Have you ever noticed after doing a shoulder workout that your traps feel more sore than your shoulders? Developing your shoulders without developing your traps can be a difficult task when you have muscle imbalances, poor posture, incorrect form, or are simply over-developed in that area.
The first step to better shoulder development when dealing with trap dominance, is loosening up your traps by breaking up fascia adhesions. A few great ways to loosen up this muscle and break up adhesions are:
Using a theracane
Rolling out with a lacrosse ball either against a wall or on the floor
Ear to shoulder stretch
Once you have loosened up this area, it is important to focus on eliminating exercises that involve too much trap activation, and focus on strengthening the areas that are weaker in order to better activate your shoulders. Don’t be afraid to drop the weight, slow down, and really make a conscious effort to focus on proper form and posture during each movement. It might even be necessary to reset in between reps by readjusting your shoulders down and back by pinching the lower portion of your shoulder blades together and getting into proper posture.
Typically when someone is trap dominant, exercises like lateral raises, front raises, or even rear delt flyes can be difficult to perform properly. In order to minimize trap activation for these movements a great starting place would be to focus on prone exercises. By doing this you will be able to minimize upper trap involvement and maximize lower trap involvement. Being in a prone position will also improve the position of the shoulder girdle and scapula which will improve shoulder engagement.
Depending on where imbalances are located, you will also want to focus on strengthening these areas to improve posture and help minimize your traps from dominating the movement. For example, for someone who works at a desk all day and is hunched over, they might be dealing with weak mid-back muscles and a tight chest, so focusing on strengthening the muscles in the mid-back to improve posture, while also focusing on loosening up your chest muscles will be key to success. This can help improve your ability to turn on the correct muscles and get into proper alignment in order to turn off the traps and improve shoulder engagement.
Improving imbalances to grow the shoulders can be a process, but by lowering the weight, strengthening weaker areas, and correcting imbalances, growing your shoulders will be a much easier task.