Guide to Your Muscles: Trapezius


Your trapezius muscles (“traps”) are a pair of muscles in your upper back and neck. Like most muscles they look great when toned, so in today’s Guide to Your Muscles we’ll learn about their anatomy and get some great workout tips.


Your muscles are a pair of broad, flat muscles extending across the majority of your upper back and up the back of your neck. Together they form a trapezoid, also known as a trapezium, an irregular four-sided shape.

Your traps originate in more than one place, including your occipital bone, at the base of your skull, the seventh cervical vertebra and your cervical and thoracic vertebrae. They insert at your clavicles (collarbones) and scapulae (shoulder blades).

Your traps have a number of relevant to moving or stabilizing your shoulders and limbs. They help to elevate your shoulder blades when you shrug, and together with the rhomboids they move your arm and shoulder backwards.

You also use them to brace your shoulders when you carry weights, and they even play a role in helping you tilt back your head.

Trapezius_Gray409Exercises—Without Weights

The shoulder blade squeeze is a good beginner exercise for the traps, one that doesn’t require any weights.

To begin, take a standing position, arms dangling at your sides. Now, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and hold this position for three seconds. Release, and repeat as desired.

is another common, and very simple, exercise for the traps. Again, take a standing position, arms at your sides. Make sure your posture is good (no slouching).

Now, arms still at your sides, elevate your shoulders as high as you possibly can. Hold for a count of two and then release. Repeat as desired.

For something a little less basic, try the superman (pictured above). Begin by lying on your stomach, arms stretched out above your head and legs extended out behind you.

Lift both your arms and your legs into the air, drawing on your core muscles to assume that man-of-steel pose. Hold this for a couple of seconds or so, and then release and repeat as desired.


If you are into weight-lifting, the is a great way to work out your traps. Begin by holding a barbell in a standing position, gripping it with your palms facing toward you (pronated grip). Keep your hands slightly wider than the width of your shoulders.

Now, elevate your shoulders as far as you can, like we discussed with the shrugging exercise. Hold the position for a second or so, and then return to the starting position. Repeat this as desired.

The seated dumbbell shrug is another good shrugging exercise with weights. Sit up on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand, arms extended at your sides. As with the barbell shrug, elevate your shoulders, hold the position, and then release and repeat.

Whether you favor weights or no weights, the exercises here are a great start to getting better-toned traps. Be sure to stay safe and have fun!

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