Strong Traps, Healthy Shoulders

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A funny thing happens whenever I inform someone (namely, guys) they need to hit their upper traps more. The immediately go into Bane mode:

Visions of heavy barbell shrugs, breaking Batman’s back, and walking around asking people “do you feel in charge?” run rampant.

It’s all well and good, I have nothing against shrugs. I draw the line against breaking people’s backs though. BAD BANE, NO!

Shrugs are undoubtedly a great exercise to build the upper traps. And the upper traps are kind of important when it comes to the ability to bring one’s arms overhead – they’re one of three muscles that help to upwardly rotate the scapula.

Via my time as a coach at Cressey Sports Performance (and even now) I work with a lot of people with shoulder issues. Training the upper traps directly has gotten a bad rap in recent years. But for athletes and lifters who are stuck in spine-extension based postures and can’t raise their arms overhead, training the upper traps can be a game changer for overall shoulder health and performance.

The key? Ensure they’re trained with upward rotation.

Continue reading my latest article on HERE.

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Comments for This Entry

  • Jake

    If one of your clients has passes screens and can barbell overhead press, how to do you cue them? armpits forward or a shrug at the top? thanks

    August 17, 2016 at 1:46 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      I'm a little confused: I don't cue a shrug with a standard overhead press. Or are you referring to the overhead barbell shrug?

      August 18, 2016 at 8:50 am | Reply to this comment

      • Jake

        The standard press, as some like Rippetoe recommends that you shrug while others recommend you keep your shoulders down and back while pressing. Just was curious/ interested how you coached it. Sorry for the confusion and thanks for the reply.

        August 18, 2016 at 11:45 am | Reply to this comment

        • TonyGentilcore

          I tend to run on the side of the fence with Joel Seedman. If we're talking a STRICT overhead press I think cueing more stability (and hence scapular depression, retraction, and medial rotation) will bode well. Then again, when things get "heavy" I'm not opposed to a shrug. Strict technique will only take you so far.

          August 22, 2016 at 8:32 am | Reply to this comment

          • Jake

            Thank you, I looked up his information and read up on it and it was very helpful. Tried your approach/ his and my overhead today and went great. Thanks again

            August 26, 2016 at 5:35 pm

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