper fibers of the trapezius elevate and upwardly rotate the scapula. Its middle fibers retract the scapula. Finally, its lower fibers depress and upwardly rotate the scapula as well. When working, as they should, these components fire in a sequential manner, all playing their part to provide a stable environment for the shoulder with the movement of the arm.


If these components of the trapezius are not firing or functioning properly, dysfunctional movement of the shoulder girdle can occur, placing strain on various structures and creating mechanical pain. Often times when this is the case, it is the upper fibers that will activate first and dominate the movement pattern, hiking the shoulders and placing unnecessary stress on different anatomical structures. When this is the case, it is often the middle and lower parts of this muscle that need to be strengthened. Thinking of bringing the shoulders “back and down” is a simple cue to keep in mind when performing any overhead/rowing/dynamic shoulder movements to engage these fibers.

Our physiotherapists have extensive training on how to manage shoulder pain and can get you back to your normal activity ASAP. Give us at Active Physio Works, a call at 780-458-8505 to make an appointment today.


Category: Sam Dalk, MScPT

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