4 Trapezius Exercises For Pain Relief (No Equipment)


Below is a fantastic routine specific to the upper, middle, and lower parts of the trapezius muscle.

If you experience chronic trapezius pain that radiates to other areas of your back and neck, this routine will help.

Here’s a summary of the location of these muscles. It’ll help you do the exercises right. It’s always easier to perform an exercise that targets a specific muscle when we have a clear idea of what the muscle looks like and where it’s located.

trapezius-strengthening-exercises

The Anatomy of The Trapezius Muscle

Trapezius muscle pain

Upper trapezius: Primary functions are cervical extension, lateral flexion, rotation, and scapular elevation (what would look like is elevating your shoulder up towards your ear.

Middle trapezius: Its primary function is scapular retraction. 

Lower trapezius: Primary function is scapular depression, and that’s when you pull your shoulders back and down—a download movement.

Where You May Feel Trapezius Pain

Trapezius pain is very frustrating and painful because it affects your ability to move your head and arms freely. The pain can radiate down to the mid-back, shoulders, and neck. It can make working at your desk very difficult and affect your sleep quality. 

trapezius-trigger-point

A prevalent cause of trapezius pain is a tightness that develops over the upper trapezius and weakness in the mid-lower trapezius area. This is why we want to begin by releasing the upper trapezius muscle first to reduce its overactivity so it doesn’t start to compensate during the strengthening exercises.

If you are in a lot of pain now, I recommend beginning with the release tutorial and taking it slow with the exercises. If you feel you can’t do all the exercises, do 1 set of 1 exercise.

If it’s already been a few days since the onset of pain and it’s not as acute or intense, you can try to do the entire routine. But in both cases, always start by putting pressure on the upper trapezius first to release the overactivity before you do the exercises.

The following routine will have three main exercises and an additional mobility exercise at the end to stretch out the chest and mid-lower trapezius.

Here’s the full workout video so you can follow along. Otherwise, below the video are the exercise breakdown with demonstrations and instructions. 


Recommended Program: Trapezius Control


Trapezius Pain Exercises

Each set will be followed by a holding period of the same exercise. When holding, focus on maintaining proper form. Start with shorter durations and increase the hold time each time you repeat this routine.

Prone Lat Pulldowns

1 A: Prone lat pulldowns (10 reps)

2 A: Prone lat pulldown hold (20 sec – 30 sec)

Prone-lat-pulldowns-trapezius exercise
  • Pull your shoulders and traps down
  • Extend your arms forward and pull them back down
  • Squeeze your mid back for 2 seconds
  • Repeat for 10-12 reps
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds (Take a break whenever needed!)

Exercise modification:

If you feel the tension in your neck, rest your forehead on your mat. This will help you focus your attention on your form and feel the muscles working instead of focusing on the neck tension.

lat-pulldown-modification

Take a 30-second break

Prone Y’s

1 B: Prone Y’s (12 reps)

2 B: Prone Y’s hold

Y's-trapezius-exercise
  • Keep your shoulders down
  • Reach out with your arms to form a Y shape while resting your arms on the mat
  • Raise your arms up using your back muscles (avoid shrugging) and lower your back down
  • Repeat for 12 reps
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds (Take a break whenever needed!)

Take a 30-sec break

Prone T’s

1 C: Prone T’s (12 reps)

2 C: Prone T’s hold

T's-trapezius-exercise
  • Extend your arms to each side with your thumb facing up the whole time
  • Rest your arms down. Then, raise up using your back muscles
  • Make sure you keep the external rotation by keeping your thumbs up and focusing on the extraction at the top.
  • Repeat for up to 12 reps
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds (Take a break whenever needed!)

Prone W’s

1 D: Prone W’s (aim for 15 reps)

2 D: Prone W’s hold

W's-trapezius-exercise
  • Extend and bend your arms with your thumbs to point out
  • With your arm in their resting position, raise your arms up and externally rotate your shoulders to form a W shape
  • Repeat for 12-15 reps
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds (take a short 10-second break between the set and the hold if needed).

All fours Rotations

trapezius mobility exercise
  • Keep your hips stable
  • Bring your elbow inward to stretch out the mid back
  • Rotate out and bring your elbow up towards the ceiling
  • Repeat 7 times on each side

Related post: How to fix trapezius pain (complete guide)


Recommended Program: Trapezius Control


Routine Frequency

If you have a desk job where you spend a lot of time doing computer work, you’re more likely to develop tightness in the chest area and weakness in the trapezius. As a result, performing this workout 2x/week can really benefit you in restoring balance and good posture.

As you gain more strength and endurance, you can increase the frequency by increasing the number of reps, holding time, or adding a full routine on the 3rd day.

I also like to add one or two of these exercises as part of my warm-ups before doing my upper body workouts.

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Coach Sofia
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