Your trapezius musculus, or 'traps' for short, are more than those two lumps on the left and right side of your neck. You don't see most of the muscle in the mirror at all. That's why there's more to a complete stair training than just shrugs. In this article we will discuss exercises that specifically address your mid and/or lower traps.
THE TRAPS: STRUCTURE AND FUNCTION
After your musculus latissimus dorsi ('lats') your traps are your largest back muscle, in terms of surface area at least, starting at the base of your skull/neck and ending in the middle of your back. This muscle has the shape of a trapezium, or trapezoid, hence the name. In Dutch we call this rhombic muscle 'monkshood muscle', given its resemblance to a drooping monkshood.
Although one muscle, your traps consist of three characteristic areas: your upper, middle and lower traps. The muscle fibres of each area are oriented in a specific direction and thus responsible for a certain movement.
A well-developed trapezius provides what many bodybuilders sometimes lack: a thick upper back. Where the lats provide a wide upper back.
Your traps are more than those two bumps on the left and right side of your neck.
So the trapezius consists of three parts, each with its own structure and function(s):
* Your upper trapezius is responsible for shrugging your shoulders. The muscle fibres run diagonally outwards.
* Your middle steps are mainly responsible for squeezing your shoulder blades, although they are assisted by the upper and lower steps. The muscle fibres run less or more horizontally.
* Finally, your lower steps are responsible for pulling down your shoulder blades. The muscle fibres run at an angle inwards.
When somebody says he or she is training his or her stairs, he or she usually refers to the upper stairs. After all, you train them specifically with the (barbell) shrug. Your middle and lower stages remain virtually unaffected by the conventional shrug, but if all goes well, they already do enough work during your regular back training - provided you squeeze your shoulder blades together properly at the end of the movements.
WHEN DO YOU NEED EXTRA MID AND LOWER TRAP TRAINING?
Could your upper back use a little more thickness, or depth? If your muscularity in the area between the shoulder blades is poor, this may be due to an incomplete ROM and poor shoulder blade retraction during back exercises. And perhaps also due to a poor mind-muscle connection with the mid and lower traps, which you can remedy by 'activating' these muscles first.
But it's also possible that your back training is too wide, i.e. focused on the lats. Perhaps because you have that coveted V-shape in mind. As far as we are concerned, an alien back, a thick back full of muscle bulges, is even more impressive.
But your lack of such a thick back, despite a lot of back training, can also be a purely genetic issue. Your traps simply need extra stimuli to develop properly.
Finally, you may not have programmed your training properly. For example, you do too much volume (per week and/or per training) or too little, you train too much to muscle failure or stay too far away from it, and so on. In that case you must first compile a thorough training program before you start doing extra kicking exercises.
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