8 Best Lower Trap Exercises

Updated on  July 6, 2022 by  Welcyon Team

The Trapezius Muscle

The trapezius or trap muscle is a single, giant, trapezoid, or diamond-shaped muscle covering a significant area in the upper back. It runs from the occipital bone to the lower thoracic vertebrae, then down to the scapula's spine. The trapezius muscle is also the accessory muscle for breathing, creating a small breathing room in the upper chest.

Moreover, the traps are made up of three bundles of muscle fibers that run in distinct directions. These are called the upper traps, the middle traps, and the lower traps. (1) These three parts of the trap muscle work in combination to execute several movements. For instance, when raising your arm to the side and lowering it, the upward rotation of the scapula is caused by serratus anterior, upper traps, and lower traps together, which then work oppositely to rhomboid and levator scapulae to cause downward rotation.

The traps (mainly the middle and lower traps) also collaborate with other groups of muscles like latissimus and rhomboids, which are involved in scapular depression and retraction.

In short, the trapezius muscles:

  • Support movement of arms.
  • Stabilize shoulders and cause scapula movement. (2)
  • Stabilize and cause movement of the head, neck, or spine.


The Upper Traps

The upper traps originate from the top of the spine and back of the head and run laterally downwards, attaching to the posterior edge of the collar bones near the shoulder joint. The well-built upper traps appear at the front of the body.

It helps in scapular elevation, raising the shoulder girdle. It also helps head movement by rotation, extension, and neck inclination.


The Middle Trap

The middle trap originates from the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd thoracic vertebrae right beneath the neck and runs laterally, inserting at the spine of the scapula.

It performs scapular retraction, bringing shoulder blades in the direction of the spine. It provides stability to the shoulder to support movements of the arm. It plays a vital role in stabilization during push and pull movements and maintains overall posture.


The Lower Traps

Originating from T4 to T12 vertebrae, the lower traps run laterally upwards and join near the scapular. It is responsible for scapular depression, retraction, posterior tilt, and upwardly rotating the scapula.

The lower traps are essential for scapula control, stabilization, and movement. Poor scapula movement and control during overhead movements like the overhead press, bench press, biceps curls, snatch grip deadlift, clean and jerk, or push press can lead to issues like impingement, subacromial bursitis, and instability. All these disorders can cause shoulder pain, neck pain, and injury.

Strength movements targeting the upper and middle traps are generally emphasized in traditional training programs, but the lower traps are often overlooked.

Building lower traps won't make a huge difference in your physique. Eliminating this weak link, on the other hand, will lower your chance of injury and increase your training performance, improving your form.


Lower Trap Exercises


Let us look at the best lower trap exercises that actively and effectively work your lower traps, how to perform them, and their benefits. The key, however, is maintaining the correct posture to reap maximum benefits from each lower trap exercise.


1. Chin-Up


A chin-up is a bodyweight exercise but involves using a machine or equipment. A pull-up bar is required to execute this exercise. Moreover, chin-ups are pretty challenging as they test how much strength one has. The entire body is pulled up with the strength of arms and back and is equally challenging for petite individuals. Chin-ups are a more advanced exercise; however, that has nothing to do with the difficulty level. Lifting yourself solely with the strength of your upper body requires a great deal of strength.

This exercise effectively recruits the lower traps. The lower traps significantly perform the depression and retraction movements involved in the entire exercise.

Performing Chin-Ups:

Chin-ups require sufficient strength to perform them without the risk of an injury. Here is how to do it:

1. Hold the pull-up bar maintaining a shoulder-width grip and palms facing yourself.

2. Involving your upper back and core, squeeze the shoulder bone downwards and backward. Make sure your hips stay underneath, ensuring to hold scapular retraction.

3. Then lift your chest upwards towards the bar, pulling yourself up until your chin reaches above the bar.

4. Hold this position for a while for isometric contraction.

5. Slowly lower back to the original position maintaining control.

6. Repeat to complete the reps and sets as per your strength.

Alternatively, people with lower strength can use a lat pulldown machine. The main difference between chin-ups and pull-ups is hand placement and supinated and prone grip.


Benefits of Chin-Ups:

  • Despite strengthening your lower trap muscles, chin-ups also contribute to posture improvement and the ability to perform other exercises and everyday physical work effectively.
  • Chin-ups simultaneously work forearms, biceps, and back muscles. Thus, it helps in building muscle.
  • Along with strengthening lower traps, they also enhance grip strength.
  • They are comparatively easier than pull-ups.

2. Overhead Farmer Walk


Farmer's Walk combines the simple act of walking while carrying weights. Kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells, plates, or farmer's carry walk handles are held in the hand while walking. Since it involves both walking and weightlifting, this simple exercise develops cardio endurance and strengthens your body.

The Overhead Farmer's Walk is a superb workout and involves walking in a straight line over a certain distance, maintaining a good posture while holding weights in both hands above the head. Although it may require more space to perform the overhead farmer's walk, you can also do it in a limited space by walking back and forth.

When focusing on lower traps, the farmer's walk is quite underestimated. However, it vigorously works lower traps for stabilizing the shoulder joint. Farmer's walk also engages other muscles, like the rotator cuff and scapular retractors.

Performing Overhead Farmer's Walk:

While walking is quite simple, you must maintain the correct posture when performing this full-body exercise. It would be best if you have prior weightlifting experience to perform this exercise without injury risk. The load must be challenging but manageable.

1. From the front rack position, grab your weights in both hands and lift directly overhead. Stretch out or fully extend your elbows to prevent the joints from bending.

2. Lift the weight by pulling your shoulder blades together while your armpits are facing forward.

3. Keep your shoulders away from your ears to tighten them.

4. Start walking forwards while maintaining balance and the position while squeezing the core.

5. Continue walking for the target length of time or distance.

6. Slowly bring the weights down to the shoulder and then to the hips. Then deadlift to place them down on the floor.

7. Repeat the exercise.

You can carry small weights and walk a longer distance or lift heavy weights over a small distance. Either way, maintain correct posture, walking from heel to toe. 

Variations of overhead farmer's walk depend on the weight of the equipment you carry. For instance, dumbbell overhead, kettlebell overhead, barbell overhead, yoke carry, or unilateral overhead carry farmer's walk.


Benefits of Farmer's Walk:

  • It actively focuses on upper and lower traps along with multiple muscle groups.
  • It promotes the building up of trap muscle.
  • Promotes maximum possible upper body structural balance.
  • Enhances overall strength, training conditions, grip strength, and core stability.
  • The benefit of overhead farmer's walk is twofold. Along with weightlifting, you also experience cardio.

3. Prone Dumbbell Y Raise

Y raise is one of the best lower trap exercises and an upper-body and shoulder exercise for sculpting and strengthening the respective muscles. Prone dumbbell Y raise is one variation of this exercise. Other variations include standing Y raise, Swiss ball Y raise, incline bench Y raise, and standing single-arm or unilateral Y raise.

The controlled exercise works every muscle in the upper back, especially the lower trapezius and rhomboids. Making the Y posture involves depressed scapula movement, thus, isolating the lower trap. It also targets the infraspinatus, supraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis muscles of the rotator cuff, as well as the anterior (front), lateral (side), and rear delts (shoulder muscle). Hence, this workout impacts the shoulder muscles from every direction.

Performing Prone Dumbbell Y Raise:

This exercise achieves optimal lower trap activation as the overhead movement is aligned with the lower muscle fibers of the trapezius. Grab the minimal set of 2.5 weights.

1. Lie down on an exercise bench or floor in the prone (flat or horizontal) position. Extend your elbows with 180 degrees shoulder flexion and 120 degrees shoulder abduction.

2. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and keep arms fully extended, almost 1.5 shoulder-width apart, making a Y pose.

3. Rest your forehead and chest on the floor or bench.

4. Move your arms from bottom to ear level with thumbs pointing towards the ceiling.

5. Raise your arms as high as possible.

6. Hold this position for 10 seconds, then slowly lower your arms.

7. Repeat the exercise 10 times.

Beginners can try this light trap exercise without dumbbells, extending their arms, and retaining the posture for a few seconds per rep. 

It's a lot more complicated than it appears. You can target 10-15 reps, with every set lasting 30-45 seconds. For increased strength, do the workout at least twice a week.

While doing this exercise, make sure to:

  • Compress those shoulders down and pull the shoulder blades firmly together while moving your arms up and down.
  • Tuck in your chin and look down on the floor to keep the spine neutral.
  • Breathe deeply to tighten your core.
  • Exhale while lifting your arms and inhale as you lower them to ensure your abs are activated.

Benefits of Prone Dumbbell Y Raise:

  • It offers excellent lower trap contraction and activation.
  • It improves shoulder stability and mobility.
  • One of the isolation exercises that allows hypertrophy gains.
  • Good start for beginners who want to train lower traps.
  • Scapular winging, dysfunction and shoulder impingement disorders are all treated with this exercise.
  • It helps to strengthen your back and shoulders.
  • It prevents injury and corrects muscle imbalances. (3)

4. Rear Delt Cable Raise

As the name suggests, this weight training exercise heavily engages the posterior deltoid muscle. It is also called rear shoulder raise, rear deltoid raise, bent-over lateral raise, or rear lateral raise. It focuses on shoulder and upper back muscles and activates scapular muscles, including lower traps, rhomboids, triceps, infraspinatus muscle, etc. Moreover, this isolation exercise allows you to perform complex workouts like bench presses, inverted rows, deadlifts, etc.

It requires a cable pulley machine to perform. Rear delt cable raises. Free weights like kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, etc., are used for rear delt raise variations.

Performing Rear Delt Cable Raise:

1. Stand laterally next to a low pulley row machine and grab the handle palm with your farthest arm, crossing your arm in front of your torso.

2. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart for your starting position.

3. Pull the handle straight to the side, so the cable is across your body. Keep your arms parallel to or well above the floor.

4. Hold this position for a second.

5. Slowly lower the cable pulley back to its original position.

6. Repeat to complete the reps and sets.

7. Swap sides.

Ensure proper form and posture with enough weights to correctly complete the reps (8-12) and sets (2-3). Allow for adequate recovery by resting for 24 to 48 hours before training the same muscle groups.

Benefits of Rear Delt Cable Raise:

  • It mainly targets the shoulder muscles.
  • This workout isolates the deltoid muscle, which aids in strengthening, muscle toning, mobility, and stabilization of your shoulders and upper body.
  • Movements like the press, pull, and overhead movements are aided by solid deltoids and allow you to execute your physical and routine activities more easily while lowering your injury risk.
  • It encourages proper posture and helps to align and proportion your body.
  • Rear delt raises also enhance the performance of other weightlifting workouts like push-ups, dips, snatch, bench press, deadlift, handstands, etc., by improving strength and flexibility.

5. Standing Y Raise

As mentioned above, Y raises engage your upper back and shoulder muscles to strengthen, mobilize, sculpt, and increase your training endurance. You can perform this variation of Y raises using weights (kettlebells, dumbbells, plates, etc.) or cable equipment.

Standing Y raises crucially and powerfully works the lower trap muscle. It also activates other muscle groups that cause shoulder movement. Moreover, it creates immense tension in the abs muscles.

Performing Standing Y Raise:

Standing Y raises using dumbbells:

1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your hips and stand with your feet hip-width apart.

2. Maintain proper posture by looking at the front, chest wide open, and squeezed in shoulder blades.

3. Lift the dumbbells moving your arms overhead while exhaling. With your palms facing one another, take the Y posture.

4. Hold this position for a while.

5. Return to the starting position while inhaling and repeat the exercise.

Start with 12 to 15 repetitions with a light dumbbell set. You can combine the dumbbell Y raise with conventional push-ups and the bent-over barbell rows for a chest and back workout. Beginners can also perform it weightless or without cable equipment by simply taking the Y posture.

Standing Y raises might seem simple, but maintaining proper posture is essential. Ensure you only work your shoulder muscles, keeping your lower body stationary and the spine in a neutral position. Do not bend your back. Be consistent, calm, and steady with reps without rushing them up.  


Benefits of Standing Y Raise:

  • The standing Y raise strengthens and tones your upper body while targeting your shoulders and chest. This exercise improves posture while also sculpting the shoulders and lifting the chest.
  • It strengthens the lower traps by recruiting them while holding the Y pose.
  • It allows postural improvement and prevents the risk of injury.

6. Prone Swimmer


Prone Swimmer exercise is quite a challenging one. It requires additional stability, strength, and power as your hands and feet do not return to the ground until the repetitions are completed. Lying flat on the ground as you swiftly alternate your moving limbs, your arms and legs will hover off the ground.

Performing Prone Swimmer:

1. Lay in a prone position with your belly on the exercise mat.

2. Make sure you have pressure through your abdominal muscles such that you are arching your lower back.

3. Place your arms at the sides wider than shoulder-width apart.

4. Breath through that belly while squeezing your scapulae (shoulder blades) together.

5. Now, lift your arms and chest away from the mat.

6. Return to the original position.

Alternatively, you can keep the arms fully extended above the mat. 

Or

1. Begin by lying flat on your stomach. Place your arms on your lower back.

2. For added comfort, lay a foam block or folded cloth beneath your forehead.

3. As you elevate your arms, move your shoulders back towards the sky and down towards your feet without bending or arching your lower back.

4. Slowly stretch your arms into an A shape, then a T shape with your palms towards the ground, and finally a V shape with hands behind your head.

5. Finally, place your hands on the back of your head and gently rest them there.

6. Return to the beginning position with your arms behind your back by repeating the same steps in reverse order.

7. Reset your shoulders and elbows after each repetition.

Ensure slow, steady, and controlled movement while performing this exercise. Do not rush with reps; start with a minimum of 2-5 repetitions and 2-4 sets.

Benefits of Prone Swimmer:

  • This exercise helps to promote overall shoulder health by increasing postural strength and shoulder mobility. It's ideal to start with a few shoulder mobility exercises to get the most out of this workout.
  • It is a full-body exercise and engages back and shoulder muscles, including the lower traps.
  • It helps scapular stability and prevents injuries to the shoulder.

8.Cable Y Raise


Cable Y raise is another excellent approach to strengthen your lower traps for a more balanced shoulder girdle. This exercise aids in general strength and injury prevention. Maintain your posture as you raise your arms up and out at the top, forming a Y shape with your body. Moreover, these give effective results when performed at the end of shoulder exercises.

Although it requires a cable crossover or functional cable machine to perform this exercise, at-home trainers can also perform this exercise using a resistance band.

Performing Cable Y Raise:

1. Attach D-shaped handles to the low pulleys on a cable crossover machine.

2. Hold each handle in the opposite hand while standing between the pulleys. You can also use your hands to grab the cables instead of the handles.

3. To stretch the wires, take a step back so they crossover in front of your hips.

4. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, abs braced, and slightly bent but firm elbows.

5. Raise your arms forward and upward until they form a Y shape above your head.

6. Get back to the starting position by slowly lowering your arms.

7. Repeat to complete the appropriate amount of reps.

Light to moderate weights and moderate to high reps are ideal for this workout.

Benefits of Cable Y Raise:

  • Cable Y raise is a time-efficient shoulder exercise as it recruits and strengthens various muscles (like the middle, and lower traps, all deltoid heads, rotator cuff, and serratus anterior) at the same time.
  • It can help with shoulder soreness, aches, and pains effectively.
  • This isolation exercise helps maintain excellent posture by engaging various shoulder and upper back muscles. (4)

8. Prone Banded Row


The Row exercise is resistance training that involves a pulling motion to strengthen and develop the muscles that retract your shoulder blades and move your arms closer to your body. (5) The rows are compound exercises involving various muscles, including traps, lats, rhomboid, biceps, etc.

You can perform rows using various equipment, including cable pulleys, dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, and, in this case, resistance bands. You can use resistance bands to perform the duplicate rows as barbells, dumbbells, and cable pulley machines. Hence, resistance bands are perhaps the most adaptable training gear for rowing and pulling activities. Performing a row using a resistance band in the prone position is known as Prone Banded Row.

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Performing Prone Banded Row:

1. Lie down on the floor in the prone position with arms and legs stretched.

2. Hold the resistance band in your hands without pulling it. Stretch your arms holding the band away from yourself.

3. Lift your chest upwards away from the ground.

4. Now, pull your elbows downwards to your side and then move them back up away from yourself.

5. Once stable, keep your chest up and repeat pulling your elbows downwards and back upwards.

Or

1. Use a pole or rod as an anchor. Pass your resistance band through the pole.

2. Lie flat on your stomach in the prone position as far as possible from the pole.

3. Extend your arms and legs with toes pointing towards the ground. Look towards the ground and tuck your chin in. Keep your chest open. Hold the resistance band in your hands that are anchored through the pole.

4. Now, while lifting the chest, pull the ends of the resistance band towards yourself, moving your elbows downwards to your sides.

5. Then, move your arms back upwards towards the pole.

6. Repeat the movement to complete the repetitions.

15-20 reps of 2-3 sets are enough for performing the prone banded rows.

Benefits of Prone Banded Row:

  • It aims to strengthen back and shoulder muscles.
  • It creates a distinct range of motion around the joint, primarily recruiting the lower traps.
  • The resistance of a band increases as it is stretched more. Hence, the prone banded row will strengthen your body throughout the entire range of motion.
  • It helps in sculpting shoulders, back, forearms, and biceps muscles.
  • This is also a core-strengthening exercise that helps muscle hypertrophy, toning, and tightening.

Conclusion

The lower traps aren't the biggest, strongest, or most attractive muscle in the body, yet they're one of the most vital muscles. Underdeveloped and weak lower traps can intensify your risk of a shoulder injury and can make it challenging to execute numerous vital workouts. Specific lower trap exercises will aid in the development of a strong core foundation for larger, heavier, and more skilled strength training exercises.

Few people care to train their lower traps, but even a short workout period dedicated to this muscle will be helpful. Even a few repetitions and sets of lower trap workouts are enough. You will notice an immense difference in shoulder strength with the abovementioned best lower trap exercises!

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK518994/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30797676/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32202262/
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1050641110001793
  5. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Rami-Abbas/publication/324313435_Effect_of_strengthening_lower_trapezius_muscle_on_scapular_tipping_in_patients_with_diabetic_frozen_shoulder_A_randomized_controlled_study/links/5f734b0f299bf1b53efe7d98/Effect-of-strengthening-lower-trapezius-muscle-on-scapular-tipping-in-patients-with-diabetic-frozen-shoulder-A-randomized-controlled-study.pdf

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