The definitive selection of exercises to work the trapezius

The definitive selection of exercises to work the trapezius

Designing and structuring a workout for a muscle group goes far beyond making a list of exercises with an assigned order, series and repetitions. It is not the shopping list.

When preparing a workout, anatomical and biomechanical aspects must be taken into account and these differ in each muscle. That’s why in this article We are going to explain what you need to know to correctly select your exercises for trapezius.

How is our trapezius anatomically?


The trapezius muscle occupies much of the back and extends across the back of the neck and shoulder blades.

Its origins and insertions are various:

  • The descending part originates from the superior nuchal line, the external occipital protuberance, and the nuchal ligament. It inserts on the most lateral third of the clavicle.
  • The transverse portion originates from the spinous processes and the supraspinous ligament of the C7-T3 vertebrae. It inserts on the acromion along with the clavicle and spine of the scapula.
  • The ascending portion originates from the spinous processes and the supraspinous ligament of vertebrae T2-T12. It inserts on the spine of the scapula.

Although the architecture of the trapezius is complex, all the portions have one main action in common, which is scapular retraction. there are complementary actions such as adducting, rotating, or elevating the scapula.

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What do we have to take into account when choosing our trapezius exercises?

The star movement to develop our trapezius is the shrug, but they should not be done in any way. We must attend to two reasons:

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  • Perform and maintain a scapular retraction throughout the movement.
  • Try to reproduce the external belling gesture of the scapula.

The scapular retraction is easy to perform but the bell not so much as it is not as intuitive. To achieve a good chime, we must open the grip about 30º. You can use dumbbells, but with a barbell it’s easier. Once we combine all this, the name that the exercise receives is simply that of snatch grip or wide grip shrugs.

Secondly we have to talk about a variant of the previous movement, that is, we are going to continue doing shrinks but this time putting added difficulty to the scapular retraction and this is achieved by causing the force of gravity to act against it.

To achieve a position in which the force of gravity directly affects our ability to retract the scapulae, we must use an incline bench. In this way we combine the best of the scapular bell and the best of the scapular retraction to stimulate our trapezius.

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Videos | Crossfit Naples, Jim Stoppani, PhD