Avoid the mid-life hump
Women often won’t work their traps because of a fear of looking freakishly muscular. They see bodybuilders with trapezius muscles so large that they form a straight, bulging line from their necks to their shoulders.
But since women’s muscles aren’t genetically inclined to get that big and bulky without the help of steroids or rigorous training, you can put aside your concerns and start realizing the benefits of strengthening this underappreciated posture enhancer.
What are the trapezius muscles and where are they located?
When viewed together the trapezoids form a shape that looks like a kite or trapezoid (hence the name). They start from a point at the base of the skull, fan out across each side of the neck to the shoulders and meet in a point near the middle of the back.
What do they do?
Traps shrug up, draw shoulder blades together and pull shoulder blades down. They bring the head and neck backwards and rotate and side-bend the neck.
Why you should strengthen your trapezius muscles
If you have weak traps your posture can suffer. They are the source of that sore feeling you get in your neck and the top of you shoulders after a long day working at a desk. Strong traps force you to stand straight and tall, pulling your shoulders back. They counterbalance the forward-pull of the chest.
There is no better way to avoid developing a hump as you age. Strengthening traps also has the potential to alleviate shoulder pain.
Exercises that target the traps
- Upright row - Hold a barbell or two dumbbells in down-stretched arms, palms facing back, hands just in front of the hips. Lift the weights straight up, keeping hands close to your body until upper and lower arms are parallel to the floor. Lower and repeat. Make sure to ask a pro if you’re not sure how to do it correctly and quit if it hurts your wrists. This move hits the mid and lower traps.
- Shrug - This move targets your upper traps. Holding weighs in each down-stretched arm, first relax shoulders and then raise them as high as you can. Repeat.
- Bent lateral raise - Stand with bent knees shoulder width apart and hinge forward at the waist. Hold dumbbells in front of you at arms length, with a slight bend in the elbows and palms facing each other. Engage traps and rear delts to raise the dumbbells in a sideways arc.
- Clean and jerk - This two-parter is a compound exercise that works both the upper and lower body. There’s no point going into all the details here, but the starting position is similar to that of the deadlift. Much jumping, shrugging, squatting and reaching later and you’ve worked your traps, plus a few dozen other muscles.