Back to Muscle of the Month
Origin: Superior nuchal line of occipital bone, ligamentum nuchae, and spines of seventh cervical and all thoracic vertebrae.*
Insertion: Clavicle, acromion, and spine of scapula.*
Muscle Action: Elevate scapula and can help extend head. Along with the inferior fibers it can rotate the scapula upwards.*
This weeks exercise to hit this muscle is Barbell Shrugs
The upper trap is mainly responsible for elevating the shoulders and is also activated when the arms are raised up (to either the front or the side). It can either be classified or grouped in with the back or the shoulders. Technically the upper trap should only be activated on shoulder day, being that if you were to do any of your back exercises correctly (rows/pulldowns/etc…) the upper trap should not be activated. Any form of shrug will activate this muscle group. It is also worked in movements such as front & lateral raises. When you raise your arms above 90 degrees (in either direction) you have a higher activation of the upper trap. Other movements that hit this muscle group include high pulls and farmers walk. Just remember a muscle does not have to perform its muscle action to be strengthened (ex. farmers walk).
The upper trap is also a part of a group of muscles that are associated with the Upper Crossed Syndrome. The Upper Crossed Syndrome involves a group of muscles that are relatively stronger and tighter then their antagonist group. Neck, upper back, and shoulder pain is common and associated with this syndrome. If the upper traps, anterior deltoid, and pectoralis major are stronger/tighter in relation to the mid and lower traps, rhomboids, and teres major/minor you could have this imbalance. Therefore, it is crucial that when you strengthen your upper traps you need to perform exercises that strengthen your mid/lower traps, rhomboids, etc.
*Derrickson, Bryan. Tortora, Gerard J. Principles of Anatomy and Physiology. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2006.