Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Looking Back at the Back: More on The Traps

In keeping up with my cyber-narcissism, I watch the stats to see what's popular here at my blog. Yes, the whole bench press-push-up thing dominates my page view counter but another interesting post shows up as a perenneal favorite: Traps without Weights

How does that happen, just out of curiosity? I'm hardly the neckless, cobra-like trap-monster required to give out any advice about them in the first place. I won't say that mine are huge, but I guess they're good enough for people to accept my advice about them. So, if you're hungry for my advice and you think I show enough in the Trap department to make a comment on how to make them tough, then let's chat...

This glorious cut of meat is one of those things that lots of BW fanatics, or maybe just strength training fanatics in general, love so very much but whine about not having them while wondering how to get them. I have to bring up the dirty word around here first and foremost: genetics. Some people just hit the lottery with their fiber count and attachment points. My sister's fiance is a great example. He can barely find the motivation to hit the weights but he sports a pair of super-high, almost 300-monster-immortal-like upper trap muscle. BASTARD!

So, let's talk about us, less-gifted mortals. I could launch into some sort of anatomy lesson here like I did the last time I posted about the Trap but I'll spare you this. After all, I'm not a doctor, or an accredited anything, so I probably don't have any business lecturing about it. I think I have a practical mind though and when I look at the trapezius muscle and read about its actions that I come up with my own conclusion about what the traps are stuck on our back to do: they keep our shoulder blades in their proper place, relative to the spine. Sure, they assist in the rotation of the shoulder blades and they also shrug them but those are minor roles. The former is the action that we need to intitiat in our training.

Another, lesser-known fact about the traps is that they're made of more, slower twitch fibers. After all, keeping the shoulder blades in their proper place is a full-time job, not a fast-strong burst action. So, to make them strong, we probably need sets of reps that keep them working for 30-60 seconds. Both of these ideas explain why farmers walking with weight in the hands works so much better than more isolating shoulder shrugging. If there's a force shoving the shoulder blades downward or upward (overhead pressing or farmers walking), the trap has to kick in to keep those shoulders where they need to be.

These are weighted exercises of course. BW also has something to offer, it's just not as obvious. In my past entry, I noted that pull-ups activate the trap and I gave an isometric exercise as well. Extending the range of handstand push-ups can also call up the trap muscle in a big way. If this isn't feasible, then try doing it with pike push-ups. Either way, just get your head below your hands as much as possible!

Perhaps I should have mentioned this earlier. It's probably more important than the exercises for the trap in the first place: posture! Nothing you do in an hour at the gym will come close to making up for 8 hours a day spent like this:
This would also explain why the better trainers are so adamant about fixing posture problems before looking to make the muscles more powerful.

Like I mentioned above, maybe I have no business talking about any of this. We choose this subculture where our body sells our message. No, I don't have humongous muscles behind my ears but of all of the aches, injuries and pains I've inflcited on myself, my shoulders have remained sound and strong. My trapezius muscle may not be as flashy but they sure as shit get the job done with minimal issues. What more could anyone ask for?

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