How to Stretch the Trapezius Dynamically

Your trapezius muscles help move the shoulder blades.
i Siri Stafford/Lifesize/Getty Images

If you’ve been sitting at a desk all day you may have something in common with an exerciser who’s been working her upper back -- sore trapezius muscles. Your traps are triangle-shaped muscle groups on both sides of your upper spine that assist in many shoulder blade movements. Whether you’ve been hunched over a computer keyboard or you’re getting ready to perform shrugs and rows, you should feel better after doing some dynamic trapezius stretches.

Perpendicular Arm Swings

    Step 1

    Stand erect with your feet shoulder-width apart or a bit wider, your knees flexed slightly and your arms hanging naturally at your sides.

    Step 2

    Swing your arms forward in a fluid motion so your hands move in an arc and your arms remain straight, traveling upward and in front of your torso, then continuing up until your arms are extended straight to the ceiling.

    Step 3

    Move your arms down, traveling the same path they took on the way up, but continue past the starting point until your arms stretch as far behind your back as they comfortably can. This completes one repetition. Perform six to 10 reps.

Horizontal Arm Swings

    Step 1

    Stand tall with your feet at least shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms horizontally straight in front of your upper chest.

    Step 2

    Move both arms to the sides, with your right arm swinging to your right, horizontally, as far as possible, and the left arm moving to your left. Keep your arms fairly straight throughout the exercise.

    Step 3

    Return both arms along the same paths, but cross them in front of your torso so your right hand ends up near your left shoulder and vice-versa. It’s OK to bend your elbows as your arms cross over. Continue for six to 10 reps.

Trapezius and Rotator Cuff Stretch

    Step 1

    Stand erect with your feet shoulder-width apart and your right arm hanging at your right side. Bend your left elbow and raise your left arm so your forearm is parallel with the floor, your elbow points to your left and your hand is above your lower left chest.

    Step 2

    Exhale as you raise your left hand to the back of your shoulders, just to the right of your neck while maintaining your elbow bend. Simultaneously raise your right hand to the back of your left elbow and push the elbow gently toward your body. Hold for about two seconds to deepen the stretch.

    Step 3

    Walk your fingers down your back at the peak of the stretch to keep your left arm in motion.

    Step 4

    Inhale as you return your arms to the starting position. Perform six to 10 repetitions with each arm.


    • Perform dynamic trapezius stretches after an aerobic warm-up and before your main upper back workout. Do static stretches to increase your flexibility when your strength workout is over.


    • You should feel some tightness in your upper back, but no pain, at the peak moment of each stretch. Ease off or stop performing a stretch if you feel pain.

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