Table of Contents
Lower trap exercises can play an important part in good posture along with improved shoulder and neck health.
Due to the sedentary lifestyle led by many people, it’s common to hear of sore neck muscles and shoulder pain.
Weak lower traps may be a contributing factor to these ailments.
If you spend a lot your day sitting at a desk, you may notice a rounding of your shoulders, causing you to hunch forwards.
A primary cause of this is due to weak lower traps. This highlights the importance of building stronger traps to help with good posture.
In this article we’ll be recommending the best lower trap exercises for posture.
What Are The Trapezius Muscles?
The trapezius muscle, commonly referred to as the traps, is a large, flat muscle which is trapezoid in shape, hence its name.
It’s located on the back of the upper body and covers the upper part of the neck and shoulders. It originates from the base of the neck and continues down along the shoulders and down to the mid back area.
There are three parts of the trapezius, with each part playing an important role when it comes to performing daily activities.
Collectively, they play a vital role in supporting the neck and upper back and aiding with certain movements of the upper body.
The upper traps originate from the base of the skull and run down to the top of the shoulders.
These muscle fibers are responsible for elevating the point of the shoulder. Simply put, they help to raise your shoulders up towards your ears.
The upper traps also aid with extension of the neck, allowing you to turn your head up to face the sky and lateral flexion of the neck, which is tipping your head from side to side.
The upper traps often become tight and overactive. If you find this, read our article with some recommended upper trap exercises to relieve tension and loosen them up.
The middle trapezius sits directly beneath your upper traps and spans the width of your upper back and across the shoulders.
The middle trap fibers, along with the inferior fibers, perform rotation of the scapula.
Rotation of the scapula allows for adduction of the arm; this is to lift your arm up and out to the side and beyond the point of 90 degrees. The mid traps also allow for adduction of the scapula, this is to push your shoulders back and down.
The lower traps are below the middle fibers and triangular in shape. They help to perform the action of scapular retraction which is to pull your shoulder blades together and toward your spine.
This happens when doing something such as pushing yourself up from a chair, causing contraction of the lower traps. Essentially, it performs the opposite action to that of the upper traps.
In this article we’ll recommend some of the best exercises to recruit the lower trap muscles helping to make them stronger.
Nine Best Lower Trap Exercises For Posture
While it’s not possible to completely isolate the lower traps, you can place more emphasis on them with our recommended exercises for lower traps.
When these lower trapezius exercises are performed regularly, and with proper form, you may notice postural changes that help to alleviate tightness to the upper back and shoulders.
- Farmer’s Carry/Walk
- Prone Y Raise
- Reverse Shrugs
- Cable Y Raise
- Face Pulls
- Single-Arm Straight-Arm Pushdowns
- Straight Arm Dips
- T Bar Row
- Reverse Grip Barbell Row
Let’s look at these lower trapezius exercises in a bit more detail:
1. Farmer’s Carry/Walk
The farmer’s walk is an excellent compound exercise, great for building core stability, targeting a number of muscle groups including your lower traps. Over time it’ll help to improve cardiovascular strength and burn body fat.
A simple exercise to perform, all you need is some farmers walk handles.
If you don’t have access to these, then using a pair of dumbbells will be fine.
How to Do The Farmers Walk
- Stand between your farmers walk handles or dumbbells.
- Squat down and pick up the weights. Your palms should be facing inwards.
- Keep your chest and head up and shoulders back.
- Walk forwards for as many steps as possible before turning around and returning back to the starting position.
2. Prone Y Raise
Researchers from Rocky Mountain University experimented to see the difference between lower trap-specific exercises and other exercises.
The prone Y raise showed the highest EMG activity, indicating that it was effective for the lower trap muscles.
Beginners may find the prone Y raise challenging, so it is best to start slowly and with a light weight. For this exercise you’ll need an adjustable weights bench and a pair of dumbbells.
How To Do A Prone Y Raise
- Set your bench at a 30-degree angle.
- Lie on the bench, chest down with your head towards the top of the bench pad.
- Holding a dumbbell in each hand and with your thumbs up, keep your arms straight and lift the dumbbells up.
- Reach a point where your arms are in line with the rest of your body.
- At the top of the movement, your arms should be up and out, so that you form a Y shape.
- Hold for one or two seconds.
- Exhale while slowly dropping your arms to the starting position and then repeat.
3. Reverse Shrugs
To strengthen the upper trapezius rather than the lower, shrugs are a simple exercise. You can read more about the regular shrug here.
There’s a shrug variation known as the reverse shrug which will recruit more of your lower traps making it a good addition to your lower traps workout.
In regular shrugs, the primary action is scapular elevation, while in reverse shrugs, you are doing scapular depression.
For this exercise you’ll access to a smith machine. The goal is to keep your arms straight as you pull yourself, isolating the lower trap.
How to Do A Reverse Shrug
- Load weight onto the bar of the smith machine and position at around knee height.
- Stand so that the bar of the smith machine is behind you.
- Take hold of the bar with a pronated grip (palms facing away from you).
- Stand upright and keep your hips forward.
- Keeping your arms straight, pull the bar up by elevating your shoulders towards your ears.
- Repeat as required.
4. Cable Y Raise
The cable Y raise is derived from the prone Y raise with the main difference being that resistance is added with the cable variation.
While it’s a great exercise to target your delts, it’s perfect for warming up and adding extra definition making it one of the best lower trap exercises for posture.
This exercise activates a number of other muscles, including the rhomboids, rotator cuff, and serratus anterior.
You’ll need access to a dual adjustable pulley machine and two cable attachments, one for each hand.
How to Do A Cable Y Raise
- Select an appropriate weight set on each side and position both pulleys to around knee height.
- Start with lighter weights if it is your first time doing a weighted exercise for the lower trapezius muscle.
- Stand facing the pulley cables and maintain a shoulder-width stance.
- Take a cable in each hand so that the right one is in your left hand and the left is in your right hand.
- Step back from the machine to create some tension in the cables.
- Keeping your arms straight and core braced, slowly raise the cables up and out. Stop when your arms are in line with the rest of your body, your arms should be forming a Y shape.
- Hold for one or two seconds.
- Exhale and lower the cables slowly back to the starting position.
- Repeat these steps for each rep.
5. Face Pulls
Face pulls are one of the best trap exercises you can do. Aside from the lower traps, it’ll also recruit your upper back, rhomboids and rear shoulder muscles.
During the movement your shoulders should remain engaged throughout, encouraging the muscles to build up volume and definition.
Face pulls improve posture by working the upper back muscles and reinforcing a strong mind muscle connection. You’ll need access to a cable pulley machine and a rope attachment.
How to Do A Face Pull Exercise
- Position a cable pulley to around chest height, or slightly lower.
- Take hold of each end of the rope using an overhand grip.
- Take one or two steps back from the machine to create tension.
- Keep your feet around shoulder width apart, slightly bend the knees and brace your core.
- Drop the shoulders and begin to the pull the rope towards your face.
- Make sure you keep your elbows higher than your wrists and squeeze the shoulders blades at the top of the movement.
- Slowly return back to the start and repeat.
6. Single Straight-Arm Pulldown
The one arm straight arm pulldown is a variation of the classic lat pulldown exercise and is good for people who have trouble doing pulldown exercises.
How to Do A Single Straight Arm Pulldown
- Adjust a cable pulley to the top of the machine. Attach a D-handle or rope and choose your weight.
- Stand in front of the cable with feet around shoulder width apart with knees slightly bent.
- Hinge forward slightly at the hips and take hold of attachment with a pronated grip.
- Step back from the machine to create tension in the cable.
- Keep your back and arm straight throughout, slowly bring the cable down and towards you.
- Stop when your arm is in line with the rest of your body.
- Slowly return back to the starting position before repeating.
7. Straight-Arm Dips
The straight-arm dip is a bilateral exercise effective for the lower trap and improves shoulder stability and mobility.
Add weights or a resistance band to increase the resistance if you want to make it more challenging.
How to Do Straight Arm Dips?
- Use an assisted dip machine or a parallel dip bar for this exercise.
- Get on the bars and take the position of a regular dip. Keep your arms straight instead of moving your shoulders and elbows.
- Your scapula should be in a neutral position before your start.
- Take a deep breath and brace your core by contracting the muscles. You can bend your knees and cross them behind you or keep your legs straight for stability.
- Allow your body to sink down as low as possible whilst the arms remain straight.
- Maintain this position for up to two seconds.
- Focus on the lower traps and push the scapula down so that you raise back up to the starting position and then repeat.
8. T Bar Row
The T-Bar Row is a compound exercise that primarily targets the middle and lower traps, rhomboids, and latissimus dorsi.
By engaging the lower traps, it helps in stabilizing the shoulder blades, promoting better posture and reducing the risk of shoulder injuries.
The T-Bar Row is particularly effective for the lower traps because it allows for a full range of motion and the ability to lift heavier loads, which is essential for muscle hypertrophy and strength.
How to Do The T Bar Row:
- Set up a barbell in a T-Bar row machine or by using a bar loaded into a landmine attachment.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with the bar between your legs. Bend your knees slightly for stability.
- If you’re using a T-Bar machine, grip the handles. If not, grip the bar using a V-grip handle under the bar.
- Lean over while until your torso is around 45 degrees from the floor. Keeping your back straight, lift the bar by pulling the weight towards your chest. Make sure you keep your elbows tucked in and close to your body.
- Once the bar is close to your chest, squeeze your shoulder blades together to engage the lower traps. Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.
- Perform the desired number of repetitions, maintaining form and control throughout the exercise.
9. Reverse Grip Barbell Row
The Reverse Grip Barbell Row targets the upper back, including the lower traps, by emphasizing scapular retraction and depression.
This variation of the barbell row, with palms facing away from you (supinated grip), shifts some of the focus towards the lower traps and helps in enhancing back thickness and posture.
How to Do A Reverse Grip Barbell Row:
- Hold a barbell using both hands and with a reverse grip (palms facing forward).
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees slightly and hinge forward from the hips, keeping your back straight and almost parallel to the floor.
- Begin with your arms extended, hanging down towards the floor. Pull the barbell towards your waist, keeping your elbows close to your body and your wrists straight.
- Once the barbell is at your hip crease, squeeze your shoulder blades together to fully engage the lower traps.
- Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position, maintaining a controlled movement.
- Complete the desired number of repetitions, ensuring to keep the core engaged and the back straight throughout the exercise.
What Are The Benefits Of Strong Lower Traps
Strong lower traps play an important role in maintaining optimal posture and shoulder stability, offering many benefits for overall physical health and athletic performance.
Strengthening the lower traps helps in retracting and depressing the shoulder blades, counteracting the forward shoulder posture often caused by prolonged sitting and computer use.
This leads to a more upright and aligned spine, reducing the risk of neck and back pain.
Improved Shoulder Function
Strong lower traps contribute to proper shoulder mechanics, promoting smooth and efficient movement patterns during daily activities and exercise.
This can prevent shoulder impingement and rotator cuff injuries while improving shoulder mobility and range of motion.
Reduced Risk of Injury
By stabilizing the shoulder girdle, strong lower traps help distribute forces evenly across the shoulders and upper back, reducing the strain on surrounding muscles and ligaments.
This lowers the risk of overuse injuries and enhances overall joint health.
Better Athletic Performance
Athletes across various sports, such as swimming, overhead throwing, and weightlifting, benefit from strong lower traps as they provide a solid foundation for generating power and transferring force efficiently through the upper body.
This can lead to improved performance and reduced risk of sports-related injuries.
Balanced Muscle Development
Developing strong lower traps contributes to a well-rounded and balanced physique, preventing muscle imbalances that can lead to compensatory movement patterns and injury.
This supports overall strength gains and aesthetic goals in fitness training.
Why Are My Lower Traps So Weak
Weakness in your lower traps can be attributed to several potential causes, many of which are common in today’s sedentary lifestyle and exercise habits.
Understanding these causes can help you to identify ways to address and strengthen this important muscle group.
Lack of Activation
The lower traps are often underutilized in many daily activities and traditional strength training programs.
This, combined with poor posture, such as slouching or rounding your shoulders, can further diminish their activation, leading to weakness over time.
Overemphasis on exercises that target the chest, shoulders, and upper traps, while neglecting the lower traps, can result in muscle imbalances.
This imbalance not only weakens the lower traps but also increases the risk of injury and postural dysfunction.
Prolonged sitting, especially in front of a computer or desk, can lead to weakened lower traps due to constant shoulder rounding and lack of movement.
This sedentary lifestyle contributes to muscle atrophy and inhibition of proper muscle activation leading to weak lower traps.
Inadequate Exercise Selection
Many people may not include specific exercises that target the lower traps in their workout routines.
However, without proper exercise selection and technique, the lower traps may not be adequately stimulated to become stronger.
Poor Movement Patterns
Incorrect movement patterns during exercise, such as excessive shrugging or reliance on the upper traps, can limit the involvement of the lower traps and hinder their development.
It’s essential to focus on proper form and technique to effectively engage the lower traps and to prevent the upper traps from becoming overactive which causes tight neck and shoulder muscles.
Neglecting Rehabilitation When Injured
Injuries or conditions that affect your shoulders or upper back, such as rotator cuff injuries or scapular dyskinesis, can result in your lower traps becoming weak, especially if not properly rehabilitated.
Addressing these issues with targeted exercises is important to restore strength and function to your shoulders and entire back.
How many reps are best for the lower traps?
The exercises mentioned in this article are low impact, so you should do 12 – 15 reps and 3 sets for each. Increase the workout intensity by adding weights or resistance bands.
As you become stronger, you can increase the weight load or the number of repetitions.
How many times each week should I do a lower trap workout?
You should aim for 2 to 3 times per week, this will then allow for rest days in between training.
Add lower trap exercises to your daily workout schedule to strengthen the trapezius muscles along with the rest of your body.
Are shrugs effective for strengthening lower traps?
Shrugs perform scapular depression and are not suitable for training the lower traps. Instead the reverse shrugs is a great alternative that targets the scapula.
Strong lower trap muscles give volume and definition to your middle back. What’s more, they’re vital for a good body posture and strong shoulders.
Take time to incorporate a these lower traps exercises into your workout routine.
Don’t forget about your other back muscles as together, they work to improve your shoulder stability and increase overall strength.
Before you go, have you ever considered the Gorilla Row exercise.
This is a fantastic exercise for working multiple muscles across your upper body and is a great back builder.