Developing the Lower Trapezius

Y lower trap raiseLower trapezius weakness is a common finding with many of the clients we assess at IFAST.  Even in our strongest athletes, we’ll find relative weakness that may affect their abilities to perform the heavier, maximal strength upper body exercises.

The now common scapular exercises such as I’s, L’s, Y’s, T’s, and W’s are good selections to start to resolve scapular muscle weakness.  This post will focus on the Y exercise, AKA, lower trap raise.

A few keys to success:

1.  The arms should come up to angle of about 135 degrees of abduction (45 degrees above the “T” position).

2.  Turn the thumb side of your hand  upward to externally rotate the shoulder.  The “Y” also promotes high levels of activity of the shoulder external rotators.

3.  Lead the movement with the scapula.  The arrow shown on the photo above shows the direction to drive the scapula.  Too often, clients will abbreviate the exercise due to a lack of scapular movement.  If you’re a trainer or coach, a simple tactile cue of a light fingertip touch on the lower trap and a verbal cue to “pull the shoulder blade to my finger” will go a long way to getting a much more complete movement.

Bill

  • James Deganti

    Bill,

    If using a functional Trainer Cable Machine, is there value (in terms of the lower traps) to setting the arms of the machine high and fairly wide, and then executing what amounts to a “Y-Position” Reverse Overhead Shrug? This would be like a scapular depression on a pulldown machine but allowing for the arms to be angled similarly to the picture above due to the adjustability of the cable machine arms.

    • http://www.BillHartman.net Bill

      Yes, there’s value. Work to perform the same exercise hanging from a chin-up bar.

  • Eric V

    I find my TRX to be great for for targeting this area.

  • http://www.ExercisesForInjuries.com Rick Kaselj

    Bill,

    Great exercise.

    There is a lot of research backing up this exercise.

    I use it more to focus on activation and endurance of the lower trapezius.

    This is one of the exercises that I have in my scapular stabilization exercise program

    Rick Kaselj
    http://www.ScapularStabilizationExercises.com

  • Jeff

    Bill,

    I’m a golfer who has read/watched many of your resources and articles. Question about downward rotation syndrome- that would have a significant impact on a golfer’s swing- Would it not?

    Any tips on how to correct it?

    Thanks,
    Jeff

  • http://www.BillHartman.net Bill

    Jeff,

    The correction will depend on whether it’s a strength/flexibility issue, motor control,or both. For instance, decreased activation of serratus anterior, your primary upward rotator, may promote the downward rotation. In this case, it’s not a strenth issue but simply a matter of facilitating the serratus. There are several methods to address this. Some may present with a lengthening of upper trap, kyphosis, or other postural adaptation that negatively affects scapular function. If you’re on your on this, the I’s, L’s, T’s, Y’s, etc. and wall slides front and back may give you some benefit. If you don’t feel like you’re making gains, see a pro who can assess you directly.

  • Jason

    Bill,

    What do you think about nick tumminellos updated “LYTP” set? He mentions that with the “y” you want to actually reach out in front of you rather than depressing the scaps. He says that recent research states that reaching out reflexively activates the lower trap more. Thoughts? Thanks.
    By the way I love the new assess and correct and inside out DVDs…they’ve helped me and my clients out a great deal!

    Jason

    • http://www.BillHartman.net Bill

      Sorry, I haven’t read Nick’s comments, so I can offer much of an opinion. I use the cue on the scapula to encourage a posterior tilt and external rotation of the scapula and discourage excessive scapular elevation. I’ll also use a cue of keeping the arm “long” which may be similar to what you mention about reaching out.

      Glad you like Assess and Correct and Inside-Out. Use them in good health.

  • http://www.latpulldownmachine.com Lat Pulldown Machine

    The lower trap raise or Y exercise is difficult to execute correctly and help may be needed until you master the correct form. Maximize your efforts, get someone to check if your doing it right.

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