Three Ways To Innervate The Lower Trapezius                            


Ralph Cornwellis a Ph.D. candidate in health promotion/human performance at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Prior to pursuing his Doctoral Degree he was a collegiate strength coach.



Although it is one continuous muscle, the trapezius has three distinct sections: the upper, middle, and lower trapezius. It has a  diamond shape, with the triangle of the upper trapezius attaching to the occipital bone at the base of the skull and spreading outward to the top of either scapula.


Beneath the middle portion is the inverted triangle of the lower trapezius, which runs diagonally on either side of the spine from the spinous processes of the middle-to-lower thoracic vertebra to the lower inside edges of the of the scapula.

The lower trapezius is positioned to pull downward and inward on the scapula toward the spine.

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It works in opposition to the upper trapezius which is the division of the muscle whose job is to elevate the scapula, or shrug the shoulders. 

A strong lower trapezius is critical in the positioning of the scapula for developing a base for power in the upper torso. And is one of the areas of our anatomy that is a  dissipater of kinetic energy during head collisions.

Lower Trapezius

Three Ways to innervate the lower traps

1. Scapular depression

describe the imageOn a dip bar, keep the arms straight and let the entire body lower in the direction of the force of gravity. In this phase of the movement  the scapula actually elevates.

Now the arms are fixed and the lower fibers of the trapezius will have to raise the weight of your whole body.


describe the imageThis is a lot of effort for a small amount of muscle fiber to perform this movement.




2. One arm dumbbell seated overhead press

The dumbbell must be directly over the trapezius. This produces a rotary movement of the scapula; moving the inferior angle of scapula laterally and upward.

3.  Use a seated row machine, such as the Pendulum 3-way row.  The lifter does one set of rows with a neutral or parallel grip. This should be performed for period of 60 seconds or less to momentary concentric failure or until a repetition cannot be performed with good form. The athlete will pause at the top of each repetition retracting the scapula. This is to fatigue the larger muscles such as the rhomboids.

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With minimal rest the load is reduced by at least 40 percent, more if needed. With an underhand and wide grip, the arms are pointing at a slightly downward angle approximately 10 degrees.

This exercise has two movements. The first is similar to a Kelso Shrug. The arms do not bend and all the movement is done by scapular retraction. Once the scapula is fully contracted the athlete flexes the elbows and pulls the weight 10 to 12 inches and pauses for a second. At that moment the athlete should be envisioning depressing the scapula.


The weight is then lowered under control and another repetition is then performed. The exercise is terminated when form is compromised.  This movement innervates the lower most fibers of the lower trapezius.


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