Impingement in your shoulder joint? A neglected lower trapezius might be the cause...
We've written ad infinitum that strength athletes who want to remain injury free will benefit from including reverse flies in their training schedules so that they develop their external rotators. This advice was not quite enough, we conclude after reading an article that American sports scientists at Nova Southeastern University will publish soon in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. To avoid injury, bodybuilders and fitness fanatics also need to do exercises that specifically develop their lower trapezius.
The researchers studied 55 men who had been doing weight training for quite a while. Twenty-four of them had trouble with impingement in their shoulder joint - sports scientists refer to this as subacromial impingement syndrome - and 31 did not.
The researchers measured the amount of power the men were capable of developing with their internal rotators [the muscles at the front of the shoulder], their external rotators [the muscles at the back of the shoulder], the abductors [the muscles at the side of the shoulders], and the upper and lower part of the trapezius.
All the men had an imbalance in their shoulder joint, but the men with shoulder problems had more imbalance than the men who had no impingement: the external rotators were noticeably less strong than the internal rotators and than the abductors, and the lower part of the trapezius was noticeably less strong than the upper part.
"The results of this investigation indicate that shoulder joint and muscle imbalances exist among weight training participants with subacromial impingement syndrome to a greater extent than those without subacromial impingement syndrome," the researchers concluded.
"Weight training routines often focus on the selection of large muscle groups such as the pectoralis major, upper trapezius, and deltoids, subsequently neglecting muscles responsible for shoulder stabilization – i.e. rotator cuff and scapular musculature."
How do you train your lower traps?
One exercise that the researcher has documented which reduces the imbalance is the reverse fly. This trains the external rotators, which hardly get stimulated at all in the classic exercises for chest, back and shoulders.
An exercise specifically geared to the lower trapezius is the prone-trap-raise. Upright rows and shrugs don't train the lower trapezius much. Charles Poliquin shows below how to do the prone-trap-raise.