The lower trapezius muscle is part of the force couple consisting of the upper trapezius and serratus anterior that facilitates upward rotation of the scapula. Often, the upper trap dominates the lower trap leading to faulty mechanics and increased risk of shoulder injury. This exercise will target the lower trapezius and promote proper mechanics.
Execution: Position the sternum over a stability ball. For beginners or those with balance issues, start with the knees on the floor. Otherwise, position the feet and legs about shoulder width apart. Using lighter dumbbells (I recommend no more than 4% of bodyweight), perform a chin tuck, pull the shoulder blades together and down (elbows to back pocket), and then lift the arms up in a letter ‘Y’ position in the scapular plane.
Focus on minimizing momentum as well as thoracic and lumbar spine extension on the way up. Pause at the top of the motion, and then slowly lower back down. Note: the motion will seem awkward and limited, but the key is to cue appropriate activation of the muscle and avoid compensatory motion. Perform 2 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
Application: This exercise will strengthen the lower trapezius and enhance scapular stability while promoting scapula-humeral rhythm. The lower trap has been shown to fatigue quickly, thereby contributing to rotator cuff injuries and overuse problems with repetitive overhead activity. For those who struggle with maintaining form, it is acceptable to begin with no weight at all. To increase the difficulty, consider increasing time under tension or repetitions as opposed to using heavier weights, as the goal is to enhance muscular endurance more so than to promote hypertrophy.