Looking to shape up your back? Almost every exercise that works your upper body will involve your back muscles in some way. Even many lower-body exercises, such as lunges and deadlifts, also work your back muscles, including the trapezius muscles located around your shoulder blades. A variety of exercises will strengthen and stretch your lower traps and give you a back you'll be proud of.
The Lower Trapezius
The trapezius muscles include the upper fibers in the back of your head and neck, and they continue down through the lower fibers, which run along your spine from your shoulders to the middle of your back. The triangular lower traps primarily move the shoulder blades and also help extend your spine. In general, exercises in which your shoulder blades move will engage your lower traps, since they’re attached to the shoulder blades.
A cable weight machine provides several options to work the lower trapezius muscles. Using a cable set at low position, you can perform almost any type of rowing exercise to build your lower traps. You can be seated, standing or lying on a bench to do these exercise. Move the cable to the middle or top of the machine for even more seated or standing rowing exercises. Attach a small handle onto the cable to perform one-arm exercises, or use a large or V-shaped handle for the two-handed varieties. Rowing exercises also can be performed with free weights. Additionally, most pulldown exercises that target the latissimus dorsi, or lat, muscles also provide a good workout to your lower traps.
You don’t have to lift external weights to give your back an effective workout. Lifting your bodyweight can work just fine. Chinups and pullups work a variety of back, shoulder, chest and upper arm muscles, including your middle and lower trapezius. You can perform bodyweight rows by lying on your back and grasping a low horizontal bar. If you’re a gymnast or you have good balance, try doing a handstand shoulder press between a pair of exercise benches.
Stretching before and after your workout helps loosen your muscles, gets the blood flowing and increases your range of motion. Deltoid stretches are designed to stretch the deltoid muscles in your shoulders, but they also stretch the neighboring lower and middle traps. Perform a rhomboid stretch by grasping a horizontal bar, placing your feet against the wall and leaning back to stretch your middle and lower traps. Bent-over stretches with your hands on your hips will work muscles from your traps to your hamstrings.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.