Easy Exercises to Develop Your Lower Trapezius

Medically reviewed by Daniel Bubnis, MS, NASM-CPT, NASE Level II-CSS on February 16, 2018Written by Kat Miller on December 10, 2015

Developing your lower trapezius

Strengthening your trapezius is an important part of any workout routine. This muscle is involved in the mobility and stability of the scapula (shoulder blade).

Both men and women seem to neglect working on their trapezius muscles (traps), whether it’s because they can’t see the muscle, don’t understand the importance of it, or simply don’t know what exercises to perform.

For maximum back and shoulder performance, you want to be able to depress and retract your scapula, which you can’t do if you have weak lower traps. Also, there needs to be a balance between your lower traps, upper traps, deltoids (delts), and serratus (which attaches the ribs to the scapula) for your back and shoulders to properly perform an exercise.

The point is, weak lower traps can increase the risk of injury during other exercises, such as a chest press. So, let’s take a closer look at how to strengthen and develop your lower traps.

Rear delt cable raise

  1. Lower one cable pulley to the last notch on the machine and attach a handle to the clip. Stand so the cable pulley is to your left.
  2. Select an appropriate weight and grab the handle with your right hand, palm facing up toward you. Keep a slight bend in your elbow. Bend at the waist until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor. Your knees should be slightly bent, and your left hand should be resting on your left thigh.
  3. Exhale and raise your right arm up, with your elbow slightly bent, until your arm is parallel to the floor and in line with your right ear. Hold this position for one count.
  4. Inhale and slowly lower the handle back to your starting position.
  5. Repeat 12 times, then turn around so the cable machine is to your right side, and perform the exercise with your left hand.

Modified version

If this move is too tricky for you or if the weight is too heavy, simply perform this exercise with a resistance band first.

Rope rear delt pull with scapular retraction

  1. Raise the cable pulley about two notches taller than your height and attach a rope to the clip.
  2. Grasp above the knots with your palms facing down toward the floor and thumbs pointing toward you. Take a few steps back so the cable is tight and your arms are fully extended. Keep your lower back upright and slightly bend your knees so you engage your core and keep yourself grounded.
  3. Pull the rope in toward you, aiming for the bridge of your nose with your elbows flared out. Hold this position for one count while contracting your shoulder blades together, letting your elbows travel slightly behind your back.
  4. Inhale and slowly return the rope back to your starting position. Allow your shoulders to stretch forward.
  5. Repeat 12 times for 4 sets, upping the weight after each set.

Overhead farmer’s walk

  1. Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell up above your head, keeping your arm straight and your palm facing forward. Keep your left hand on your ribcage to remind yourself to stand up tall, and engage your core as you walk.
  2. Start walking. Really focus on keeping your core tight and your shoulder blade down and back.
  3. Walk for about 100 feet or for 30 seconds and then switch arms.

Chin-up

  1. Grasp a pullup bar with your palms facing you and your palms slightly closer than shoulder-width apart. Fully extend your arms with your feet crossed behind you and both of your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Keep your torso as straight as possible while creating a curvature on your lower back or sticking your chest out.
  2. Exhale and pull yourself up until your head is above the bar. Concentrate on using your bicep muscles and your middle back to perform this exercise. As you lift yourself up above the bar, keep your elbows as close to your body as possible.
  3. Hold this position for one count.
  4. Inhale and slowly lower yourself back to your starting position until your arms are fully extended again.
  5. Repeat 5 times for 3 sets.

Modified chin-up

If you are new to this exercise or can’t perform a chin-up, use an assisted pullup machine with the same grip (palms facing you), if your gym has one. This machine assists you so that you don’t have to pull your whole body-weight on your own.

You can also use a resistance band for an assisted chin-up by simply wrapping it around the pullup bar and sticking one foot in the bottom loop. Resistance bands will help give you the most assistance at the bottom (where you’re weakest) and the least assistance at the top (where you’re strongest).

You can progress from this stage by using thinner bands until you don’t need any more assistance.

High pulley cable row

  1. Raise the pulleys to the highest height on the machine and attach two handles to the clip. Sit down on a stability ball or bench with one hand grasping each handle and your palms facing toward each other. Extend your arms and stretch your shoulders forward as you engage your core and sit up tall. Your feet should be placed shoulder-width apart, flat on the floor.
  2. Exhale and pull the handles in toward you, using a rowing motion until the handles reach the outside of your chest. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you keep your elbows glued to your sides.
  3. Inhale and slowly retract the cables back to your starting position, stretching your shoulders forward.
  4. Do 12 repetitions for 4 sets, upping the weight after each set if you can.

Standing Y raise

  1. Lower both cable pulleys down to the bottom notch. Cross the cables to keep the handles tight and grasp the handles with your palms facing down toward the floor. Stand in the center with a slight bend in your knees and your core engaged. Slightly lift the handles away from your thighs to engage your shoulders.
  2. Exhale and raise the cables up and out over your head, creating a “Y” shape. Your arms should end the move when your biceps are in line with your ears. Hold this position for one count.
  3. Inhale and slowly lower the cables back to your starting position.
  4. Do 12 repetitions for 3 sets.

Advanced: Seated cable Y raise

Performing the cable Y while seated helps eliminate assistance from the hip muscles and strictly isolates your shoulders, rear delts, lower trap, and core.

  1. Sit down on a seated cable row machine (if your gym doesn’t have one, pull a bench up to the cable pulley machine and attach two handles). Cross the handles to force the handles to stay close during this move.
  2. Engage your core to sit up straight with your palms facing down toward the floor and your feet shoulder-width apart, flat on the floor.
  3. Exhale and raise both hands up above you until your biceps are in line with your ears. Focus on pulling your shoulders blades down and back. Hold this position for one count.
  4. Inhale and slowly lower the cables back to your starting position.
  5. Perform 8 repetitions for 3 sets.

The takeaway

Your back is made up of many important muscles, not just your latissimus dorsi (lats) and rear delts. Your lower traps are important for proper movement and overall health, so be sure to strength train them just like any other muscle.

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