Trapezoids: Exercises to Strengthen and Stretch

5th September 2019
The trapezoids are located in the upper back and they're responsible for raising your shoulders, turning your head and bringing your scapulae closer. It's necessary to strengthen and stretch them!

The trapezoids are flattened muscles located in the upper back. In the following article, we’ll tell you about the anatomy of the trapezoids, as well as how to strengthen and stretch them.

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What to know about trapezoid anatomy

The trapezoid muscle is located at the back of the neck and continues down the back past the shoulder blades.

The muscle gets its name due to the fact that it has a similar shape to the geometric shape known as a trapezoid (a line on the bottom, two diagonal lines of the same length on each side, and a line on the top longer than the one on the bottom).

The trapezoids are found inside the neck, in the external occipital protuberance, in the posterior cervical ligament, in the seventh vertebra and in all the corresponding ligaments.

The top part of these muscles is very robust and thick and the bottom part consists of transverse fibers. Additionally, its function is to raise the shoulders, bring the scapulae closer to the spine, and turn the head.

Working the trapezoids is important to avoid injuries and expand your mobility.

Exercises to strengthen the trapezoids

There are many exercises that serve to work the back in general as well as the trapezoids. However, there are also specific exercises for strengthening this area. We recommend that you do a workout routine of 10 to 12 repetitions per exercise:

1. Shoulder shrug with dumbbells

The exercise works to increase muscle mass and strengthen your trapezoids. To do it, start by standing up straight with your legs shoulder-width apart. Take a dumbbell in each hand and rest your arms at each side of your body. Finally, raise your shoulders to touch your ears.

Couple in gym lift bar to work trapezoids

2. Arm circle for trapezoids

This exercise is perfect for both the trapezoids and the forearms and shoulders. Stand with your back straight and raise your arms to shoulder height (as if forming a cross), so that they’re parallel to the ground.

Once ready, make circular clockwise movements with your shoulders. After 30 seconds, do them in reverse. When you’ve had enough practice, we recommend that you add some weights: for example, dumbbells or discs.

Woman in gym works her back with a machine

3. Bar lift to the chin

With the help of this exercise, you’ll strengthen your trapezoids as well as your deltoids. Standing, take the bar with both arms stretched in front of your chest and your fists facing forward. Then, lift it while bending your elbows and pointing them outward on each side.

The objective is for your fists to be on either side of your face, so that the bar touches the tip of your chin. Hold this position for a few seconds before returning to the start position.

Woman lifting a Russian dumbbell at the gym

4. Superman

This exercise is very useful for strengthening the lower back and trapezoids. To do it, first lie face down on an exercise mat. Stretch out your legs and extend your arms out above your head.

Now, lift your arms and legs up off the floor. The idea is that your ribs, hips, and thighs stay on the floor to support the rest of your body, which should be fully suspended in the air.

Finally, be sure that your head is always pointing down to avoid contractures and other neck problems. Hold this position for 20 seconds then lower and rest.

The superman is a fantastic exercise to strengthen the back and trapezoid muscles.

Man on a field doing a superman exercise

5. Military press behind the neck

Last but not least, the military press behind the neck is an effective exercise to work the trapezoid muscles. You need a bar (when starting out, use a bar without any extra weight such as discs), which you’ll rest on your shoulders. To do the workout, raise the bar by stretching your arms up above the head.

Hold this position for a few seconds and then return to the start position.

Couple doing trapezoids workout together at gym

Exercises to stretch the trapezoids

The trapezoids are one of the muscles that contract the most. This is because many people spend hours in front of the computer or sleep with a pillow that doesn’t provide adequate support. The good news is that there are certain exercises that allow us to stretch this area and reduce pain:

1. Hands behind the neck

You can stand or sit for this stretch. Take both hands behind the head and intertwine the fingers. Rest your hands on the back of your neck and exert some pressure downward. Your elbows should be in front of the face, as close together as possible.

Women in yoga class doing neck stretch

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2. Side tilt to stretch your trapezoids

Finally, this is a perfect stretch to do in the office. It’s simple: first, bring your right hand over your head and rest it on your left temple. Exert slight pressure towards the right and hold for a few seconds. Then, do the same thing on the other side.

Woman with hand on temple stretching neck and muscles

In short, the trapezoid muscles are very important due to their important functions and because of how easily they’re affected. Therefore, it’s essential to strengthen and stretch them, not only when they hurt, but also to prevent injuries and pain.

  • Músculos de la espalda. Amici Virtual. Recuperado de: https://www.amicivirtual.com.ar/Anatomia/07MuscEspal.pdf
  • Músculo trapecio. Universidad de Granada. Recuperado de: https://www.ugr.es/~dlcruz/musculos/musculos/trapecio.htm