Today’s episode is what to do about over-developed or, as I like to think of them, over activated muscles. I get a lot of questions, particularly about the upper trapezius and the latissimus dorsi, otherwise known as the traps and the lats. As always, share this with friends, especially anyone who has been complaining about neck or shoulder tightness.
If the upper trapezius is over developed or overly activated, it’s often due to the weakness of the serratus anterior and the lower trapezius below it. More commonly I see that it’s because of the serratus.
You can learn how to activate the serratus. One way to activate it is to stand facing a wall, a little bit away from it. Bring your arms up on the wall and place your hands on it or you can have your thumbs facing upward. Your arms are probably not straight out in front of you, but they’re up in a V. Then you can lightly slide the scapula up more, meaning the arm is going to slide up the wall, and you’re pressing a little bit into the wall as you’re doing this.
Another way of working the serratus is to get yourself in a quadruped position where your wrists are under your shoulders and your knees are under your hips. Walk your hands forward a little bit so they’re not directly under your shoulders. And in that position, attempt to press the floor away like you were doing to the wall.
Shoulder shrugs can help you develop better and newer motor patterns and release some of that constricted tissue in the traps or the lats. There are two ways to do them. The first way I like to do in a low lunge but you can also do this if you’re sitting at your desk. You just lift one head of the humerus up, so the ball of the humerus, you just lift it up, and then bring it back and then bring it down. So I would do my right side and then my left side, then repeat. As you’re doing it, feel the shoulder moving, but also get a sense of the scapula moving a little bit. This exercise is training that upper trapezius to not just grab and hold, but to kind of lift and release.
The other way of doing some of that shrugging is in down dog. Think about pushing the floor away and shrugging the shoulder blades up by the ears, and then releasing down. Doing that over and over again will help you retrain some of these movement patterns.