The traps, or trapezius muscles, run from the base of your skull, out to your shoulders and down to your mid-back and are often a site of stiffness and soreness. This is likely due to being used on a constant basis. Whether it's lifting weights in the gym, carrying groceries or kids or even just sitting at your desk all day, your traps are constantly under stress. Fortunately, several steps can loosen your stiff traps and keep them flexible and pain free.
Complete the steps several times throughout the day everyday or whenever your traps begin to stiffen. Use slow, controlled movements and breathe deeply throughout every exercise. Perform the shoulder shrugs and rolls before attempting any of the trapezius stretches.
Do not force any positions; if you experience pain or discomfort, stop the exercise immediately.
Perform shrugs and rolls with your shoulders to increase blood flow and elicit muscle movement. Sit or stand and breathe deeply as you slowly bring your shoulders as high as possible toward your ears. Pause and then lower them as far as possible. Complete 10 to 20 shrugs. After you've completed your shrugs, begin rolling your shoulders. Roll them to the back 10 times, then forward 10 times.
Complete a neck stretch to loosen the uppermost fibers of your traps. Sit or stand with your torso erect. Place your right hand on the left side of your head. Gently pull your head toward your right armpit until you feel a stretch up the left side of your neck. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then repeat the movement on the right side.
Use the trapezius stretch to lengthen and loosen your stiff muscles. Bend your right elbow and place your right arm behind your back. Grasp your right wrist with your left hand. Gently pull your right arm to the left while simultaneously tilting your head toward your left shoulder until you feel a stretch in your right trap. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds while breathing deeply. Relax your right arm, then repeat the stretch with your left trap.
Stretch the muscles of your mid-back to relieve stiffness in the middle fibers of the traps. Position your left arm across your chest, placing your right hand on your left elbow. Gently push your left arm toward your chest while simultaneously turning your head to the left. Move until you feel a stretch in the left side of your trapezius. Hold the position for at least 30 seconds, then repeat the stretch with your right arm.
Jen Weir writes for several websites, specializing in the health and fitness field. She holds a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Montana State University, is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist and maintains a personal trainer certification from the American College of Sports Medicine.