5 Best Lower Trap Exercises For Strength And Stability

Most training protocols program resistance training exercises that emphasize the upper and mid trapezius, often neglecting the lower traps. The lower traps are fundamental in scapula movement and control. Poor scapular retraction, especially during overhead movement can and may predispose athletes to shoulder pain and result in injury. We’re going to discuss the best lower trap exercises to help you strengthen your back, build more lean muscle mass, and maximize your athletic performance.

Lower Trap Anatomy

The trapezius and lower trapezius have four major functions: retracing the scapula, depressing the scapula, posterior tilting of the scapula, and upward rotation of the scapula. As you can imagine, the lower taps play a fundamental role in scapula control and mechanics for stabilization and movement. Poor scapula movement, during overhead movements, such as overhead press, snatch, clean and jerk or push press, can result in may predispose the athletic shoulder to injury in the form of impingement, subacromial bursitis and instability which can lead to shoulder pain.

The trapezius is a large superficial muscle that resembles a trapezoid. It extends from the occipital bone, down to the lower thoracic vertebrae and laterally to the spine of the scapula. The trapezius has upper, middle, and lower groups of muscle fibers [R].

Conventional training protocols program strength movements, which target the upper and middle traps, however, often neglect to emphasize the lower traps.

Best Lower Trap Exercises

Face Pull

 

The face pull has several different variations. The most common is performed with a rope on a cable pulley machine, however you can also use bands, rings, and even the sled. Electromyographic (EMG) studies have shown that movements involving scapular retraction such as the face pull activate the lower trap significantly [R]. 

With a cable or band, grab each side with your palms facing out.

  • Set up the cable pulley, so that the pulley system is positioned at the top above your head.
  • Reach up and grasp the rope handles with both hands with your palms facing out. Step back until your arms are fully extended.
  • Tighten and engage your core and lean back slightly at a 20-degree angle.
  • Pull the rope toward you just enough to start lifting the weight from the stack, then engage your shoulders.
  • Pull the handles of the rope toward your forehead. Retract your scapula (squeeze your shoulder blades together) and engage your rear delts and traps. Keep your palms facing in as your elbows flare outward toward the sides.
  • Reverse the movement and slowly extend your arms without allowing your shoulders or chest to roll forward as you extend maintaining good posture throughout the exercise.

Farmers Walk/Carry

The farmers walk involves heavier loads carried for a specified distance and can greatly increase overall core stability, strength, and improve exercise conditioning. Farmers carry activates a wide range of muscle groups and significantly stimulates the lower and upper traps.

To do the farmer’s carry, you’re going to first need to establish what you’re going to carry. For most, this will be dumbbells, plates, kettlebells, or if you’re lucky enough to have access to them, farmers carry walk handles. With a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells, walk a specific distance while contracting your abdominals and core. Make sure the loaded weight is challenging, yet manageable.

  • Start in the standing position with your weights to the side of your body. Shoulders should be over the feet.
  • Squat down like you’re going to deadlift, with your hands to the side, chest up, shoulders back.
  • Grab your weights firmly, stand straight up, and while maintaining tight core and active shoulders, set your eyes forward and begin to take small controlled steps, trying not to use the side-to-side bobbing motion to create momentum to move forward.
  • Perform the walk for 20’ - 50’, set your equipment down, take a quick break, then repeat.

Overhead Press 

Overhead press is another great lower trap exercise. the overhead press offers more functional benefits, than just isolated strength. Overhead press is a functional movement and engages multiple muscle groups, stabilizing muscles, and joints, which can improve mobility, core stability, and balance.

  • Traditional performed with a barbell, place a barbell in a rack at about shoulder-height.
  • Place feet shoulder width apart, and brace your abs, setting a solid foundation.
  • Grip the bar with the hands about shoulder-width apart and the palm facing the ceiling.
  • Dip under the bar to bring it off the rack letting it rest across the top of the shoulders so that the palms are facing the ceiling and the elbows are pointed straight ahead.
  • Step back, keeping the back straight and tall and press the barbell directly overhead, breathing out when pressing overhead, and breathing in when returning the bar across the top of the shoulders. 
  • Slowly return the weight to the shoulders and repeat for the desired number of reps.

T-Bar Row

The T-Bar row is easily one of the best exercises for your lower traps. This movement effectively isolates the trapezius with specific emphasis on scapular retraction helping to increase strength, lean muscle mass, and build better core stability.   

  • Add a manageable amount of weight to the t-bar machine
  • Place your feet at shoulder width behind yourself on the back of the machine, on the foot plate
  • Facing chest down, grab the handles of the t-bar machine and move over directly beneath you. 
  • Tighten and engage your core, then pull the t-bar row towards you (similar to a bench press in reverse).
  • Retract your scapulae and squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement, sweeping your elbows back. 
  • Reverse the movement and slowly extend your arms without allowing your shoulders or chest to roll forward as you extend maintaining good posture throughout the exercise.

Good Mornings

Good mornings are a compound functional strength movement. Often referred to as a mix between a squat and deadlift the movement pattern mimics a romanian deadlift but with the weight seated on your shoulders. Compound movements  activate several muscle groups, joints, and stabilizing muscles in one fluid motion, increasing strength, mobility, and balance. 

Good mornings heavily recruit the muscles in your posterior chain, like your hip flexors, abductors, lower traps, hamstrings, glutes, and quads. As your hips hinge, on the extension, your glutes, core, quads, hamstrings and calves are activated, requiring more core stabilization. As you push the weight back up, or during the eccentric phase, your lower back, quads, and glutes are activated and contracted. 

  • Good mornings are very similar to the straight leg deadlift. Both exercises are used to target the hamstrings, however opposed to lifting the weight from the ground, the barbell is behind your neck, supported by your shoulders similar to the weight positioning of a barbell back squat.
  • Place the barbell with moderate or light weight on your upper traps behind your neck, slightly higher than the positing of a barbell back squat at a squat rack.
  • Place your feet shoulder width apart, engage your core, and slowly hinge at your hips bending forward from the hips, until your trunk is approximately parallel with the floor.
  • Extend your hips, and push your weight through your feet and heels, standing the weight back up to starting position. Repeat.
  • Start with a weight that’s only about 20-25% of your back squat.

Lower Trap Exercises: Takeaway

Training your lower traps with specific intent will help in creating a strong core foundation to bigger, heavier, and more technical strength training movements. The lower traps are specifically activated with scapular retraction, and greatly effect posture, stability and balance while building more lean muscle mass and strength. 


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