You might have found yourself wondering at some point exactly what your Trapezius muscle is. Sometimes nicknamed the “Traps”, it’s an important component of your upper back. Composed of three separate groups, the upper, middle and lower, these wide, broad muscles can be found running alongside the upper half of your spinal column and continuing up to the back of your neck. The Traps also run out along either side of your neck above your shoulders, giving those with strong traps the appearance of a shorter neck.
In terms of movement, your traps control the rotation and extension of your neck, some pulling movements of your arms, and the ability to shrug your shoulders and draw your shoulder blades in together. In fact, they're a very powerful muscle group that assists your body in performing all sorts of daily functions such as keeping your head upright and pulling open a car door.
Those who engage specifically in sports like baseball and golf will find themselves relying on their trapezius muscles for driving a nine iron or swinging a baseball bat with the necessary power. Similarly, swimmers and rock climbers frequently engage their trapezius as their respective activities place heavy demands on these muscles. Weightlifters also perform all sorts of movements for their upper bodies that stress the traps, such as rows and overhead presses.
As such, it’s clearly important to keep our trapezius muscles in healthy working order. Tight traps are not only uncomfortable, but can limit our range of movement as well. When your Traps are properly conditioned and flexible, you’ll find that other strength training and sports movements start to become easier. You can swim faster, swing harder, and subsequently, your body becomes stronger all around.
So many among us spend their workday looking at a computer screen and typing, so the traps are a great area of your body to keep healthy. Over an 8 hour day, staring at a screen, our heads often tilt forward. This inevitably leads to a tight neck and trap muscles. So even if you’re not a gym rat or a baseball player, your traps are always working hard for your body.
And for whatever reason, many people find that the stress of their daily lives often becomes concentrated in their shoulders and neck. Psychologically stressed people often keep their shoulders shrugged leading to additional tightness and discomfort. Keeping these muscles properly conditioned will prevent this type of soreness. Strong traps assist with better posture, and all around quality of life.
To help keep yourself injury-free, it's best to start investing a little of your time every day in stretching out this vital muscle group. While there’s a lot you can do with a mat on the floor, you can release a lot of tension simply while taking a break and performing a few stretches sitting at your desk. Even coming home and watching TV provides you with some quality time to loosen up your shoulders and neck. Check out some of our stretches below and find some creative ways to set aside time in your day to keep your traps stress free.